Darcy Wilmot celebrates his first goal in Brisbane's elimination final against Richmond at The Gabba on September 1, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

WHEN Darcy Wilmot was playing junior footy for Yarrambat, he used to sit down with his dad and watch vision of Luke Hodge playing for Hawthorn on an iPad, learning tricks from the four-time premiership great who finished his 346-game career in Brisbane. 

Before last Thursday night's elimination final at the Gabba, it was Hodge who presented Wilmot with his first Lions jumper after Chris Fagan pulled a surprise selection, making the 18-year-old only the third player to debut in a final since 1987. 

Grant Wilmot played five games for Collingwood in 1980 and was a local legend in the Diamond Valley Football League for Montmorency, before passing away five years ago. Darcy wears No.44 for Brisbane in honour of his late father, who wore the same number for Collingwood. 

While Grant watched on from above, Wilmot's mum and two sisters were at the Gabba on Thursday night to witness Darcy make a memorable start to his AFL career in the Lions' two-point win over Richmond.

"He'd probably be coming up to me and hugging me (if he was here). He'd be so proud of me and letting me know about it. We'd be talking all about it. He definitely would be proud," Wilmot told AFL.com.au in the rooms after his debut last Thursday night.


If Wilmot was born a day later – he was born on the morning of New Year's Eve in 2003 – he would have still been playing for the Northern Knights on Saturday, instead of proving he has the talent and temperament to play at the highest level two nights earlier. 

"It's the best feeling I've ever had in my life. To have it with the bunch of boys you work so hard with, it just means everything to us, the fans and our football club. It's absolutely unreal. I can't put it into words,” he said after finishing with 11 disposals and a composed goal that rocked the Gabba.

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"I just wanted to get out there and play footy. I love playing footy, so getting to play at the highest level was always my dream. It is my personality not to shy away and keep it simple. I knew what I had to do and just kept to it. 

"That (the goal) was unreal. I just tried to be really composed coming up to it, but as soon as I kicked it I turned and wanted to celebrate with my teammates. I heard someone say 'Give it to the crowd' so I got up and about. The crowd were unreal. I absolutely loved the atmosphere. You couldn't dream about it."

Darcy Wilmot celebrates his first league goal in Brisbane's elimination final match against Richmond at The Gabba on September 1, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

With Noah Answerth serving a one-game suspension for striking Melbourne's Alex Neal-Bullen in round 23, the Lions turned to the player they selected with pick No.16 in last November’s NAB AFL Draft, opting not to play him against Southport in a VFL final to ensure he didn't get injured. 

Wilmot first got wind of the idea when Fagan played him in the senior side in match simulation at training last Thursday morning, before calling him to confirm his selection later that day, providing the teenager with seven days to get his head around the almost unthinkable – debuting in a final. 

"I had a bit of insight last Thursday when Fages said to me 'For the 14 v 14, I want you to play with the ones but doesn't mean you're going to be playing; I'll tell you in the next 24 hours'," he said. 

"I was pretty on edge for the next nine hours and I was on a phone call to my girlfriend and was said to her 'sorry I've got to go, Fages is calling me'. He just said to me 'I want you to know you're going to play your first game'. And I was just like 'that's crazy, let's go!'.

"He told me that throughout the whole season I had been really consistent in the VFL and I've earned the opportunity and responsibility. They know my character that I am at the football club. They knew if I just kept it simple and went out there and played my football and helped my teammates, I was going to be alright."

Deven Robertson, Brisbane coach Chris Fagan and Darcy Wilmot celebrate the Lions' elimination final win over Richmond at The Gabba on September 1, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

After an impressive maiden pre-season in Queensland, Wilmot was on track to debut at the start of the season before he copped a one-game suspension for a dangerous tackle on Adelaide young gun Ned McHenry in a practice match. 

Just when it looked like his VFL form would be rewarded with a debut midway through the season, Wilmot entered the AFL's health and safety protocols and missed out on a first taste against Essendon in July when the Lions were forced to make nine changes.

Wilmot has now had his taste of senior football and looks destined for a long future in the game, but with Answerth available for selection for Friday night's semi-final against Melbourne at the MCG, Fagan and the match committee inside the Gabba will have a tough week at the selection table.