On Sunday night 27 February Carlton forward Darcy Vescio became the first player in AFLW history to reach 50 career goals, kicking two goals in the 18 point victory against GWS Giants at Manuka Oval to achieve the milestone in the 47th game of their AFLW career. Vescio joined Carlton as a marquee player in late July 2016, was the AFLW’s leading goalkicker in 2017 and 2021 and earnt selection in the AFLW All-Australian team in both seasons. In 2021 Vescio kicked 16 goals to break the record for the most goals in a home and away season and won Carlton’s best and fairest.
During a press conference on 28 February 2022, the day after kicking the 50th goal of their AFLW career Vescio commented on the milestone “Yeah it is a bit of a funny one because it is one that is built over many years. It was something I was made aware of coming into this season. The goals haven’t really flowed as easily this year so happy to get there. If you start becoming really goal focussed usually the things you need to do to get the goals drop away so I try to focus on process rather than outcome, yeah I was really happy to get the two yesterday and know that I had reached that milestone.”
On the 3 September 2020 episode of TV show Yokayi Footy Vescio shared the Darebin Falcons Pride jumper as ‘one thing’ they treasure, commenting “The one thing I have decided to bring in is one of my Darebin Falcon jumpers, so Darebin is the club I played for before Carlton. I remember when I had to quit football as a 14 year old I honestly didn’t think I’d get back in to footy ever and then when I came to Melbourne for Uni by chance, well not by chance, by people pushing me back towards football I found Darebin and I just love the club and everything they stand for and I think they have sort of built the person I am today not only with footy but off-field as well. Also this jumper is their pride jumper so this was the first time I got to play in a pride game which was amazing in Hamilton in 2017, so yeah it was just a really special day and we won so I love this jumper and this club.” The game in 2017 that Vescio wore this pride jumper in was the first ever VFLW Pride game, Vescio was exceptional kicking a game-high four goals in Darebin’s six point victory.
In addition to talking about Pride Round and playing in pride games Vescio has also written and spoken about their gender identity, on 29 December 2021 Vescio posted the tweet below.
During an interview for the launch of the AFLW’s 2022 Pride Round in Round 3 Vescio told womens.afl “I felt pretty fortunate to feel so safe and supported at my own club, and more broadly in the AFLW community. It’s a weird thing, sharing your gender identity. It’s a bit different to sexuality, often with sexuality people see it and they take it on board, rather identity is something you have to talk about if you want to be referred to as what you’re most comfortable with.”
“For me, it was a slow, staggered release. I started by talking to my partner, then the club welfare person, then the team more broadly. I’ve been showered with love to say the least, I feel so lucky to be in a space like this and around people who are totally for being yourself, and embracing who you are and celebrating who you are.”1
On the message they had for fans Vescio told womens.afl “The one message I have is to create space for people. It’s really important to understand the language you use, any assumptions you might make about people and how that can impact how they live their lives. It can be as simple as asking someone if they have a partner, rather than asking a gendered term, or not assuming people’s pronouns, things like that. It’s just a really nice way to create space for people and allow them to feel more comfortable.”2
During their AFLW career 28 year old Vescio has developed a strong following on social media. During Behind the Game Changers Podcast Episode 7: Darcy Vescio in February 2020 Sarah Hosking said “You are very natural and organic anyway whether it is in front of a camera or sharing your personal life, sometimes I sit there and question how have you come up with some of the stuff you put on Instagram. What thought process goes behind one of the posts that you put up?” Vescio responded “I just allow myself to be pretty easy on it so If I don’t have anything to post I don’t post sort of thing. I think I am lucky in that way, I think of people who are proper influencers and have to actually think of content all the time and do stuff. I am like that would be really stressful. I guess if I find something funny or if I think of an idea as silly as it might be I think well if I am not going to do it then who else will so I’ll post that.”
In a video Darcy Vescio / Player Stories published by AFL Women’s on 2 February 2017 the day before the inaugural AFLW game between Carlton and Collingwood Vescio commented “I love the physicality of the game that it’s tough, I love to throw my body around and I love tackling, I love winning. I’m fast, I can take a mark and I can jump really high, determination, passion, patience, resilience, strength. I always wanted to be a footy player, all I could see was male footy players on TV, you can’t be what you can’t see, girls have those role models now.”
At state league level Vescio won the Lisa Hardemann Medal for being best afield in Darebin Falcons 2015 and 2016 Grand Final victories. Vescio made an instant impression in the AFLW, kicking four goals for Carlton in the league’s inaugural game against Collingwood. Vescio is the only player to win the award as the league’s leading goal kicker twice – 2017 and 2021, was named in the All-Australian team in both this seasons and also won Carlton’s best and fairest in the latter season.
Vescio’s road to reaching the significant milestone of kicking 50 career goals in the AFLW and beyond is comprehensively covered below, from playing junior football to playing for Darebin Falcons and six AFLW seasons with Carlton.
Early life and junior sporting career
In a Voice for Change video Episode 2 featuring Darcy Vescio + Majak Daw published on 5 December 2018 Vescio commented “I grew up in a small country town just outside of Wangaratta called Markwood. I’ve got two brothers, one’s two years older, that’s Zeb and one’s two years younger, Louis. My mum (Chris) is Chinese, she was born in Australia but her parents migrated in the 50’s, and my dad (Paul) is Italian and the same goes for his parents.” Darcy’s dad Paul played some Australian rules football in the country when he was growing up.
Darcy Vescio was born on 3 August 1993 and grew up in Markwood on a farm. Markwood is located approximately 22 kilometres south-east of Wangaratta and approximately 262 kilometres north-east of Melbourne.
Darcy has worked as a multicultural ambassador, including with the AFL. Vescio commented in the Voice for Change video “You can often feel like you’re not that different, when I was first approached to be an ambassador I was like I’m not that multicultural but then you sort of look around and have a look at what you see on TV and see oh yeah, I have had a bit of a different upbringing and I’ve been exposed to different things. I think it’s pretty special to be able to talk to different kids and sometimes you just see the way they interact with you or they can see themselves in you and (it’s an) awesome position to be in, stuff that really matters. At the end of the day footy can be a pretty harsh game and there’s so many ups and downs but that’s the sort of stuff that you can be constantly involved in and know that it’s a really positive thing.”
During an AFL Women’s game profile: Darcy Vescio video published by the VFL and VFLW on 25 June 2014 Vescio was asked “How did you get into playing football?” Vescio responded “My older brother Zeb started playing Auskick for Whorouly and yeah I just wanted to do everything that Zeb did so that’s what got me into footy.” Whilst growing up Darcy supported St Kilda in the AFL.
At five years of age Vescio started playing Auskick and then progressed to play three seasons of junior footy in a boys under 14’s team from grade 6 onwards. During 2005 and 2006 Vescio played in the under 14’s boys team for the Whorouly Lions in the Ovens & King Football and Netball League.
