From any angle, the career of Jack Darling has been extraordinary.

Even before he was drafted his football ascent was far from normal. Judgments made from afar had him labelled him some kind of problem child, mainly for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Somehow being king hit outside the Subiaco Hotel waiting for a Taxi was a problem of his own making.

The myth continued to grow for a young man who had excelled in his first year in the Western Australian under-18s team, in 2009. Ineligible for the draft in that season, he was touted as a top five selection in the 2010 ballot.

But those mythical; and mystical ‘behavioural issues’ saw him slide to selection 26. The Eagles recruiting staff, bewildered as any on his currency crash, pounced and he has been here ever since.

05:49 Mins
Published on

From the Track - Round 16

We chat to Jack Darling and some of his teammates ahead of Jack's 250th game milestone this weekend

Published on

It became obvious pretty quickly that rumours of Darling’s off-field exploits were grossly exaggerated. Then came the accusations from the east coast that the Eagles had peddled those rumours to put other clubs off the trail.

Football loves a conspiracy theory.

Regardless, draft night 2010 was the Eagles’ lucky day. They grabbed one of the all-time draft bargains; a key forward who will tomorrow play his 250th game for the club – joining Andrew Embley in ninth position on the club’s games tally list.

After making his debut in the round one match against North Melbourne in 2011 – on the same day as good mate Andrew Gaff – the durability and consistency of Darling has been remarkable.

Jack Darling, Luke Shuey, and Andrew Gaff celebrate after their first win in round one, 2011 against North Melbourne

Since that entry into senior football Darling has played an amazing 249 of 268 games; testament to his fastidious preparation, both at training and away from the club. Further detonating the teenage ‘bad boy’ rap.

Remarkably, he will also be the second-youngest Eagle to reach the 250-game milestone, just 15 days older than colossus Glen Jakovich (30 years and five days) was when he reached the landmark in round one, 2003.

While Darling's availability to play is quite staggering, that is only part of the story. His contribution across those games has been pronounced.

He was a key member of the club’s 2018 premiership and was arguably the most influential player in the competition when the Eagles went on a 10-game winning surge after losing the opening match at Optus Stadium to Sydney.

Darling dominated reigning premier Richmond with six goals and 15 marks in round nine, 2018

He has been an all-Australian (2019), a four-time leading goalkicker and with a career tally of 467 sits third on the club’s all-time list behind teammates Josh Kennedy (698) and 1992 and 1994 premiership spearhead Peter Sumich (514).

The shame of it all is that Kennedy will not be at the MCG to celebrate Darling’s milestone match against Richmond.

In tandem they have been quite a force, sharing the leading goal-kicking mantle at the Eagles for the last 11 seasons. Their partnership and understanding has been paramount to the club’s success over that period.

While Kennedy is being rested for this game and contemplating his future beyond this 2022 campaign, Darling would seem to have a lot more football ahead of him.

Having recently celebrated his 30th birthday and being so resilient throughout his career there are no signs yet of him slowing down.

As coach Adam Simpson said during the week, JD could have another 100 games in him.

If that is the case, Eagles fans can look excitedly forward to him forging another double-edged attacking force with emerging star Oscar Allen.