There’s a lot new to Darcy Wilson as he adjusts to life as an AFL footballer, however it’s the mental side of the game which has been the “biggest eye opener” to-date.

St Kilda’s focus on the psychological components of high-performance has been an unsung – but important – facet under the guidance of leadership consultant, Dr Sean Richardson.

It’s just as much a part of Wilson’s weekly preparation as the on-field skills training, opposition analysis and gameplan execution, and an element which he credits to the way he’s commenced his career in Saints colours.

“It’s a massive part of the game and I feel my footy has improved from just working on the mental side of it,” Wilson said.

“We do a fair bit of visualisation; visualising your role and how you’re going to play it. It’s something I’ve never really experienced before, but I can see it’s helping. If you visualise it, in games it just becomes instinct for what you’re going to do.

“If I visualise the night before playing my role on the wing and having fast reaction times, then once I’m out on the field I’m not necessarily thinking about it. It just happens because I’ve already done the work.”

A crucial rundown tackle in the dying moments of St Kilda’s match against Richmond in Gather Round was the perfect example of Wilson acting purely on instinct.

It’s those high-pressure moments on which the outcome of a game can ultimately hinge. But if he had been slow to the punch or had his tackle broken, wouldn’t have been fearful of a post-game spray hurtling his way.

Ross Lyon’s mantra of creating both safety in failure and excellence in learning has been taken in stride by Wilson, whose on-field performances have had that at their heart.

“You’re going to make mistakes and every player fails. But Ross just loves to see improvement and see if you learn from it,” Wilson said.

“I feel safe to go out there every week and have a crack knowing that I probably will fail at times, but the coaches are backing me in to learn from it.

“All the coaching staff relay that back: ‘just play to your strengths’. Running has been one of my strengths for a while now, so if I can do that and play out a whole game my teammates will be pretty happy.”

Wilson’s form has drawn praise from skipper Jack Steele, who lauded the youngster’s ability to run out games without appearing the slightest bit exhausted.


“To have him say that is pretty cool,” Wilson said with a grin.

“Jack as a captain is really big on getting back to supporting the young group, helping us enjoy it and making us feel safe to fail. I think that’s a massive one we’ve adapted to; the ability to fail but being able to learn from it.

“The way Steeley plays with his strengths, it’s inspiring for me and it’s something that I’d love to work towards, to be as good of a player as he is.”