The Whorouly Lions merged with the Myrtleford Saints before the 2007 season. For a City of Darebin publication Levelling the Playing Field Vescio wrote “As a girl in a male-dominated sport, I knew I was different but felt that my experience was as seamless as possible due to the support of my teammates, family, coaching staff and the club as a whole. I remember feeling a bit timid as I entered the Myrtleford Saints team as I had played with Whorouly my whole footy career (Auskick started there too). I felt under the pump and that I needed to show the coach that I was actually okay at footy and not just a ‘novelty’ as many might have assumed. In my debut game I kicked seven goals; that seemed to help.”3 Vescio had an exceptional 2007 season, kicking 53 goals to finish second in the league goalkicking and concluded their junior football career on a high with Myrtleford Saints winning the 2007 premiership.
A state regulation meant that Vescio had to stop playing football on the boys team after turning 14 years of age. Reflecting on having to stop playing Australian Rules Football Vescio told the Dyl and Friends podcast in Episode 122 published on 15 November 2021 “I had to pack up playing and I remember I honestly did not think I would play in a league or anything again, I sort of thought that was it. There were a few other girls who had done the same thing. They were the only girl in the league and then when they hit 14 that’s when they had to stop so up until that point I was like that’s my career, that’s what it looks like. I just played a little bit of school footy like once or twice a year and then when I moved to Melbourne I slid back into footy.”
In the Dyl and Friends podcast, host Dylan Buckley asked “I can’t imagine how hard that would have been, to be loving footy and taking it away from you but it sounded like because there was no pathway in your mind you are like ok, well that’s the way it is. At that time before there was a pathway was that what you expected?” Vescio responded “Yeah, well I think my parents made sure that I knew that it would be my last season so it wasn’t a shock or anything and because I’d seen girls before me have to stop playing and because there was nothing there. It’s not like there was a pathway I knew I could go into or anything like that. It’s funny, I always felt like I was pretty at peace with it but then talking to mum and dad they said when I knew I was playing my last game I was in tears and everything like that but I feel like I must have just suppressed that memory.”
From 14 to 17 years of age the only Australian Rules games that Vescio played were at high school sports carnivals where they captained the girls footy team. Vescio’s all-round sporting talent come to the fore across a range of sports during this time including winning two league best and fairests playing netball, first of all for the Wangaratta Lions and then in a higher league for the Wangaratta Magpies. Vescio also played representative basketball for Wangaratta and played tennis.
Playing for the Darebin Falcons in the Victorian Women’s Football League (VWFL) from 2012 to 2015
Vescio moved to Melbourne to study graphic design at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and joined the Darebin Falcons in the Victorian Women’s Football League (VWFL) two weeks before the 2012 season started. Reflecting on this time Vescio told Dyl and Friends “I didn’t intend on starting footy when I moved to Melbourne as an 18 year old. Because I played netball with someone whose dad was like ‘Oh I know of this team, there’s a women’s league down there’ and I was kind of like ‘whatever’ and he got in contact with them and I think my dad made a phone call. I reckon mum took me down for the first training session and had a signed cheque for my fees and stuff.”
“It was amazing, like I still remember the first time I walked in, like walking down the little hill and seeing the girls kick and I was like I can’t believe every girl is kicking a drop punt, they’re all marking it in their hands. I was naïve but like I genuinely thought I was the only girl who could do that or I was you know a special kind, but yeah it was like walking onto another planet. I started playing there and at that point it was still sort of a hobby, especially for me. Some of the girls were a lot more professional, I played with Daisy (Pearce) and Aasta O’Connor, Karan Paxman, Melissa Hickey and they all carried themselves a lot more professionally than I did when I was an 18 year old. I loved it and I thought it was awesome and I remember it wasn’t until I got given a jumper and I saw that it said the VWFL and I was like oh this is the good league because I’d heard about it and I didn’t know what league I was in or whatever but I was like this is the good one.”
When Vescio joined the Darebin Falcons the club had won six VWFL premierships comprised of a premiership in 1996 and then an extremely dominant period with five consecutive flags from 2006 to 2010.
Vescio’s teammates at Darebin included two current Carlton team-mates in Jessica Dal Pos and Elise O’Dea, Jessica’s twin sister Emily is Vescio’s partner. The season before Vescio joined the Falcons Jessica and Emily both played in Darebin’s youth girls team and were part of the 2011 premiership winning side, their dad Richard was the coach. Darebin’s seniors team were defeated in the 2011 VWFL Grand Final by St Albans.
From late January to early March 2022 the Carlton Football Club published a three-part video series where Vescio, O’Dea and Jessica Dal Pos reflected on their time with the Darebin Falcons. During BTGC (Behind the Game Changers) Origins: Darebin Falcons (Part 1) Vescio commented on the Darebin Women’s Sports Club “I think it’s pretty unreal that this was a women’s club as well, like I remember coming in and just seeing women in every level of leadership, women and gender diverse people and that was something really different for me. It wasn’t like we were just playing and then there were men leading, no at every level it is a women led organisation and people actually pulled you in to positions they thought (you could contribute), I remember getting pulled into an advisory group just to get an understanding behind decision making and how a club runs.”
Richard Dal Pos took over as coach of the Darebin Falcon’s senior team in 2012. During Vescio’s first season with Darebin the senior team only lost one game for the season in their progress to the Grand Final. In the 2012 Grand Final Darebin were upset by Diamond Creek and were defeated by five points.
After falling narrowly short of winning the 2012 premiership the Falcons responded in emphatic fashion to go through the 2013 season undefeated and had a 48 point win against Diamond Creek in the grand final to win the premiership. Darebin went on to win the VWFL 2014 and 2015 premierships to complete a hat-trick of flags in that league. In the 2015 Grand Final Vescio kicked two goals and won the Lisa Hardemann Medal for being best afield in Darebin Falcons 63 point victory against arch-rivals Diamond Creek. Richard Dal Pos stepped down as Darebin’s head coach in the 2015 post-season, having coached the senior team to three consecutive flags.
In Part 3 of BTGC (Behind the Game Changers) Origins: Darebin Falcons published on 2 March 2022 Vescio said “When I moved to Melbourne Falcons was really my whole friendship base kind of thing. I had originally thought that I would probably try to pick up basketball or something just to meet some people and that sort of thing and I was going to Uni but it is different again. I remember the Dal Pos family sort of took me in as one of their own and even speaking to my dad over the phone he wouldn’t worry about me because he knew that Richo and Sandy were watching me, same as Mum. I have always felt really comfortable in the house and just hanging out so that’s sort of how I got to know Em and I feel like just over the years our friendship just developed into something more. We have been together for almost three years now but known each other for ten I guess.”
Jessica Dal Pos adds “Emily is a great club person but she has also been known to piggy-back some end of year celebrations.” Vescio laughs and comments “Yeah, that is probably where I got to know her even more. That was her season, just once the Grand Final happened and Emily kicked into gear but yeah, she is an amazing club person, she is still really involved through the community footy and I really enjoy watching her coach and try to help where I can. She is very much like Dal in how she delivers footy stuff, she is very direct, cuts to the chase which is really good I think for people developing their footy. Yeah, she is an awesome person and hopefully she gets a feature in here, I am sure she would love it.”
