Friday, 12 April 2013

My little mate, Dylan

Dylan, Bucks, Bucka, SOJ, Rooey, Pipes or my personal favourite, Hollywood.

He goes by many names. But the truth is this; when I first laid eyes on Dylan Buckley, I didn’t like him.

From memory, my first introduction of Dylan was via a YouTube video from Carlton who announced that they were signing up the son of Jimmy Buckley: an eighteen-year-old with the body of twelve-year-old and a windswept comb over who struggled through his very first broadcast interview.

Front and center: With Dylan at the 2012 Carlton Photo
Day with the rest of the first-year players.
At the time, it said more about me than Dylan. We were due to start on the same day in mid-November of the 2012 pre-season and I was carrying in unfavourable first impressions to someone I’d never met.

In a way its perhaps fortunate that, fast-forwarding a few months to a trip to Hong Kong last October, Dylan admitted to me that his view of me mirrored mine of him: we weren’t sure about each other.

But whatever was felt going into day one of our new respective careers, it melted within about three seconds of meeting each other. From then on, it was the birth of a great friendship.

I was always told your first year at the club tendered you mostly toward the guys you got drafted with and this certainly became the case. In the most unlikely of places, from the most unlikely of circumstances, I’d found one of my best mates.

But to know Dylan as just the son of a Carlton legend is to seriously underrate him as a person and as a footballer.

The past two years has tested Dylan in many ways. 2011 was a write-off year, playing just three games before requiring season-ending ankle surgery.

The ankle rehabilitation took him the best part of ten months to overcome, encroaching into the beginning of his tenure at the Blues.

Through hard work, he got back for Round 1 of the NAB Cup against Port Adelaide and kicked a goal – a roost from the 50m line no less – with his first kick. Back at home and on the couch nursing one of several injuries, I was ecstatic.

Yet from ecstasy came another adversity when he got his ring finger caught in Jarrad Waite’s jumper. A torn ligament and a six-week stint on the sidelines, not to mention a very noticeable bandage, got slapped in Dylan’s face. Still no complaint.

The rest of Dylan’s season could only be described as up-and-down. He never felt he’d reached the stamina to play senior football, sometimes playing just 60% of a game due to the number of rotations he was taking in a match.

Yet there were signs, really good signs too. Just as he lit up Avalon Airport Oval last Saturday night in a performance that justifies his selection for this Saturday night, Dylan kicked four second-half goals against Werribee in the middle of 2012.

The fact that it was an ABC TV-broadcast match did anything but worry him.

As with everyone else at the football club, a change in the hierarchy at the conclusion of the 2012 season opened a new chapter for Dylan.

2012 had been a year where we rode some bumps with authority together.

Both of us growing up with privileged backgrounds, private school-educated and a feeling of being bigger fish in our previous environments – we were brought back to earth at a football club.

As much as he hated it, Dylan’s name preceded him often. It’s a burden that father-son draftees bear from the moment they are torn from their mother’s breast.

But while there was a perception to the contrary, arrogant is not a use I would associate with Dylan Buckley.

Having said that, the kid is nothing short of a social butterfly: you cannot go anywhere without him being recognised or him knowing the head honcho of whatever establishment we were frequenting.

Let me tell you, there are positives and negatives in hanging around with the 20-year-old version of Shane Warne. If you want VIP treatment, Dylan’s your man. If you want to get somewhere else quickly, not so much.

It led me to coining my personal nickname of ‘Hollywood Bucks’ – or just ‘Hollywood’ for short.

For all the stick I give him, it’s a testament to the fact that family, friend or fan; Dylan will loyally give his time to anyone. Between his father Jim, mother Deb, sister Jess and his club mentor Kade Simpson, no trouble will be made ensuring Dylan’s head stays at its regular size.

I witnessed his genuine compassion first-hand when I tore my hamstring to shreds in my last game of footy. I was playing VFL reserves, a curtain raiser to Dylan’s game and remember hobbling off the ground and into the rooms where the VFL seniors were warming up.

Doing my best to contain my tears knowing that footy had passed me by, Dylan tore himself away from the middle of the warm-up to put his arm around me for thirty seconds, tell me things could be worse, ruffle my hair and then continue with the team.

It was a massive gesture from him when all anyone else could do was feel sorry for me.

And so last Saturday night, I was privileged to watch one of my genuine mates fulfil his boyhood dream, relinquish himself from his father’s name and debut for the Carlton Football Club.

I had no expectations for him; Carlton supporters need to understand that he is still under-sized for football and won’t burst on the scene like football’s next big thing. He became the 1125th footballer to kick a goal with his first kick – I certainly don’t wish this upon Dylan, but the reality is that there’s a large percentage of them who’ve amounted to very little.

As Mick Malthouse said upon presenting Dylan with his Player Pin last week: “He needed stamina: he spends the most time in the altitude room. He needed size: his gym numbers are through the roof.”

He proves himself day by day and is laying the foundation for a very promising career. And that’s why I encourage everyone to watch his career as just a great life story.

A skinny kid who grew up at the club he wanted to play for. Now he’s playing for the club he wanted to play for.

In a time of tanking, performance enhancing drugs and woeful haircuts, it’s good to know there are still some pure football stories to be told.

1 comment:

  1. Matt, this is an amazing piece. Very well written. What a great story.
    What a true story of friendship!
    All the best for your journalism career!