It may only be five games into his AFL career but Darcy Byrne-Jones is already proving himself to be one of the success stories in Port Adelaide’s inconsistent 2016 season to date. While the 20 year old is yet to earn a Rising Star nomination you suspect it is only a matter of time if the hard working and dashing defender keeps up his good work at AFL level.
Many potential draftees fly under the radar leading up to the draft. While a lot of media attention will focus on potential top picks, those expected to go later in the draft do not quite garner the same fuss from pundits. Darcy Byrne-Jones probably falls into the latter category after he was drafted with pick 52 in the 2013 draft from the Oakleigh Chargers. Often it is hope more than expectation that a later draft pick will yield a quality AFL player.
Arriving as a skinny and developing player at Alberton there was a lot of work required before AFL selection was going to be a serious possibility and the club knew Byrne-Jones would take time to develop his frame for AFL football. After only 12 months at the club Byrne-Jones contract was extended until the end of the 2016 season.
Byrne-Jones was a regular of the Port Magpies league side in 2014 which included a Grand Final appearance against Norwood. Last season Byrne-Jones continued to develop at SANFL level playing 19 matches mainly across half back. Despite being a regular at SANFL level many felt AFL selection was some way away.
The 2016 Pre-season saw Byrne-Jones perform well in the NAB opener against Sydney but had a less impressive game against Richmond in the final pre-season hit out. Importantly however he started the SANFL season in solid form and got his AFL opportunity with a debut against Essendon in round 3.
It was a memorable debut for Byrne -Jones, gathering 14 possessions and kicking a goal. Ken Hinkley was full of praise for the defender after the match. “Tough and hard, kicks a goal and has to go off on the blood rule. It’s a fantastic performance first up. I think everyone will be excited, none more than Darce and his family, and so they should be. He’ll play again next week.”
It can be easy for a new player to come into a team that is flying and sitting top of the table. When a team is struggling however it can be a different story. After the Bombers game Port Adelaide faced GWS and the debut was quickly forgotten as Port Adelaide were smashed by 86 points and the following week went down to Geelong by 48 points. Darcy Byrne-Jones however was one of the shining lights in those miserable outings.
The overall stats certainly confirm Byrne-Jones is settling in well at AFL level. Currently averaging 19.8 disposals, 2.4 tackles and 3 marks a game is the form of a player that is certainly not overawed at AFL level. Not only hard at the contest but the ability to provide rebound with good ball use becoming a trademark. The inclusion of Darcy Byrne-Jones and Nathan Krakouer particularly has allowed Matthew Broadbent to spend more time up the ground and has added to Port Adelaide’s flexibility.