When scheming up potential Saints nicknames for Darcy Wilson in the late hours of Monday evening after officially being drafted, his 10-plus-strong group of footy-mad mates from Wangaratta are quick to jokingly note “he has a few similarities to Fraser Gehrig”.
The ‘G-Train’ is mentioned soon after; their own spin to turn the iconic nickname into the ‘D-Train’ sending a chorus of whoops and cheers around the room as Wilson is handed with the new moniker by his friends, much to his bemusement when he re-emerges from a chat with Ross Lyon a few moments later.
Jokes aside, Wilson’s mates might not be that far off from comparing the 18-year-old draftee to the St Kilda cult hero. It’s not the hulking, intimidating and cult-like presence Saints fans associate with the G-Train though, but the gut-running and supremely athletic Gehrig from his time as a West Coast winger which serves as the greatest parallel to the youngster from Wangaratta.
Adding to that, the quietly spoken pair are both originally Murray Bushrangers wingers 30 years apart - Gehrig taken at pick No. 16 from the 1993 Draft by the Eagles - and have the skills on both sides of the body, although Wilson favours his right as opposed to the penetrating dominant left of his predecessor.
Although still quite a few kilograms shy of the big unit in his Saintly prime, the pick No. 18 from the 2023 AFL Draft has certainly put in the work to bulk up his frame without sacrificing any of his speed underfoot.
The lean Wilson put on nine kilograms throughout this calendar year, meticulously adhering to a strength program concocted by Bushrangers coaches Tim Madden and Cam Bishop to add the muscle and catapult him into first-round considerations.
Through that, the 18-year-old has unlocked a passion for doing the little things right; recovery is never skipped, no session ever cut short and now, he’s a self-admitted lover of jumping in the sauna post-session.
“It’s a few little one percenters which have been instilled in the last few years which has definitely helped me get to where I am,” Wilson told saints.com.au.
“Someone like Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and even Bradley Hill, I love the way those two play and how they use their strengths.
“I’m someone who likes to take the game on, use my speed and endurance and then push forward and hit the scoreboard at times as well.”
Wilson had an inkling he might be heading to St Kilda, but wasn’t at all certain he was headed that way. St Kilda’s recruiting team were of the same mindset heading into the night.
Attracting significant interest from several other clubs following his Best & Fairest campaign for the Bushrangers, the top-tier draftee had Geelong, North Melbourne, GWS, Sydney and Adelaide weighing up their options.
With the Giants, Crows and Roos hitting the phones in the hopes of moving up the draft order in the minutes leading up to Wilson’s selection, the Saints entered into business with their Sydney-side counterparts to shift one position down.
GWS, now a pick ahead, took James Leake, and St Kilda got a future second-rounder and - most importantly - their man as a result.
“You don’t really know which way you’re going to go until the cameras run over 20 seconds before the pick. I’m just super excited… it’s a long time in the making,” Wilson said.
“I just aim to play consistent footy and aim to be a good player both on and off the field and then just see what happens at the end of the day.”
Wilson is no stranger to the football landscape, even having a familial connection to the red, white and black through his maternal great-uncle, Des Cole, who played eight games for the Saints between 1954 and 1955. The football pedigree also extends through his uncle Mick Nolan, a Premiership player for North Melbourne in 1973.
The Wilsons are also close family friends with St Kilda Premiership hero Bob Murray, who currently lives in Wangaratta and, by all reports, is rapt Wilson is calling the Saints home.
Growing up in “a pretty sporty family” with dad Mick, mum Michelle and older sisters Kelsie and Brylee, Wilson may be generally quiet off the field but has the innate competitiveness which has him determined as ever to make an impact in his new colours.
“I grew up loving footy from a very young age. I had competitive sisters and a competitive mum and dad, so just in the backyard playing footy is where it all began,” Wilson said.
“Dad was a pretty good player back at my local club Wangaratta Rovers, played over 300 games. He loved his footy and instilled the love of the game into me.
“He’s backed me in to perform at my best, but he said me to make sure you get the little things right done first and then the rest will come.”
Those little things have cumulated into the start of what is hopefully going to be the start of a long career at the highest level. The hard work has certainly been done, but it’s far from being complete.
“I’ve had so many dreams of becoming an AFL player and to finally get that done is amazing,” Wilson said.
“It’s mostly (the feeling of) excitement at the moment, I’ve dreamt of this since I was a little kid.
“I can’t wait to get down to the club and see what they’re all about and what the future holds.”