By Todd Whelan
Ironically, Devils veteran Darren Leonard will play his 250th senior game this weekend against his former junior club, Melton South.
After 16 years at the level with the Darley Football Netball Club, the versatile 32-year-old still has an important role to play as the Devils chase a third Premiership in nine years.
The 2011 Best and Fairest winner and multiple interleague representative has been through it all with the Devils, riding the lows of a winless 2011 and 2021 season and the highs of Premiership success in 2015 and 2017.
Reaching 250 games in BFNL circles is rare given the nature of a 16-game home and away season. Such ‘dazzy’ heights should be celebrated.
Leonard’s durability, resilience, motivation, temperament, and drive represent just a handful of enviable traits required to achieve such a feat. While the humble ‘plumber’ will endeavour to make his ‘milestone day’ typically about the team, the Darley faithful were quick to forward words of appreciation ahead of time for the once wiry young gun, come proud father, and more recently, Devils Life Member inductee.
Endorsements from around the fire pit;
Dan Jordan (coach); “A fantastic person who I greatly respected in my playing days and even more so now as a Coach. Epitomises our ‘Darley before me’ mentality.”
Mark Shelley (President); “Club person through and through. The emotion Daz displayed last year when he received his Life Membership clearly showed what our club means to him. Fantastic mentor to our younger playing group also.”
Brett Bewley (Captain); “I grew up watching and idolising Daz as a junior through the late 2000s. You always walk a bit taller with the big fella by your side. He will go down as a great player of our club but an even better bloke. Congrats Dazzy!”
Luther Baker (current 150 gamer); “(I’ve) played a lot of footy with Dazza and he’s so reliable, a great mate and has helped me with a lot of things along the way – especially being a Dad. Nothing is ever too much trouble – love ya mate.”
Lorissa Edwards (secretary); “A true champion! The time he gives up for the juniors, Life Members and supporters is paramount to the type of person Darren is.”
Craig Baker (Footy manager); “Easy to coach, punctual and always played his footy at a high level. Generous with his time helping out our junior program. An exceptional clubman – if we had 10 more of him we’d be in a much better place.”
Shane Page (former Premiership Captain and best mate); “Daz is one of the best players I’ve ever played with but what makes him so special he’s one of the best blokes I’ve ever met. We all love ya Daz, all the best kicking a bag on the weekend!”
Travis ‘Digger’ Edwards (line coach); “Darren has been an exceptional leader and tower of strength over many years the DFNC. Reliable, honest, durable. Highly decorated and all round ripper bloke.”
Peter ‘Fatts’ Leonard (Former President and Uncle); “What an inspirational journey. Our family is so proud of Darren of his achievements onfield and his growth into a wonderful human being!”