PORT ADELAIDE defender Darcy Byrne-Jones has admitted his inclusion in the 2020 AFL All-Australian team came as a complete surprise.
Byrne-Jones joined Port teammates Charlie Dixon and Travis Boak in receiving the honour on Thursday night, with Boak named vice-captain of the team.
Runner-up in the best and fairest in 2019, Byrne-Jones has continued his consistent form off half back, but his national recognition still caught him off guard.
“It’s a great sense of pride that I was able to get in,” the 25-year-old said at a press conference on Friday.
“It wasn’t something I expected. It came as a bit of a shock to be honest but very grateful to make it and I obviously couldn’t have done it without the teammates around me and the coaches and family and friends.”
Highly regarded amongst his teammates and coaches, and a cult figure amongst the Port Adelaide members and supporters, if not for his flowing mullet, Byrne-Jones might not stand out to many.
He averages 17.4 disposals off half back and is rarely beaten by his opponent despite taking on many of the craftiest small forwards in the game.
Byrne-Jones is among 12 first-time All-Australians named this year but he is not expecting the recognition to change the way team approach him.
“I don’t think things will change for me, I’ll just keep going about my business the way I normally do,” he said modestly.
“I’ve got great support around me, in terms of the boys around me and Brett Montgomery our coach so I don’t think things will change too much.
“My mindset will still be the same.”
The highs of 2020 are a far cry from his early days at Alberton.
After being drafted with pick 52 in the 2013 AFL National Draft, Byrne-Jones was forced to bide his time playing with the Magpies in the SANFL.
He finally got his chance to debut at AFL level in Round 3, 2016 and has become a mainstay in the side since then, playing 103 of a possible 104 games.
“I came here and spent the best part of two and a half years playing with the Maggies and I think that gave me a really good grounding for what was to come in the AFL side,” Byrne-Jones explained.
“I was lucky enough to get the opportunity and was really keen to make the most of that opportunity and luckily enough I’ve been able to stay in the side ever since so I’m really grateful for that.
“There are moments where you think maybe I won’t make it, maybe I’m not good enough but I tried to stay as resilient as possible and maintain a positive attitude.
“I annoyed the coaches a fair big to try get me in the side so I think they were grateful to get me in so I’d shut up by the end of it.”
With individual accolades not sitting comfortably with the humble backman, the finals series presents a chance for team success, and he cannot wait to get stuck into Geelong in Thursday night’s Qualifying Final at Adelaide Oval.
“It’s obviously something pretty new for me personally – I’ve only played in the one final,” he said, referring to the heartbreaking 2017 Elimination Final loss to West Coast.
“We will just stick to the processes that have worked so far this year and obviously there’s a little bit more pressure and there’s more fans and more expectation but I think if we stick to what’s worked this year and the processes we’ve put in place, I’m sure we’ll be fine.”