AFLW Exhibition games with the Western Bulldogs
Vescio commented about the start of the AFLW Exhibition series between the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne in 2013 on the Behind the Game Changers Podcast Episode 7: Darcy Vescio in February 2020, saying “I remember seeing the flyer and sort of thinking I should nominate for that and then I left it till really late and sent in my draft nomination form and I remember on the first draft day I emailed Jan Cooper and I was like ‘Hey Jan, Darcy here, hope you are well’, just wondering the draft was that night, I was like ‘haven’t heard back about the draft, am I in it’ and she was like ‘no, I actually never got your letter but go along anyway you’ll have fun with your friends.’” I was like ‘oh no’, and it was my own fault sort of, I think I got it in on time because later she said something happened with the post that day or something. I was pretty upset that night because I don’t know if I would have been drafted in that top 50 but I just wanted to be part of it, I wanted to say that I had the chance to get nominated, even if I didn’t, I was seen in that same pool. I was really happy on that night too, I think Daisy dropped me home, she went number one so it was nice.”
During the AFL Women’s game profile: Darcy Vescio video in June 2014 Vescio commented “Last year I went along to the (AFLW Exhibition) game at the MCG and it was so emotional even being there in the crowd, I almost cried when the girls came around the boundary giving high-fives, so yeah it was just a really special time for everyone and you could sense that it was such a momentus occasion.”
For the 2014 AFLW Exhibition game Vescio submitted their draft nomination form in time and didn’t have to wait long to hear their name on draft night, being selected by the Western Bulldogs with pick 3.
In the AFL Women’s game profile: Darcy Vescio video published by the VFL and VFLW in late June 2014 Vescio spoke about being drafted to the Western Bulldogs with pick 3 for the 2014 Exhibition match commenting “It was phenomenal, I wasn’t expecting to go that early so it was really exciting for me, I had a few tears. It means so much for women just to have a draft and it was personally a really big achievement for myself so I was really, really pleased with that.”
Vescio told Carlton’s Behind the Game Changers about their initial experience of playing in the AFLW Exhibition series with the Western Bulldogs “I remember I loved the camp leading into the game, I didn’t think oh, there is an AFLW league coming, it was more like this is a fun game because we still did national carnival and that sort of thing so it was like an exhibition game with the girls from nationals. I remember going into those camps and it was like being an AFL player for two days and it was awesome getting to hang out with everyone and do the training. Everyone was really good and really fast and those games were just super-charged. I just remember it was really exciting playing on Marvel or the MCG but I was still a bit of a baby.”
From 2014 to 2016 Vescio represented the Western Bulldogs in AFLW exhibition games. In the exhibition game on 24 May 2015 at the MCG Vescio was one of the Western Bulldogs best players and kicked an equal game-high two goals comprised of a goal on the run from 40 metres out and a banana goal from a tight angle in an eight point loss. In the final exhibition game before the AFLW commenced Vescio kicked three goals in the Western Bulldogs 39 point victory against Melbourne at Whitten Oval on 3 September 2016.
In February 2020 during Behind the Game Changers Podcast Episode 7: Darcy Vescio host and Vescio’s then Carlton team-mate Sarah Hosking (now at Richmond) asked “I want to know and ask a little bit about some of the volunteer work and some of the ambassador roles that you are doing as well because it is obviously a big part about being in football. Can you talk us through some of the stuff that you are doing at the moment or have done in the past as well?” Vescio responded “Yeah, I guess one of the first roles I got to do was become a multi-cultural ambassador with the AFL and that actually came at a really good time. I remember it was before AFLW had started and I was sort of coming to a bit of a fork in the road and thinking maybe I should focus a bit more time in to design work. I am putting a lot of time in to footy and its not really going anywhere. Its really fun but then an opportunity popped up through the AFL to become an ambassador. That sort of made me realise I guess that through footy I can do a lot of other stuff. It is not just playing that gives you fulfilment it is all the other things around it and the people you can help. I realise its how other people see you as well and it’s the little things you experience that are normal to you that might not be normal to other people. Just the opportunity to reach different communities and hopefully show them what they can do through what you’re doing. Visibility is a really important thing, whether its with AFLW, just seeing women in sport or seeing multi-cultural faces, its what brings people to the game and makes them feel like their part of the game as much as you are.”
Vescio went on to comment “One thing that stood out in one of the inductions for the multi-cultural role they showed a picture of the (channel) seven commentary team, the umpires and the AFL captains and they were all just versions of the exact same person. I was like if you look at it like that why would someone who looks a bit different watch AFL and think oh that’s the sport for me so it was just about elevating different people and showing people that they can be part of the game in whatever capacity, yeah.”
Playing for the Darebin Falcons in the VFL Women’s league in 2016 and 2017
AFL Victoria established VFL Women’s in 2016, a women’s state league that was aligned with the men’s VFL. VFL Women’s replaced the VWFL and held it’s first season in 2016.
Darebin Falcons won all 18 home and away games during the 2016 VWFL home and away season to finish on top of the ladder, three and a half wins ahead of the St Kilda Sharks. In a semi final Darebin defeated St Kilda Sharks by 106 points. Darebin defeated Melbourne Uni by 12 points in the Grand Final at Piranha Park to win the premiership, Vescio kicked two goals in the grand final and won the Lisa Hardemann Medal for being best afield.
Late in the 2017 VFLW season Vescio suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury which ended their season. Darebin had 12 wins and two losses during the home and away season to finish on top of the ladder, percentage ahead of Diamond Creek. After Darebin had a 25 point loss to Diamond Creek in a semi final the Falcons turned the tables to defeat Diamond Creek by seven points in the Grand Final to win the club’s fifth consecutive premiership comprised of three in the VWFL followed by two in VFL Women’s. Vescio played in four consecutive flags for Darebin from 2013 to 2016 before missing the 2017 premiership with a posterior cruciate ligament injury.
After the 2017 AFLW season there was a restructure of the VFL Women’s competition with all ten Victorian AFL clubs fielding their own team or having an affiliation with an existing team. Carlton fielded their own team in the VFLW and Darebin Falcons continued in the league as an independent team. From 2018 onwards many AFLW players have played VFLW for the same club as their AFL team. After six consecutive seasons with Darebin Falcons from 2012 to 2017 Vescio joined Carlton for the 2018 VFLW season.
On the impact playing football with the Darebin Falcons had on them Vescio commented in part 2 of BTGC Origins: Darebin Falcons “I think being here completely made me as a footballer and as a person in footy. It showed me the importance of actually working hard and what it looks like to bring intensity. It is not until you sort of develop and get a bit wiser that you realise what was trying to be instilled within you here. I think I value it more now and I think it’s nice how we get to reflect.”
