Some people just lead by example, and in the case of Darby Hipwell – it is a terrific example.
For Hipwell, 2020 loomed as his best year yet. He was set to lead both the Sandringham Dragons and Brighton Grammar, and he had a point to prove on the football field.
After narrowly missing the Vic Metro Academy Hub, it was back to the drawing board.
“Obviously it was disappointing at the start but I moved on pretty quick and I used it as motivation to train harder,” he said.
“It was probably a turning point for me, wondering what they can’t see in my game and what I can showcase better.
“It definitely made me work hard over the summer and I used it as a driving force to prove them wrong and to show them I am as good as these other guys.”
The 181cm bull did a mountain of work on his game over the summer and was primed for a breakout year as a top-age player – but the COVID-19 pandemic put a line through these plans.
Hipwell has refused to rest, knowing that his opportunity will come again.
“I love the contest and I’ve been focussing on my body work and hands in tight a lot,” he said.
With contested ball arguably the greatest feature of his game, Hipwell has been doing gym sessions regularly during lockdown to ensure he is raring to go come 2021.
“I’m really just looking forward to next year and treating that as my top age year,” he said.
In a difficult year Hipwell has drawn inspiration from his Dragons predecessors, who he managed five games with last year as a bottom-ager in the NAB League.
“Finn Maginness and Ryan Byrnes, I loved how they went about it,” he said.
“Going into their top age seasons there wasn’t much hype about them but they really proved people wrong so I’ve tried to model myself off those guys.”
The star Dragon’s leadership is to be admired and with a wealth of footballing experience for Brighton Grammar (where he made his debut in the 1sts as a Year 9), along with Vic Metro teams, Hipwell has much to offer his peers.
“I try to uphold the best standards I can because I know if we all do then we have the best chance of success,” he said.
“I guess in that sense it’s natural, I just really care about the team and want to see us succeed.”
The former East Sandringham junior speaks highly of his Dragons teammates and staff, saying he loves how hard they work and their investment in each other.
“Especially with Bourkey, I have known him since U12 Vic school boys and he always wants the best for me, but also is honest and tells me what I can do to improve,” he said.
With no football on the horizon Hipwell will continue to work on his footballing prowess and enjoy the summer surfing, adamant that whilst being drafted this year may be a tough ask – his footballing dream is only just beginning.