Darcy Tucker (North Ballarat Rebels)
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Position: Outside midfielder/half back
Player comparison: Sam Docherty
Strengths: Skills, footy smarts, leadership
Weaknesses: Consistency, inside game
First year impact: Some, but likely to be a second year player
In every draft there are bolters and sliders that rise up or drop down the order because of a variety of reasons, including injury or form. For Darcy Tucker, it is the latter.
At the end of last season, Tucker was considered one of the top 10 prospects, with a good season potentially propelling him higher. Unfortunately after a strong start to the TAC Cup season, Tucker was unable to impress at the under 18 championships and then continued his form slump when he returned to the Rebels later in the year.
A final month purple patch saw Tucker’s doubters start to go quiet, but another disappointing run of games, this time in the two finals, had them out in force. So how do you judge Tucker?
Tucker is not your typical huge accumulator to begin with. He can gather around the mid 20s in disposals on a good day, and while he has notched up in Dane Swan territory before, he is unlikely to have many 35-40 disposal games.
Luckily, Tucker does not need to find the football much to have an impact. He has silky skills and his disposal off half-back can be first class, but he can occasionally get flustered under pressure. A strike and subsequent yellow card against Stephen Tahana earlier in the year in the under 18 championships was a shock to many in the industry.
When in the midfield, Tucker is a very outside player. He uses his pace to jet away from the contest and hit a target up forward. However he has at times struggled to find the ball on the inside, a the key reason why he has played primarily on a back flank.
In comparing Tucker with top prospect Darcy Parish, both have great skills and good pace, but Parish is able to win the ball on the inside as well as out and can influence at both ends of the ground.
Tucker is a very solid defender, but he is yet to prove himself up forward on a consistent basis. It is these question marks that will linger in recruiters minds.
At his best, Tucker would be in the lower end of the top 10 players in this draft class, on his inconsistent form, Tucker is a mid-second rounder. It is likely he’ll go in between these picks, somewhere between 15-22.
Often Tucker’s underlying pace can be underrated because has enough time at half-back to dispose of the ball cleanly. He does have a fair bit of zip about him and can hit targets when at full tilt, which very few can do.
At the start of the season, Tucker and teammate Jacob Hopper complemented each other perfectly as the outside and inside combination the North Ballarat Rebels midfield needed. But towards the end of the season, Tucker had been drifting in and out of games and playing on the back flank using his foot skills to advantage.
One aspect recruiters will like about Tucker is his preference to back his kicking skills over handballing (three more kicks per game). He is also a solid tackler for an outside player, averaging more than four tackles per game in the TAC Cup from 12 matches.
Another strong characteristic about Tucker is ability to show leadership even when things aren’t going his way. He has led the Rebels well despite his own personal set backs and the way about his goes his training and professionalism is nothing short of first class. He is a hard worker and desperate to work on his deficiencies which he, the coaching staff and recruiters have identified.
To become a successful AFL player, Tucker will need to work on finding the ball, adapting to a tag and most importantly, working on his inside game. In all likelihood, Tucker will become a reliable half-back who can pinch hit in the midfield, preferably on a wing.