Being signed as a marquee player at Carlton and debut 2017 AFLW season
In May 2016 Vescio commenced working at Carlton Football Club as a graphic designer four days a week. The following month, in June 2016 eight clubs were granted licenses to join the AFL Women’s league for its inaugural season in 2017 – Carlton, Adelaide, Brisbane, Collingwood, Fremantle, GWS Giants, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. The initial plan was to commence the AFLW in 2020 but this plan got fast-tracked and the league commenced three years earlier in 2017 which made a huge difference to many players including Vescio.
On Wednesday morning 27 July 2016 each AFLW team announced their two marquee players, Carlton signed Vescio and Brianna Davey as their marquee players. In the afl.com.au article Sixteen of the best: women’s marquees named published later that day the profile for Darcy said “Vescio started playing footy when she was five and is now one of the best forwards in the game. Uses her pace and strong attack on the ball to regularly put herself in dangerous positions. Has clean hands and is a good kick for goal, making her a handful for opposition defenders.”4
After signing with Carlton as a marquee player for their AFLW team Vescio told afl.com.au “I could never imagine this happening. I hung up my boots at 14 because I couldn’t play with the boys anymore. It’s unbelievable to think that conversation will never have to happen again. Girls will never be told again they can’t play AFL.”5
The strength of the Darebin Falcons was highlighted when four of the 16 AFLW marquee players were recruited from the club with Vescio being joined in this category by Melbourne marquee duo Daisy Pearce and Melissa Hickey along with Katie Brennan being named a marquee player by the Western Bulldogs. In addition to the quartet of marquee players recruited from Darebin more than 10 Falcons have been drafted by an AFLW club.
For the first two and a half months after being named as marquee players for Carlton Vescio and Davey didn’t have many Carlton teammates to interact with, the inaugural AFLW draft was held on 12 October 2016 at the NAB Building in Docklands, Melbourne. Vescio told Carlton’s Behind the Game Changers Podcast Episode 7: Darcy Vescio “I remember for so long it was just Bri and I who were Carlton players and it was really weird because you didn’t have a team so we were used to being the spokespeople and doing all the media things.” Damien Keeping was appointed Carlton’s AFLW coach.
In the inaugural AFLW game on 3 February in Round 1 2017 Carlton played Collingwood. The game was initially scheduled to be played at Olympic Park but was moved to Carlton’s home ground Ikon Park to enable a larger crowd to attend. The increased capacity of Ikon Park still wasn’t enough to cater for the demand of people wanting to watch the historic first ever AFLW game. Ikon Park reached capacity and a lockout was imposed at quarter-time, the official crowd was 24,568 with thousands more being locked out of the ground.
Collingwood scored the opening goal of the inaugural AFLW game at Ikon Park through Jasmine Garner from a set-shot half-way through the first quarter. Two minutes later Vescio registered Carlton’s first ever AFLW goal, receiving a free kick and then converting the set shot from 15 metres out on a slight angle. Late in the first quarter there was a ball-up at the top of Carlton’s goal square, Vescio instructed Carlton ruck Bella Ayre to create some space, Vescio then grabbed the ball out of the ruck contest and kicked their second goal. With three minutes and 45 seconds remaining in the second quarter Vescio received a handball from Ayre, took a bounce and ran in to kick a goal from the goal square to extend Carlton’s lead to 17 points. In the last minute of the third quarter Vescio being pursued by Chloe Molloy was running parallel to the goal-line, picked the ball up, turned right, took half a dozen steps and from 20 metres kicked a left foot snap that dribbled through for a goal.
After conceding the opening goal of the game Carlton kicked the next seven goals to defeat Collingwood by 35 points. Vescio kicked four goals to account for half of the eight goals kicked in the game, had 10 kicks, three handballs and took two marks in a brilliant game. Vescio polled two votes in the league best and fairest, Carlton captain Lauren Arnell had 14 disposals, kicked one goal and polled the three votes.
Reflecting on the inaugural AFLW game between Carlton and Collingwood Vescio told Behind the Game Changers “Obviously we didn’t know what was going to happen, it was pretty special, we were just walking into the unknown and it ended up being such an awesome night. We knew it was going to be the biggest game we’ve ever played so it was like how do you even prepare for this. I think I just went for it that night and there is an element of luck as well, like it’s a football, it bounces one way or another. I remember things were just going right and it was just so much fun. I think we played exceptionally well as a team that night so as a forward when your team is playing well you just thrive off that energy. Being given the position of a marquee as well, people did expect big things so there was that element of pressure which I think I enjoy.”
Against GWS Giants in Round 2 at Ikon Park Vescio had six kicks, one handball, took three marks, kicked two goals and polled three votes in the league best and fairest in the 13 point victory.
In the seven round 2017 AFLW home and away season Vescio kicked at least one goal in each of their first six games and was held goalless in Round 7 against Brisbane. Vescio was extremely efficient, finishing the season with 14 goals from 39 kicks. In Round 6 against the Western Bulldogs Vescio had only five disposals comprised of three kicks and two handballs but caused maximum damage from limited opportunities to kick an equal game-high three goals in a thrilling six point win and poll two votes in the league best and fairest. Against Fremantle in Round 6 Vescio had six kicks and kicked a game-high three goals at Subiaco Oval.
Carlton finished fourth out of eight teams at the end of the 2017 AFLW season with three wins, three losses and a draw. The top two teams, Brisbane and Adelaide played each other in the Grand Final, Adelaide won by six points to win the inaugural AFLW premiership.
During the 2017 AFLW season Vescio played all seven games for Carlton and averaged 5.6 kicks, 1.6 handballs, 1.9 marks, 2.6 tackles and 2.0 goals per game. Vescio was extremely accurate, kicking 14 goals and four behinds to lead the AFLW for goal kicking during the 2017 home and away season ahead of Adelaide key forward Sarah Perkins (11 goals). Including finals only one other player kicked 10 goals – Adelaide midfielder and league best and fairest winner Erin Phillips kicked two goals in Adelaide’s Grand Final victory to increase her season tally to 10 goals. Vescio averaged 3.7 score involvements per game in 2017, ranked eighth in the AFLW, and ranked equal seventh in the league with 1.0 contested marks per game.
In the AFL Players Association AFLW 2017 Most Valuable Player Award Vescio polled 132 votes to finish third behind Adelaide Crows midfielder Erin Phillips on 204 votes and Melbourne midfielder Karen Paxman on 149 votes. Vescio was named in the forward line of the 2017 AFLW All-Australian team to be one of two Carlton players selected along with fellow marquee player Brianna Davey who was named in defense.
Vescio won the AFLW’s 2017 Mark of the Year for a mark taken in Round 5 against the Western Bulldogs at Ikon Park. Running in from the side jumped and in the pack took a juggled one handed mark with their right hand.
