First Dogs' game `felt like AFL debut again'

North Hobart's Sam Darley in his AFL debut last Sunday. Picture: Getty Images.
North Hobart's Sam Darley in his AFL debut last Sunday. Picture: Getty Images.

THERE are injury hurdles that footballers have to get over on a regular basis, then there's what Sam Darley went through this preseason.

While others battled injuries such as hamstring, ankle and knee ailments, the Western Bulldogs half-back had to deal with a twisted bowel.

It was a significant delay to his new life at the kennel after 13 games in two seasons at Greater Western Sydney, a challenge that made his appearance in Sunday's thrilling win over Melbourne all the more special.

"It was unbelievable and almost felt like my debut again," the 21-year-old from North Hobart said.

"Being at a new club and having such an interrupted preseason, it was just a really good feeling.

"I was in and out of hospital for about three weeks in the preseason, just feeling real crook in the guts, and it turned out I had a twisted bowel and the operation for that put me back a few weeks.

"Having put so much work to get back made Sunday just a little bit more special."'

Playing a role out of defence, Darley was solid in his first outing, collecting 16 disposals at 75 per cent disposal efficiency, which included four marks and four rebound 50s.

"At the end of the day, playing at half-back, we emphasise playing your role and ensuring you can beat your man and if everyone does that then you are going to get a good result in defence."

Job security was the major reason behind Darley, who was a 17-year-old access player for the Giants in 2011 before being traded to the Dogs last year, deciding to change clubs.

With the Giants only willing to offer him a one-year contract, the two-year deal from the Bulldogs was too much to ignore.

"I had connections there with (list manager) Jason McCartney my AIS coach and the fact I have played junior footy with (fellow Tasmanian) Liam Jones, it seemed like a win-win.

"I left my best mate (GWS midfielder) Adam Treloar in Sydney, but we are still in contact every day and have kept some really good friendships from coaching staff and players there, but the Western Bulldogs have made me feel welcome since day one."

It has been an adjustment for Darley, going from a very young group to one with a more senior core.

But with players such as Robert Murphy by his side, the transition has been made easier.

Darley has some simplistic aims for the remainder of 2014 - to remain in a senior side which sits 12th on the AFL ladder with a 5-9 record.

If he can't, he would hope to have an impact with Footscray in the VFL as it pushes towards September.

"I've developed quite a good relationship with (coach) Brendan McCartney and as he emphasises to me all the time, they know I can run with the footy and that I'm a nice kick, but I need to continually improve the defensive side of my game.

"There can be glimpses of it (that defensive side) being quite good, but young guys can waver from that at times."


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