The Heavy Lifter


There was a period when Jack Darling was the best player in the competition.

I’m not sure whether you remember, but it was early in the West Coast Eagles’ 2018 premiership season, and through the first nine games of the year, Darling was close to unstoppable.

With an average of 3.11 goals per game over that period, he was dominating games, working high up to the wings to provide a contested marking option for the Eagles, dismissing his direct opponent with a flex or a shrug, only to double back and hit the scoreboard while the opposition were wondering how he was covering the ground so easily. This was no small man at this stage of his career, but he was burning off his opponents like he was Nick Riewoldt.

He was also averaging 3.33 contested grabs per game at that point of the season, with his hands as good as anyone in the game.

For context on that last point, the current leader in contested marks per game in the AFL is Sam Taylor at GWS. He is averaging 2.9.

Only Tom Lynch in 2022 has come close to matching Darling’s output to start the season, averaging 3.26 contested marks across the year.

However, with an awkward fall and a badly damaged ankle, the West Coast forward was forced to sit out five weeks of footy, and it is fair to say that he was unable to recapture the form that made him such a force at the beginning of the season.

And from that point, some supporters started loving Jack Darling a little less.


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HB writes several members-only articles every week. He believes work such as this is worth twenty-five cents per day. If you don’t, that’s fine. You’re welcome to join and keep reading if you do.