It’s easy to get caught up in the hype when a young star bursts onto the scene, particularly when the hype is rather justified.
However, when you assess the Collingwood list at the moment, and the name “Daicos” is mentioned, you could be forgiven for thinking anything positive associated with it is automatically attributed to Nick.
If that’s the case, you’re missing the big picture, and you’re missing out on what could be an All-Australian season for the premier wingman in the game – Josh Daicos.
It was back in 2021 that I saw what I thought at the time was a combination of desperation and frustration from Nathan Buckley, as he moved one of his brightest young stars from the wing position he’d become accustomed to in his formative years in the league, and plonked him inside fifty. The obvious hope was that his skills and goal sense would kick start what was a bit of a flat Collingwood forward structure at that point.
Without dwelling too much on what went wrong, it quickly became clear that Buckley had, in fact, removed one of the aspects that was actually working for him and his team – Daicos’ work on the wing – and placed it in a position where it added very little of benefit.
Buckley’s move of Josh Daicos to the forward was a loss for all involved, but luckily, it didn’t linger too long.
After a run of five games where Daicos managed to slot four goals, Bucks saw sense and moved his burgeoning young talent back to the wing, where after a brief run of good form, his own game reflected that of his team – stagnant, directionless, and broken.
By that stage of the season, the Pies were a mess. Big Ed was gone and Bucks was next. The writing was on the wall and the team was spiralling.
It was only with a new season and a new coach that Daicos really started to hit his stride again. The recruitment of his brother seemed to reinvigorate the elder brother, as well, as Josh’s work in combining with his sibling produced some elite run and carry for the Magpies. With a game plan set to exploit teams on the turnover, Daicos’ running power and elite foot skills were suddenly catapulted into the spotlight. His work on one wing, combined with that of a rejuvenated Steele Sidebottom on the opposite side of the ground, gave the Magpies a running duo capable of tearing the game apart.
And that is what they did.
Daicos averaged a career-high 21.08 disposals per game in 2022 as Collingwood came from the clouds to be just one kick out of the Grand Final, however, that was just setting the table for what was to come.
Now, fully entrenched in Craig McRae’s pressure/rebound system, Daicos has hit 2023 like a hurricane. However, if you’re relying on the mainstream media to tell you how important he’s been to the Magpies’ structure, they’d probably best describe him as a bit of a breeze, and leave it at that. Stuff like that tends to happen when your younger brother is a tropical cyclone of media attention.
Here is Josh Daicos’ year by the numbers so far.
He is averaging 27.86 disposals per game. That is +6.78 on his 2022 numbers. He is at career-high numbers for rebound 50s, inside 50s, clearances, contested possessions, uncontested possessions, score involvements, and metres gained.
The only thing he has not increased is his own scoring output, but with eight Magpies averaging over a goal per game, it has not been necessary to do so at this point – he has been happy to play a role in the success of others.
In our own Wingman of the Year rankings, Daicos is so far ahead of the pack that he could miss two weeks of action and potentially retain the lead – after just seven weeks of football, that is abso-bloody-ridiculous. He has been incredibly consistent, with a season-low of 23 touches against the Lions in Round Four. His last three weeks have seen him collect 30+ in each game.
Part of me wonders just how competitive Josh Daicos is – has the form and the whirlwind surrounding the ascension of his brother driven him to be a better player? Is it something he needed to push him to greater heights and make him realise his potential? Siblings… there is always a rivalry, even when it is a friendly one.
When we look at the potential for a genuine wingman to occupy a place on the wing in the All-Australian team, we have to go back to 2018, when Andrew Gaff was so damn good, he refused to allow the selectors to bump him out in order to slot another midfielder into the side. That is the territory we now find Josh Daicos in.
He is making life very tough for those who like to make the easy decision.
As we turn to Round Eight, Daicos will once again find himself as a key to the Magpies’ running machine. Coming up against the Swans, he is likely to have Justin McInerney or Errol Gulden as a direct opponent, but it would not surprise me at all to see John Longmire try something different and throw a defensive player at the Collingwood running machine. James Rowbottom has a great tank and is as combative as they come. Could he attempt to stifle the creativity and brilliance of the best wingman in the game at the moment?
In a world that gravitates to the sensational, often the meat and potatoes of a story can be pushed aside.
Yes, Nick Daicos is the media darling at the moment – I’ve already written about his potential matchup this coming weekend. The hype and news stories about his game are not just hyperbole – he is a weapon, and potentially a generational player, but he is still the shiny new toy for Collingwood fans. He is the Buzz Lightyear, taking a seat on the bed of Andy.
Josh Daicos kind of fell down the side in the kerfuffle of his arrival and is now peaking back over the doona at the spot in Collingwood fans’ hearts.
You get the feeling he’ll take his seat right alongside his brother when Andy jumps in the car and heads to Pizza Planet, before too long. His play demands it. It cannot be ignored.
The season of Josh Daicos thus far has been brilliant. He has excelled in every aspect of the game and is fully embracing the way Craig McRae coaches this team.
On merit, he is an All-Australian wingman in waiting, and will likely be crowned the best wingman in the game by us, here at The Mongrel.
And you know what – he deserves a little better than being known as Nick Daicos’ big brother.
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