Nathan Brown, Brent Guerra, Colin Sylvia, Jarryn Geary… Darby Henderson.
Henderson still finds it hard to believe that his name has joined the likes of AFL players Brown, Guerra, Sylvia and Geary on the Bendigo Pioneers’ honour board as a winner of the Neville Strauch Memorial Medal.
“It’s a bit surreal,’’ Henderson said of his club champion win.
“I’m extremely grateful to win it, particularly because of some of the names that have won it before me.
“It’s unbelievable, really.”
Henderson, from Echuca, played every game in 2017 and his consistency, durability and ball-winning ability made him a worthy winner of the medal.
“Being able to play at that level week-in week-out is something that I pride myself on,’’ he said.
“Playing every game last year was something that I was really pleased with and I knew if I put in the hard work over pre-season that I’d be a chance to continue that.
“I had an opportunity in the off-season last year to go to Melbourne to do some extra specialised training with Christian Woodford.
“I worked on my speed and strength and it was a credit to him as well that I felt the improvement. It worked well last year and I’m planning to go back this year.”
Like every player that progresses through the TAC Cup, Henderson’s goal is to be drafted by an AFL club.
“I’ve nominated for the draft, but I know how difficult it is to be drafted.
“I’ll wait and see. It’s a massive waiting at the moment.
“Hopefully, I get really lucky and end up at an AFL club somewhere, but if not I’ll weigh up my options.
“I’ll see if there are any VFL options around or I always have my home club at Echuca as well.”
At least one AFL club has taken notice of Henderson’s form with the Pioneers.
“Essendon rang me a couple of weeks ago to say that they run an internal combine for players who missed out on the national and state draft combines,’’ Henderson said.
“I went down there and really enjoyed it. Hopefully, something comes of it. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep working hard and see what happens.”
For now, Henderson will focus on completing his Year 12 studies at St Joseph’s College.
With footy on the backburner for a few weeks, it also gives him time to catch up with mates at weekends – something he had to sacrifice during the season.
“If we were playing on a Sunday in Melbourne I’d usually go and stay in Melbourne on the Saturday night,’’ Henderson said.
“You miss out on socialising with your mates, but you get used to it. That’s the sacrifice you have to make.
“I get to catch up with my mates at school through the week and I’ve made a lot of new mates in Bendigo at the footy club, so it balances out.”