Darcy Gardiner (Geelong Falcons)
Height: 192 cm
Weight: 84 kg
Position: Key Position Utility
Player comparison: Jake Carlisle
Strengths: Spoiling, Speed, Versatility
Weaknesses: Undersized for KPP
Darcy Gardiner is like the unique joker in a pack of cards. He has so many traits which make him highly pursued but how does one rank him in comparison to the abundance of good midfielders? With Tom Boyd being the standout tall in this draft, the next big man to consider is Gardiner who while he’s not a hulking beast, he has athleticism which very few his size have.
Gardiner is a member of the AIS squad that toured Europe so he missed the first few rounds. When he returned, Gardiner started forward and booted a couple of goals before playing in defence the next match and he’s stayed there. A proven goal kicker, Gardiner is also good defensively and often holds his opponents goalless at TAC Cup level. Unfortunately for Vic Country he pulled up sore and missed the match against Western Australia in which his side lost by a narrow three points.
For a key position player, Gardiner has outstanding speed which he uses to run down much smaller opponents. This was evident in Vic Country’s match against Vic Metro when he somehow made up 20 metres to mow down the much smaller Jay Kennedy-Harris. Kennedy-Harris is far from a slouch and would be in the top bracket of players in terms of speed so Gardiner shows the kind of toe he possesses.
Gardiner has solid strength but it will be something to work on if he is to face the much larger key position players at AFL level. Given his traits, Gardiner would do quite well on the slightly lighter, but quicker forwards. Players like Jeremy Cameron or Jack Riewoldt would be opponents that Gardiner would be suited to. While he might struggle against the Jonathan Brown’s or Travis Cloke’s, Gardiner has the pace one-on-one to go with anyone around his height.
His versatility is another factor which makes him such a tasty proposition for any club. Much like Essendon’s Jake Carlisle, Gardiner can drift forward during a game and become an important target. Gardiner’s goal kicking is reasonable without being fantastic, but it’s certainly nothing to be concerned about. He’d be in the average bracket for goal kicking and disposal in general but he usually makes good decisions.
In terms of one-on-one contests, while Gardiner may give up some height and strength to defenders, he is quite impressive in terms of spoiling and his closing speed helps him in this regard. His speed also helps him defensively with his ability to run down forwards or peel off his man to cover for a teammate.
In the Bound For Glory Rising Stars phantom draft, Gardiner was taken by Greater Western Sydney because of the Giants’ need for a key defender. They have Phil Davis who will serve them well but Tim Mohr is not a second tall and doesn’t have the attributes that Gardiner does. With the Giants already having recruited Matt Scharenberg in this proposed draft, Gardiner would steady the back line further and provide a key target up forward should one of Cameron or Patton be out or not performing on the day.
Darcy Gardiner will be one player in this draft that will cause clubs to be looking around wondering whether to pounce. It would be very surprising if he drifted out of the first round and could well go top 10. Clubs such as Brisbane, Port Adelaide or indeed Greater Western Sydney could pounce on Gardiner to help their key position stocks.
While some clubs may be concerned that Gardiner isn’t a huge defender, he has shown he can play on many forwards and clubs that may already be developing gorilla defenders can recruit Gardiner to play on that third tall who might be a bit too quick for the other defenders. Overall, Darcy Gardiner is a very neat prospect who has a lot of characteristics to work with.