PROMISING Horsham footballer Darcy Tucker keeps going from strength to strength.
The AIS-AFL Academy level one scholarship holder has just returned from a 10-day tour of New Zealand, which culminated in a match representing Australia’s under-17s against the host country’s national men’s team – the New Zealand Hawks – at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
Putting his best foot forward, the Horsham Saints and North Ballarat Rebels talent played a starring role in the Australian under-17 team’s narrow four-point win.
He was also named among his side’s best players.
Tucker said he was pleased with his performance in a testing match against New Zealand’s open-age team.
“I was very happy with my game. I was playing across half-back and got a fair bit of it and a few marks,” he said.
“It was a test for us getting used to those bigger bodies and a higher intensity – but I was sort of used to it from playing some senior games.”
The Horsham teenager said he was surprised by the standard of football in New Zealand.
“It was very surprising how well-drilled, competitive and hard at it they were,” Tucker said.
In a match played in windy conditions, Australia took a nine-point lead into the major break after leading by seven points at quarter-time.
The lead changed hands multiple times in the final term, before a late Australian goal with just minutes to play secured the win.
Tucker said the tour was a great experience.
He particularly enjoyed learning from some of the legends of the game, including squad coach and Brisbane Lions great Chris Johnson.
“I suppose Chris is the coach who helped me a lot, plus Matt Lloyd and Brad Johnson,” he said.
“Those guys have all the experience, so I was soaking up the information and learning as much as I could.”
After a training session and jumper presentations in Melbourne, the squad travelled to Wellington.
It toured Rotorua and Tauranga before returning to Wellington for a number of training sessions in the lead-up to the match.
The academy scholarship runs until August, when the squad of 30 players will go up for re-selection for level two of the program.
In a promising sign for Tucker’s football aspirations, 29 of the 30 players who toured New Zealand as part of the academy squad in 2011 are now listed with AFL clubs.
The St Kilda fan said he had a busy season ahead and would be looking to continue his development with the AIS-AFL academy squad and at TAC Cup level with the Rebels.
“We keep doing all the programs and then go up for re-selection for level two, so it’s going to be a pretty intense year,” he said.
“That’s definitely my focus and I’ll be trying to perform my best at TAC Cup level.”