Darcy Cameron kicks the ball for a goal during the AFL Marsh Community Series pre-season match between the Richmond Tigers and the Collingwood Magpies at Norm Minns Oval in Wangaratta, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Darcy Cameron kicks the ball for a goal during the AFL Marsh Community Series pre-season match between the Richmond Tigers and the Collingwood Magpies at Norm Minns Oval in Wangaratta, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Grundy sidekick’s long path to Pies debut

COLLINGWOOD recruit Darcy Cameron has been desperate yet patient in his search for AFL opportunity.

His Magpies debut on Thursday night will come after a journey that has taken him to three different states in four years in the hunt for a spot at AFL level.

The ruck-forward had to wait until he was 21-years-old before he was plucked from WAFL club Claremont by Sydney in the 2016 national draft.

That only left him stuck behind Callum Sinclair, who also arrived at the Swans at the end of that year from Western Australia, Swans number one ruckman Sam Naismith and Kurt Tippett prior to his retirement.

Not even consecutive season-ending injuries to Naismith could secure Cameron a consistent spot, his only senior game their upset loss to Gold Coast at the SCG in 2018.

This was despite banging the door down in yet another state league competition, the NEAFL during his time at Sydney, culminating in a second placed finish in the league MVP in 2018.

Crossing to the Magpies at the end of 2019, Cameron made every post a winner in his first pre-season.

Cameron stood tall in an imposing performance in the Marsh Series and battled All-Australian Brodie Grundy at training with aplomb.

Ready in the wings - a familiar theme for the 24-year-old - it is no surprise the announcement that he would make his Magpies debut in their restart blockbuster was met with a mighty roar.

"I would love to get a debut this early on in the season and get the chance to hold that spot," Cameron said last week.

Now the cutting 205cm, 103kg figure will get that chance to prove himself, filling the giant shoes of American Pie Mason Cox, whose interrupted preparation with a knee injury sees him miss out.

Darcy Cameron tangles with All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy at Collingwood training.
Darcy Cameron tangles with All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy at Collingwood training.

Coach Nathan Buckley lauded his "enormous" break and for lifting Grundy's lofty standards.

"It provides the opportunity for Darcy, who has come to us and been enormous in the ruck a lot against Brodes, but has challenged our key forwards as well," Buckley said.

"We love the way that he's gone about it and the boys are pumped that he's going to get his chance.

"Darcy's major attribute is his aerial strength. His ruck work is definitely something that's clear to see, and coming along into our program and seeing Brodie and Darcy go head to head in the ruck has really lifted Brodie's standards."

Cameron credits his move to from hometown Albany in southern Western Australia to Perth at age 16 for preparing him for these life-changing moves to chase his AFL dream.

Having signed a three-year deal with the Magpies at the end of last year, he is hopeful the next three years will be much brighter than his last.

Darcy Cameron tussles with Peel Thunder’s Ashley Eades during a WAFL game.
Darcy Cameron tussles with Peel Thunder’s Ashley Eades during a WAFL game.

"It's been a bit of a change, I'd like to think I'm pretty adaptable. I came originally from Albany and moved to Perth when I was about 16, so that's why I think I'm able to get out of my comfort zone a bit," Cameron said.

"I moved to Sydney when I was 21 and it was awesome living there, very similar to Perth in its way with the beautiful beaches and coastline.

"Making the transition down to Melbourne, there's pros and cons to all of it (but) I'm really enjoying my time in Melbourne so far. Hopefully these next three years can be a lot more positive than the last."

In a career that has elicited feelings of unknown, Cameron was in search of certainty when looking for a new home last trade period.

Jack Monigatti and Darcy Cameron vie for a hit out in a NEAFL game.
Jack Monigatti and Darcy Cameron vie for a hit out in a NEAFL game.

The Magpies were the most forthright in their pursuit of the big man, with Carlton, GWS and North Melbourne also showing interest.

Cameron saw Collingwood's potential success as another great appeal.

"I did briefly talk to those clubs but they weren't as keen as Collingwood. (They) showed that desire in trying to get me here and I really appreciated that."

"Having the comfort of signing three years was pretty important for me too because you're able to feel comfortable in pre-season or training, you don't feel too much pressure in needing to perform straight away.

"That was one of the big ones but also there's a big premiership window here for Collingwood and the success side of things was really appealing as well."

For one of the rare times in his career, the ball is squarely in his court with Mason Cox likely to be fit and available soon.

"I just would just like to get some consistent AFL football under my belt, and some continuity with my body. Obviously, team success is the number one priority."



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