At a glance: Initially seen as a potential top three pick, Darling has been a huge steal after the Eagles snared him with pick No.26 at the 2010 NAB AFL Draft. He played 23 of 25 games in his debut season, quickly cementing himself in the Eagles' tall forward line and adding valuable tackling pressure. His three-goal performance against Melbourne in round six earned him a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination, and his semi-final heroics against Carlton announced him as a big game player in the making. A powerfully built youngster, Darling was able to play as the Eagles' main forward target for periods of 2012 while Josh Kennedy was injured. He played every game and finished fourth in the club champion award, leading the Eagles with 53 goals (ninth in the AFL). He is vital to West Coast's forward line for both his offensive and defensive abilities.
Plays like: Darling's courage and bustling style has seen him compared to Brisbane Lions champion Jonathan Brown. Like the three-time premiership-winning Brown, Darling likes to roam up the ground and work his opponent over running back towards goal. He has a tough, swaggering presence and takes a strong contested mark.
Killer quality: Darling has been described by his coaches as a new-age tall forward for his ability to tackle ferociously and put pressure on opposition defenders when they have the ball. His chasing is relentless and it is a quality that lifts his teammates.
Best performance: Darling was the difference against Carlton in round 12, standing up in the last quarter at Patersons Stadium to inspire a 10-point win. The young forward kicked two of his three goals in the final quarter, highlighting his big-game temperament at a time when he was the Eagles' only genuine key forward.
What they say: "He will be a gun, and it's going to be hard for teams to match up on him because he can play 'tall' and 'small'." – teammate Josh Kennedy
Stats that matter:
First in goals (53.25)
Third in marks (131 @5.4 per game)
First in marks inside 50 (49 in 2 per game)
Third in contested marks (36 @ 1.5 per game)
Eighth in tackles (68 @ 2.8 per game)