On Behind the Game Changers 166 centimetre tallVescio spoke about their 2017 AFLW season and differences in playing style between the AFLW and VFLW, commenting “I did perform really well personally, it was a good season, I didn’t usually have seasons like that, I felt like at Falcons I would build all season and then finish strong. Playing VFL I was part of such a well-drilled team and it really was you just do this job, I was more of a marking target that sort of thing whereas AFLW it’s played off the ground so much because it is so high pressure, often the people kicking the ball are under so much pressure so yeah, it is just a different game.”
Playing for Carlton from 2018 to 2020
During the AFLW trade period before the 2018 season key forward Tayla Harris was traded from the Brisbane Lions to Carlton in May 2017. During the 2018 AFLW season Vescio spent more time playing higher up the ground than in 2017. Carlton won their first two games of the 2018 season, defeating Collingwood and GWS Giants. In the pre-season Brianna Davey was appointed Carlton’s captain, taking over from Lauren Arnell who was a joint vice-captain in 2018 along with Sarah Hosking. In her second game as Carlton captain Brianna Davey ruptured her ACL late in the Round 2 victory against the Giants and missed the rest of the season due to the injury.
Carlton lost their last five games of the 2018 home and away season and finished on the bottom of the ladder. Vescio didn’t kick multiple goals in any game and kicked a total of five goals during the 2018 season to be Carlton’s equal leading goal kicker along with Harris.
In the final round of the 2018 VFLW season Vescio kicked nine goals for Carlton against Essendon. Vescio kicked 26 goals during the 2018 home and away season to win the Rohenna Young Medal as the VFLW’s leading goal kicker. Vescio was named at full-forward in the 2018 VFLW team of the year.
For two and a half years Vescio worked as a graphic designer at the Carlton Football Club, they told Behind The Game Changers “It was pretty strange because I started working as a graphic designer before the club actually got the (AFLW) license. It was really nice actually getting to know everyone just from working in an admin position. I loved it, I never imagined that I would work at a footy club, it just wasn’t something that I ever thought of. It is like a big family upstairs and everyone works incredibly hard and on weekends as well so I was pretty lucky, I didn’t have to work weekends because I had to go play footy. I loved getting to see the way things operate and how decisions are made and how a whole club operates, sort of learnt that although it is centred around footy there are so many moving parts and there is so much a club does, I wouldn’t have realised that it is such a business sort of thing as well if I hadn’t of worked upstairs and seen what goes into it.”
“I got to be part of some pretty unique things like seeing how the uniform comes to life and how campaigns come together and that sort of thing.” Sarah Hosking asked “What about the times where you had to pull together your own graphics?” Vescio responded “Me and you understand this because you work upstairs and sometimes you have to work on things where your face is on it. I copped so much I swear, because every time I had to cut myself out or do something our ex-coach Damo would be walking past and be like “What’s going on here?” Someone would catch me doing it and I was like “It’s my job”. I would become immune to it. I wouldn’t even think ‘oh this is funny, I’m clipping myself’ I would just be like I am just cutting someone out, I just need to get it done and it would blow up.”
Daniel Harford was appointed as Carlton’s coach for the 2019 AFLW season. Harford played 162 AFL games from 1995 to 2004 comprised of 153 games for Hawthorn and nine games for Carlton in his final season. Harford predominantly played as a midfielder, he finished equal second in Hawthorn’s best and fairest in 1997.
North Melbourne and Geelong joined the AFLW in 2019, increasing the number of teams in the league from eight to 10. After losing their first two games of the season Carlton won four of their last five games of the season to finish on top of conference B with four wins, three losses and a percentage of 99.6%. Expansion team Geelong finished second with three wins, followed by the Brisbane Lions and GWS Giants with two wins apiece and Collingwood in last position with a solitary win. None of the teams in Conference B had a percentage above 100.
The top two teams from each conference progressed to the finals with the top ranked team from each conference hosting a preliminary final against the team that finished second in the other conference. In a preliminary final at Ikon Park Carlton set up a 36 point victory against Fremantle by kicking four unanswered goals in the second quarter after each team kicked one goal in the first quarter. Vescio had four kicks, five handballs, took three marks and kicked one goal in the victory.
In the 2019 Grand Final at the Adelaide Oval in front of a crowd of 53,034 people Carlton played the Adelaide Crows who were on a seven game winning streak and were aiming to win their second AFLW premiership, having won the inaugural flag in 2017. Carlton had more scoring shots in the first quarter but due to inaccuracy trailed by nine points at quarter-time, one goal, three behinds, nine to Adelaide’s three goals straight, 18. Adelaide kicked six goals to one in the second quarter to lead by 40 points at half-time and won the game by 45 points.
During 2019 Vescio averaged a then career-high 9.0 disposals per game in their nine games. During 14 games across 2017 and 2018 Vescio had at least nine disposals in a game three times. In 2019 Vescio had at least seven disposals in every game including six games with at least nine disposals. Of the players that played at least three games in 2019 Vescio ranked fifth in the AFLW with 3.9 score involvements per game, just behind then Carlton team-mate Harris who ranked fourth with 4.0 score involvements per game. Vescio’s total of five goals for the season ranked equal fourth at Carlton behind Harris (8), 2019 AFLW Rising Star winner Madison Prespakis (7), Brooke Walker (6) and equal with Chloe Dalton (5).
During The Outer Sanctum Podcast episode on 22 February 2020 Sunshine and Rainbows Vescio was asked by Julia Chiera “Why is celebrating pride especially in AFLW which we know is a very LGBTIQ friendly space still important?” Vescio responded “Obviously the foundations of AFLW and women’s footy in general were built by the LGBTIQ community so it is really important that we honour those women and people who just created this whole environment. Like we wouldn’t have AFLW without all the work they did and the contributions they made so that’s probably the number one thing and also the fact as you said that so many of us within the AFLW are part of that community, to be able to celebrate who you are as a person, I don’t think that ever goes out of fashion, so I think that is a really important thing.”
During the AFLW trade period Carlton captain Brianna Davey was traded to Collingwood in April 2019. For the 2020 season Kerryn Harrington and Katie Loynes were appointed Carlton co-captains.
In Round 4 2020 in an away game against Adelaide at Richmond Oval Vescio had a career-high 17 disposals comprised of 11 kicks and six handballs, took five marks and kicked one goal in the eight point victory.
As a result of the corona virus and the impact it was having on society including restrictions on inter-state travel the last two rounds of the 2020 AFLW home and away season were abandoned, shortening the home and away season from eight rounds to six rounds. The finals structure was modified which increased the number of teams qualifying for finals in each conference from three to four.
Carlton finished second in conference B with five wins and a percentage of 151.8%, behind Fremantle who won all six matches and had a percentage of 154.7%. Melbourne and Collingwood finished third and fourth respectively with four wins each. North Melbourne finished on top of Conference A with five wins, one loss and a percentage of 227.2%, ahead of GWS Giants (four wins), Brisbane (three wins and one draw) and Gold Coast (two wins and one draw).
In a semi final at Ikon Park on 22 March Carlton defeated Brisbane by 29 points, Vescio had nine kicks, three handballs, took three marks, kicked a goal and was listed in Carlton’s best players.
