Our captain is gone. Our season is gone. Our team is gone. But our club lives to fight another season, and we still have our memories of a great competitor in Darren Glass.
Darren and I both debuted for the Eagles in 2000, in the first year of Ken Judge’s coaching reign after the Malthouse Empire had collapsed. Mick like Woosha is a general who burns the fields to keep the army moving. It works for a while but ultimately the fields are bare, and it falls to a Judge or a Simpson to replenish for future battles.
Judge is an unfairly maligned character in Eagles history, but I remember how he blooded Glass, Embley and Kerr in those dark years. They were not naturals like a Cousins or Judd. They took patience and wise counsel to develop into the champions they became after 3 or 4 seasons.
The Avenging Eagle and I dubbed Andrew Embley “the red setter” for how he would get the ball and then run in circles wondering what to do with it. Glass was the “rabbit in the spotlight” in those early games, charging out of defence with the ball under his arm and the terrified uncertainty in his eyes about what option to choose. He blazed when he had time. He ran when there were two opponents hot on his tail. He kicked long when we had no one deep.
One of the great lessons that those years taught me was never to dismiss a player in his first 40 games. I think of it as learning to cope in the pressure of battle and the fog of war. Honing your instincts and learning to assess options through a maze of bodies and a stream of rapid conflicting choices.
Embley won a Norm Smith Medal in our 2006 premiership. Glass dominated Barry Hall in that game to get his revenge for 2005, and went on to win 3 Club Best and Fairests and 4 All Australian selections (once as captain in 2012).
It is well known that he had the captaincy thrust on him unexpectedly at the end of 2007 in the wake of the Cousins/Gardiner/Fletcher/Chick/Mainwaring/(insert dill here) scandals. His persistence and strength of character in the dog days of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons was rewarded with the brief resurgence of 2011 and 2012, that saw him proudly lead us back onto the MCG for finals.
But above all it was rewarded by the personal respect he won across the footy community for his toughness and resilience leading a club that did not share similarly wide respect at that time.
In my mind he was a Chesty Bond sort of character. Barrel chested and lantern jawed with enormous upper body strength that made him impossible to shift in a contest. He was deceptively quick in a straight line and rarely caught out when a kick over the back made it a one-on-one race with a forward. A modest kick, but a man who knew his limits and generally chipped or handballed for a Hurn or Waters to use effectively.
His form remained outstanding right up to the last month. But the battering ram body that had crushed the best power forwards in the game ultimately took its own toll. When I saw Zac Clarke run away from him in the Round 7 Derby I knew the end was nigh. His heart was still willing, but the body just couldn’t do it any more (Dean Cox cannot be far behind).
Some players evoke instant memories of great moments. I couldn’t find one for Darren Glass just because there are so many. Reliability and consistency were his hallmarks. Rarely beaten in a contest. Only bested once or twice a year, and never across a season.
When I read the team lineups on a Friday morning I never had to worry about the opposition tall forwards. Buddy, Browny, Pav or Big Nick? No problem – Glassy (and latterly Wreckless Eric) will towel them up. Drew Petrie for one, used to claim fear of flying whenever he was listed to come to Perth. He never got a goal on Glassy.
“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York” (or in Glassy’s case a son of neighbouring Northam).
The dark days of 2000 faded with the strength and persistence of men like Darren Glass. Those times have come around again for my Eagles, but Glassy has shown us that the future rewards those who hold their heads high when others are losing theirs.