Darcy Moore a Magpie growing up

Peter Moore had not seen Darcy for five or six weeks during the summer so when he returned home from a United States business trip he noticed something different about his son. He looked bigger.

"You've grown," he told his son. He knew everyone thought that when they had not seen their kids in a while, but Peter was sure of it. Darcy looked at his dad as if to say 'Dad, I am 20, I doubt it, I think I have stopped growing'.

Growing up: Collingwood's Darcy Moore.
Growing up: Collingwood's Darcy Moore. Photo: Eddie Jim

Turns out parents know best. Darcy had grown in many ways in his first year as an AFL footballer. He had learnt a lot, he was more rounded and, as it turns out, he had physically grown. For all the important changes he experienced in his first year perhaps the most important was he was taller.

"I was 198-199 [centimetres] last year and I was measured again and I am 201 now," Darcy said, laughing.

For a 20-year-old key forward who will be asked to ruck a bit, that extra few centimetres is important.

"Where the team is at, I am going to have to play second ruck at some stage so I suppose that makes it a bit easier for me to be 200-plus rather than sub-200," he said.


The physical growth is the most tangible change after his first season but not the only one.

Moore arrived at Collingwood as prepared as anyone could be for the life-altering change of being at the league's biggest club. The son of a Collingwood captain and dual Brownlow medallist, he grew up following and watching the club and living next door. He was a fan of Jimmy Clement and liked Josh Fraser. He went to both the 2010 grand finals.

He loved Heretier Lumumba from the day he walked up to him and his dad in the rooms to introduce himself – as Harry O then - and pay respect to the man whose playing number also adorned his back for a period. That left a mark on an impressionable young Darcy. He grew up Collingwood and knew the club with the intimate knowledge of a fan.

He had lifted weights there for a year alongside the senior players before being drafted. He ran in training sessions with instruction from the same coaches. A good mate, Jordy De Goey, was drafted to the club with him. He was comfortable in his environment and as schooled and knowledgeable of what to expect when he became a Collingwood player as anyone could be … yet he was taken aback by what he confronted.

"It's crazy. I grew up a Collingwood supporter living in inner-city Richmond so I know what football is about and what the culture is like and it is pretty maniacal in certain respects," he said.

"It's hard looking back on it, even after a year it's changed my life in so many ways. The amount of talk, the amount of commentary and the amount of pressure, you can't really understand from the outside. In many ways I am in the eye of the storm still."

That storm brewed quickly around him after round 17 last year. He had made his senior debut in round 14 after toe and hamstring injuries had delayed getting him in the senior side sooner. He was rested after two games but when he returned to the team it was against the Bulldogs. They lost, but he booted five goals in just his third game. The best was scooping in a loose ball, sidestepping and galloping into goal. He was athletic, rangy and full of promise.

Dealing with the reaction to his performance was an awakening. Learning how to balance natural instinct and the team plan was another part of the education.

"It's what we are working on as a club and a culture to be yourself on the field and express yourself and show people who you are and play your way whilst fitting into the team environment and fitting into the systems we are trying to implement," he said.

"Something [coach] Nathan [Buckley] is big on is being the best version of yourself and bringing all of yourself to the group but the group staying united and connected at the same time. That is a hard lesson."

There is a similarity to Nathan Buckley in Moore. Both are driven and set about their work not only with diligence but an urgency and hunger for success to come quickly.

Moore was a young kid for his grade at school. He started earlier than most so he finished year 12 at Carey Grammar, where he was school captain, as a 17-year-old. He got into commerce at Melbourne University and finished first year before he was drafted. He studied part-time last year but in this pre-season did a summer semester, squeezing 12 weeks of study into six, so he could not let things drag out too much. He talked to Buckley about it before committing to the intense study training bloc. It is difficult to envisage Buckley being asked by a player: 'Do you mind if I work even harder at school and uni? Seriously, are you OK with me doing more work'? He said yes.

What it meant was absolute time efficiency to rush from football to tutorials and back. It meant he got a lot done but was also essentially an observer to uni life. The essence of the university experience for most students is about anything but time efficiency.

"Even in that year I was full-time uni it was like that [watching it all go by around you] because I was at Vic Metro training and then conditioning at Collingwood and was not there all the time. Most of the social uni culture is based around drinking so that can make it pretty interesting [as a professional footballer]," he said.

"It's quite difficult balancing study and training but it is pretty complementary. Yesterday, for example, I did a 13-kilometre football session in the morning, then I had to take off and go to uni and sit there for two hours in a tutorial and you don't get home until 6.30 at night and I am pretty unresponsive to my dad and my sister and don't have much to offer them. But I have found it has helped me be the best version of myself."

As a footballer at university he was half an outsider on campus anyway for academia remains one province where being an AFL player is more likely to provoke condescension than congratulation.

"There's definitely the snobbery at uni. When they find out they dismiss me a bit. I like to think I surprise them a bit, but we never know," Moore said.

"It's certainly changed my life. It's not the normal 20-year-old uni student life, especially when Collingwood has the following it does. I am not really that connected at uni because I am doing one subject at a time so I am barely there. It's very different to my mates I graduated school with."

Moore is emblematic of the young core of young Collingwood players they have accumulated in recent years – Taylor Adams, De Goey, Adam Treloar, James Aish, Tom Langdon, Tim Broomhead, Brodie Grundy, Jamie Elliott, Brayden Maynard and Matt Scharenberg among them – who have been brought in to not only be the nucleus of the long-term team, but also hot-housed in leadership.

"What has surprised me is how explicitly we talk about it ... because when Pendles [Scott Pendlebury] isn't there, when Trav [Travis Cloke] isn't there or Swanny [Dane Swan] isn't in the midfield, then it's up to us. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?" he said.

Peter Moore was an intelligent man and a natural leader at a club that was in disarray at the time. His son has similar traits, but arrives at a very different club. He holds ambitions to one day do as dad did and lead the club.

"Official leadership is premature for me now but it is something definitely in the future," he said.

It is something he is still growing into, and he is growing fast.