With the number of COVID cases escalating and the Australian Government announcing that restrictions would be placed on travel AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan announced on 22 March, 2020 “Today’s AFLW semi-final between Carlton and Brisbane Lions will be the last NAB AFL Women’s match to be played with the 2020 season ending today. Given the twin conference structure and that the finals series was not completed, the AFL Commission has determined no premiership will be awarded for this season, following a recommendation from the AFL Executive.”6
The two AFLW preliminary finals that were unable to be played on the weekend of 28 and 29 March were Fremantle vs Melbourne and North Melbourne vs Carlton, resulting in the seasons of these four clubs coming to a sudden halt.
During 2020 Vescio played all seven games for Carlton and averaged a career-high 10.9 disposals per game, having at least 10 disposals in a game six times. Vescio kicked a total of four goals for the season, ranked fourth at Carlton behind Georgia Gee and Harris with eight goals each and Brooke Walker (5). Vescio ranked equal 13th in the AFL for contested marks with 1.0 per game. At Carlton’s 2020 best and fairest Vescio polled 38 votes to finish sixth. Prespakis won Carlton’s best and fairest and also won the league best and fairest in her second AFLW season.
Leads the AFLW goal kicking in 2021 and wins Carlton’s best and fairest
Harrington and Loynes continued as Carlton co-captains for a second season in 2021. Vescio, Nicola Stevens and Alison Downie were members of the Blues five player leadership group. Elise O’Dea was traded from Melbourne to Carlton. Sarah Hosking was traded from Carlton to Richmond. From 2021 onwards Vescio has been a co-host of Carlton’s Behind the Game Changers Podcast. During 2021 Vescio also hosted a podcast Cutting Oranges and spoke to people who helped shape women’s football.
After kicking one goal in Round 1, 2021 against Collingwood Vescio was held goalless in Round 2 against the Western Bulldogs. Carlton lost each of their first two games of 2021 by six points. On Carlton’s start to the 2021 season Vescio told the Dyl and Friends podcast in episode 122 on 15 November 2021 “The first couple of games we were soul searching and it’s like we don’t need to be doing this. After the first couple of losses we were just like you know we can’t worry about it we just have to try to do better next game, just kind of free ourselves from that expectation. Yep, we haven’t started the way we wanted but if we let that stress sort of infiltrate the team then it’s only going to be bad so I felt like we sort of shook it off and then tried to play better from there.”
Against Richmond in Round 4 at Ikon Park Vescio kicked a team-high three goals, had eight kicks, one handball, took an equal game-high six marks and polled one vote in the league best and fairest in Carlton’s five point victory.
Vescio kicked two goals against North Melbourne in Round 5 and two goals against Geelong in Round 6. At Ikon Park against Fremantle at Ikon Park Vescio had 10 disposals and kicked at least one goal for the fourth game in a row.
In Round 8 against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium Vescio kicked a career-high five goals and Carlton set a new AFLW scoring record, kicking 13 goals, nine behinds, 87 points to win by 60 points. Vescio had an equal game-high 13 kicks, two handballs, took an equal game-high six marks and polled three votes in the league best and fairest award. The five goal bag against Gold Coast increased Vescio’s AFLW career goals tally to 42 goals, in the process becoming the first player to reach 40 goals.
In the penultimate game of the 2021 home and away season Carlton played GWS Giants at Blacktown in Round 9. Entering the game Vescio was one of four players who had kicked 14 goals for the season along with Collingwood’s Chloe Molloy, Richmond’s Katie Brennan and Fremantle’s Gemma Houghton. Vescio was the last of this quartet to play for the round which meant that they were to certain to lead the league’s goal kicking whether it be joint or outright. Vescio kicked two goals to set a new record for most goals in an AFLW season and be the outright leading goal kicker for 2021. As well as kicking goals Vescio was very adept at saving them late in the Round 9 game against the Giants. With Carlton leading by a point Vescio took two marks in the Giants goal square in the dying minutes to help Carlton hang on and win by a point. In the victory Vescio had seven kicks, four handballs and took four marks.
Carlton had five wins and four losses and a percentage of 125.8% during the 2021 home and away season to finish seventh on the ladder, one position out of the finals, one win and percentage behind sixth placed North Melbourne who had a percentage of 142.5%.
During the home and away season Vescio kicked 16 goals to win the medal as the AFLW’s leading goal kicker. In each of the last six games of the home and away season Vescio had at least nine disposals and kicked multiple goals in a game five times.
In 2021 Vescio averaged 6.2 kicks, 1.6 handballs, 1.9 marks, 2.6 tackles and 2.0 goals per game. Vescio led the AFLW for goals per game, fourth for score involvements and ninth for contested marks.
As well as winning the medal for the AFLW’s leading goal kicker in 2021 Vescio was also selected in the All-Australian team, being named on the interchange, Carlton teammate Breann Moody was named in the ruck. Vescio became the first player to lead the AFLW’s goal kicking in multiple seasons, having previously done so in 2017.
During 2021 Milestones and Misses published articles on two of Vescio’s 2021 AFLW All-Australian teammates in Alyce Parker and Georgia Patrikios and also published an article on 2021 AFLW Rising Star winner Tyla Hanks. Below is a link to the AFLW category page on Milestones and Misses:
Carlton’s 2021 AFLW best and fairest was held on 23 April 2021 in a sold out function at Crown. Vescio polled 66 votes to win Carlton’s best and fairest, finishing ahead of forward Nicola Stevens (53 votes) with defender and Carlton co-captain Kerryn Harrington (49 votes) third.
After winning Carlton’s 2021 AFLW best and fairest Vescio told Carlton Media “I honestly never expected to get something like this. I love this club and to be given one of these means a lot. I honestly did not come in tonight thinking this was something that would happen so I feel very, very happy. I love my team and my teammates, that’s why you play footy. You spend so much time together, you get under each other’s skin sometimes but you celebrate together and you experience the highs and the lows together.”
Due to COVID-19 it was not uncommon for club and league awards during 2020 and 2021 to be held on-line rather than in person. Vescio commented “I am very thankful that we could hold an event tonight. I texted mum and dad earlier this week and said do you want to come. I’ll buy your tickets if you want to come and I wasn’t sure if they would be able to make it because it’s a long drive from Wangaratta. As per usual they are very supportive and are like “Of course we’ll be there.” So for them to be hear tonight is really special. They don’t ever expect anything in return, they just support me and give me all the love I need even when sometimes I am a little rat, they are the best. To have Em here tonight is really special, she has been a massive support for me the past couple of years and she makes me very happy, so to share this with her is really special.”
Vescio expressed appreciation to Carlton AFLW members and fans, commenting “I just want to say thank you for all the support you have given us girls from the start of AFLW. It would have been a really new thing for a lot of new fans and for a lot of existing Carlton fans to have this women’s team come in. The way that they embrace us, the way that the cheer squad gets around us – it’s amazing and it really makes us feel like we’re part of the bigger picture and we’re part of Carlton as a whole. I just want to say thank you to everyone who has wrapped their arms around us and made us feel like we belong here, because we certainly feel lucky to wear that monogram – it means a lot.”
During a cross with Andy Maher for Carlton’s 2021 John Nicholls Medal on 14 October Vescio reflected on their 2021 season, commenting “I guess the last few years I’ve been learning what I’m capable of and trying to push my body out on the track. Fitness has never been a forte of mine so to come into season five in a bit better shape was really important and that’s probably what set me up.”
Articles on both Carlton players that were selected in the 2021 All-Australian team were published on Milestones and Misses, 2021 John Nicholls Medal winner Sam Walsh and 2021 Coleman Medallist Harry McKay. Links to these two articles and the Milestones and Misses homepage are below:
On now being one of the oldest players on Carlton’s AFLW list Vescio said “It is strange, I think Elise [O’Dea] is the eldest on our list and she’s 30, I’m 28 now, but I have started to feel the divide, I must admit in the past little while. Just not understanding what the younger girls are saying and actually being able to say ‘I’ve got a decade on you’. It happens really quickly, it wasn’t happening at 26 but now they say things and I actually have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Later in the 2021 JNM cross Vescio also spoke about taking on a more active role in passing their knowledge on and mentoring younger teammates, commenting “For a long time I felt like I didn’t really know anything, I just played football and I didn’t know anything about structure. I don’t have much to teach but in the past few seasons, I’ve started to realise that it’s your experience that you can pass on and you might not always do it the way you see other people lead, but it means a lot to the girls around you to be able to share what you know and now I’m in a better position to.”
2022 season AFLW season with Carlton
At the end of the 2021 season Loynes and Downie were told that they were no longer required players at Carlton and joined GWS Giants and Collingwood respectively. Carlton announced a streamlined three player leadership group for the 2022 season with Harrington as Carlton’s sole captain, Vescio and Elise O’Dea were appointed joint vice-captains. Vescio had been a member of Carlton’s leadership group in 2019 and O’Dea was Melbourne’s co-captain in 2019.
On Carlton’s 2022 AFLW leadership group head coach Harford told Carlton Media “We made the decision to have a small senior player leadership model which we believe will aid in decision making and accountability. All three players have a wealth of previous leadership experience, and it will be fantastic for the team to be guided by their passion and expertise. Kerryn is a natural leader, who has done an outstanding job for the last two years and is more than ready to become standalone skipper. We’re really looking forward to welcoming Elise into our leadership group for the first time, and with Kerryn and Darcy also, we could not ask for better senior players to guide the way as this group takes a collective approach to driving standards across the board.”7
During the off-season Jessica Dal Pos was traded from the GWS Giants to Carlton and key forward Tayla Harris was traded to Melbourne which changed the structure of Carlton’s forward line. In early December 2021 Vescio commented on Carlton’s forward line for the 2022 season to Carlton Media “It will be a different look forward line. Nic Stevens and I have been working really well together the past couple of seasons so I’m looking forward to seeing how that dynamic shifts. We’ve got other players like Georgia Gee and Charlotte Hammans coming through. I’m really excited, it feels really good at training and everyone has really embraced that shift in dynamic.”8
During June 2021 Vescio signed with Carlton for two AFLW seasons until the end of 2023. In a video Vescio on their footy journey published on 31 January 2022 Vescio commented to AFL Media on the growth in the AFLW, saying “Anyone who has been watching AFLW, I think every year it gets better and better. I definitely feel it out there, everyone is stronger, faster, fitter and skills are better as well so its an all-round better game”
Early in December 2021 Vescio told Carlton Media about the need for a longer AFLW season and players to spend more time at the club, saying“A lot of people probably think we’re at the club a lot more than we are and hopefully that will change. It will be unrecognisable once we’ve got those hours at the club working on our craft. A lot of the players would really love to be able to play every team once. That makes sense from a competition perspective. Next year with the 18 teams, we’d build toward 17 home-and-away rounds and hopefully we can get there sooner rather than later. I think the AFL are starting to understand why the longer season is important, and how so many players are really struggling to juggle work and footy at the moment. I feel like we’re reaching a bit of a tipping point and that squeeze only gets harder for a lot of players.”9
Sarah Black’s countdown of the top 30 AFLW players in December 2021 included two Carlton players with Vescio at number 26 and ruck Breann Moody at number 29. Black wrote about Vescio “A mid-sized forward who is strong both in the air and at ground level, Vescio’s foot skills have also been key in setting up teammates inside 50.”10
Carlton had a very difficult start to the 2022 season, playing five of the six teams that made the 2021 finals in the first six rounds of the 2022 home and away season. In the first six rounds Carlton were unable to win any of their games against 2021 finalists. Their only victory in the first six rounds was in Round 2 against Geelong, recording a 14 point win. Vescio’s only goal during the first five rounds of 2022 was kicked against North Melbourne in Round 4.
Vescio kicked at least one goal in four consecutive games from Round 6 to Round 9. Against St Kilda in Round 8 Vescio had a season-high 14 disposals comprised of nine kicks and five handballs, took four marks, laid three tackles and kicked an equal game-high two goals in the 46 point victory at Ikon Park to take their career tally to 48 AFLW goals.
After a quiet first half against GWS Giants in Round 9 at Manuka Oval on Sunday 27 February Vescio made a significant impact in the third quarter. With 12 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter Georgia Gee from 45 metres out passed to Vescio who led to take a chest mark 20 metres out from goal on a slight angle. With the set shot Vescio kicked a goal to extend Carlton’s lead to 10 points. Two minutes later Gab Pound received a 50 metre penalty and from 55 metres out passed to Vescio who had created space and again took a chest mark. Vescio’s opponent Pepa Randall gave away a 50 metre penalty for tackling Vescio after the mark was taken. From the goal square Vescio kicked a goal and in the process became the first AFLW player to reach 50 goals ahead of Erin Phillips (46 goals) and Tayla Harris (44 goals). After leading by two points at half-time Carlton kicked four goals to two in the second half to defeat the Giants by 18 points.
In a post-game interview with TV broadcaster Fox Footy after Carlton’s Round 8 victory against GWS Isabella Leembruggen asked Vescio “First AFLW player to reach 50 goals, how did it feel to reach that tonight?” Vescio replied “I hardly heard that (due to Carlton teammates cheering loudly). It is a great honour to kick goals for these girls, they’re very supportive and a beautiful team so if I can finish with them I am very happy.” Leembruggen said “what a reception you are getting, obviously very thrilled with your performance tonight.” Vescio responded “Yeah, they’re not usually this rowdy! They’ve been with me through the points as well, this is theirs as much as it is mine. After being asked “It must be great having this much support helping you get to this milestone?” Vescio replied “They’ve been amazing. Yeah, they’re great teammates. I love playing with them. We’ve been through a lot as a group so it’s pretty special to share it with them.”
In the post-game press-conference Carlton AFLW head coach Daniel Harford commented on Vescio’s milestone of reaching 50 career goals in the AFLW, saying “Rapt. The girls are rapt for ‘Darce’. They’re a magnificent part of what the AFLW is, and to see them put on a big show tonight — they probably could’ve kicked five I reckon. To be the first player to kick 50 is an accolade I think they’re worthy of. It was great to see the players celebrate the way they did, particularly after the game: it was a very special moment.”
From Round 7 to Round 9 Carlton had three consecutive victories with the third victory being by 30 points against Gold Coast Suns at Ikon Park. Carlton play their final game of the 2022 home and away season tonight at Casey Fields against Melbourne who are second on the ladder. Entering the final round Carlton are eighth on the ladder with four wins, five losses and a percentage of 82.6%. The top six teams make the AFLW finals and sixth placed Collingwood have one more win than Carlton and a percentage of 109.7%.
During 2022 Vescio has played all nine games for Carlton up until the end of Round 9 and has averaged 5.7 kicks, 2.8 handballs, 2.3 marks, 1.9 tackles and 0.8 goals per game. After Round 9 of the 2022 AFL season Vescio ranks equal 12th for score involvements per game. Vescio has kicked seven goals, eight behinds to rank second in goal kicking at Carlton one goal behind Courtney Jones.
Whilst growing up Vescio always wanted to be a footy player and excelled as a junior, first of playing Auskick for Whorouly Lions followed by three seasons in a boys under 14 team comprised of two seasons for Whorouly in 2005 and 2006 followed by a final season of junior football for Myrtleford Saints in 2007. Vescio had an exceptional 2007 season, kicking 53 goals to finish second in the league goalkicking and played in the Myrtleford Saints premiership.
At 14 years of Vescio was unable to play Australian Rules Football in the boys team anymore and unaware of any pathway available thought their football career was over. From 14 to 17 years of age Vescio won two league best and fairest awards playing netball and also played basketball and tennis.
Whilst Vescio had suppressed the memory of the tears and disappointment on the day of their last game playing football for the Myrtleford Saints boys under 14’s team the memory lived on strong for family and friends who strongly encouraged Darcy to start playing football again at 18 years of age for Darebin Falcons when they moved to Melbourne for Uni.
In six seasons with the Darebin Falcons from 2012 to 2017 Vescio played in four premierships from 2013 to 2016 and won the medal for best on ground in the 2015 and 2016 Grand Finals. Off the field Darebin were led by women and gender diverse people which was a different and welcome experience for Vescio.
From 2014 to 2016 Vescio had a taste of life as an AFL footballer attending camps and playing exhibition games for Western Bulldogs against Melbourne but in 2014 and 2015 didn’t expect an AFLW league to be commencing in the short-term. When the AFLW did commence earlier than many people expected Vescio was front and centre, being named a marquee player by Carlton in July 2016, with the inaugural season to commence just over six months later.
When most people remember the inaugural AFLW game between Carlton and Collingwood at Ikon Park on 3 February 2017 the first player they think of is Vescio who displayed a wide-ranging skill set, class and composure to kick four goals.
Over the first six AFLW seasons from 2017 to 2022 Vescio has made a significant impact to be the league’s leading goal kicker and be named in the All-Australian team in 2017 and 2021. Win Carlton’s 2021 best and fairest and became the first player to kick 50 goals in their AFL career.
At a press conference on 28 February 2022 the day after kicking the 50th goal of their AFLW career Vescio spoke about their development as a player during the six seasons of the AFLW, commenting “Personally I feel like I have evolved with the league, things change a lot over the last six years and I am excited to be part of that change. I feel personally as a player I have grown a lot and physically changed a lot over those six years as well. Really proud to be part of this league and be able to be in it and see the change around me and be part of that. Athletically the past couple of years I have changed a lot and I am excited to see where that heads in the next few years, I think you have to evolve as the league does. The first few years – I’ve always been good at reading the play and I’ve had good skills, so it’s always been about that fitness, because everyone else has good skills and can read the play really well now. If I want to stay in this league that is what I have to do. I am 28 now, I am hoping I have still got five seasons or so.”
At the press conference Vescio was asked is “100 (goals) within reach now”? Vescio responded “I hope [the 100-mark is achievable], hopefully it doesn’t take another six seasons to get there. It might not be me, but the ultimate goal might be players kicking 50 goals in a season. I hope we get to the point where we get enough games and enough support around players to do that.”
“With 18 teams coming in next year, I’d love to see a 17-round competition. Even playing 14 games is significant coming from 10, and 10 is more than seven. Fourteen would allow players to build form throughout the season, I think that’s where you’d see bigger bags being kicked and higher scores.”
On the timing of the season and AFLW games being played in hot conditions during summer Vescio commented “Personally, I find playing in summer quite tough. The last couple of weeks, we’ve had cooler games, and it’s just made a lot of difference, coming into games knowing you don’t have to battle the heat. I’m all for working around summer and trying to avoid those hotter months – it’s not great for the players, the officials and also the spectators are finding it quite tough. I’m not sure if it would be running alongside the men’s competition, but we’ve all grown up playing in winter, so getting back to that would be great.”
On improvements AFLW players can make in the future Vescio commented in the 28 February 2022 press conference “I think there is no limit on how good we could be. I feel like at the moment a lot of the players their coming in exhausted to the club and they are feeling like they are giving everything they can, they are only as good as how much time they can put in to their craft so I think about all the little things that we miss out on or players are too exhausted to be able to put in those extra things that make you a better player. Even the next few years in building towards full-time, I think having an extra few hours or having the ability to drop (work outside football) to part-time work would make a huge difference as well. I think that is where the biggest gain can be made, how can we get all these players at the club more and up-skilling them even faster so the league can flourish and become a league that we all want to be part of.”
Throughout their AFLW career Vescio has also been organic and natural off the field whether it be making engaging social media posts or announcing that they are non-binary. After Vescio announced that they were non-binary the AFLW community showed support, embracing and celebrating who Vescio is.
Being able to play Australian Rules Football at senior level with the Darebin Falcons and Carlton Football Club has helped mould Darcy Vescio into the person they have become. Vescio has made a significant impact in the AFLW with their goal kicking, marking ability, skills and composure to create history in becoming the first AFLW player to reach 50 goals. Vescio has also made a significant impact off the field by discussing their gender-identity, being a multi-cultural ambassador and creating entertaining social media posts and podcasts.
Article and photographs by Dean Andrews
Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777
Milestones and Misses
Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL and AFLW). In sport as with life in general it is common that milestones are only achieved after overcoming adversity, so whilst the articles on the Milestones and Misses website celebrate sportspeople achieving milestones they also cover the misses along the journey such as a player having minimal game-time or spending a prolonged period on the sidelines due to injury. The aim of the articles is to enable readers to gain a greater appreciation of the journey sportspeople have had during their career.
A link to Milestones and Misses homepage is below: