As Collingwood star Josh Daicos put it himself, “time goes pretty quick.”
Five years ago on the last Saturday in September, he was dressed in a suit watching on from the sidelines while his teammates fell to West Coast by under a kick in the 2018 Grand Final.
Only 19 at the time and in his second AFL season, it came during a tough period in Daicos’ career as he struggled to break into Nathan Buckley’s side. Daicos has even admitted publicly there was a time in 2019 when he considered quitting football altogether.
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But fast forward to present day and there’s arguably no bigger name in football than Daicos amid he and younger brother Nick’s ascension to stardom as the minor premiers Pies embark on a huge finals campaign.
“Time goes pretty quick and I remember that really well. A massive day for the club and that year in general,” Josh Daicos told foxfooty.com.au in reflecting on late 2018 when he was out of favour at the Pies.
“Obviously now to be in the position again playing finals and I’ve got my spot in the team, it’s something I definitely don’t take for granted.”
While Collingwood, just like in 2018, is again in contention for the flag, Daicos has gone from a relatively unknown father-son prospect to one of the key driving forces in the club’s pursuit for the ultimate success as one of the premier wingmen in the competition.
That was recognised last week when both he and Nick capped off massive seasons – that saw them both recommit to Collingwood on six-year extensions – by claiming their maiden All-Australian blazers.
The iconic Daicos name returning to the spotlight has very much coincided with the Pies’ rise to the top of the ladder, with Josh and Nick’s famous father Peter one of the club’s all-time greats and a 1990 premiership player.
There might’nt have been a more exciting time for the powerhouse club in general under coach Craig McRae, having set a club record 106,470 members in 2023.
As such, it’s put an added layer of fame on the Daicos family – probably the most talked about in football – and one of the great stories of the season.
And although admitting it has its challenges, Josh embraces he and his family’s celebrity-like status in a town crazy about football.
“That alongside with ‘Fly’ (McRae) almost revamping the club and being able to really bring the army along with us – their support has definitely ramped up and intensified,” Daicos said.
“We love it, obviously that’s what you want as players, the support of your club.
“At times, it can be a little bit tough, but overall we love it. It’s a different sort of pressure but hopefully we can make all of them proud.”
Daicos continued: “You definitely can at times (feel like you can’t go in public without a fan coming up to you).
“I remember when I was kid, I always put myself in the shoes of them and I was doing the exact same thing.
“It was such a buzz getting a photo with a football player or getting a signature.
“I always try and keep in mind that was me once and how happy it made me.”
Josh has in some ways still managed to go under the radar despite his epic All-Australian transformation given how quickly Nick has turned into a genuine superstar of the competition.
This is where the brothers’ stories and pathways differ.
Only in his second year, Nick has produced a rapid meteoric rise arguably never seen before as one of the Brownlow Medal contenders and claim of being the best player in the game at just 20 years of age.
It’s why Nick’s brutal knee injury on the eve of the finals has been such a hot topic in the footy world, with the son of a gun to miss Thursday night’s Qualifying Final against Melbourne with an eye towards returning next week, if required, or the week after.
“I try not to ask him too much about the injury with everyone asking him – the media, coaches, even friends and family,” Josh noted.
“He looks like he’s going really well, obviously a really tough injury for him and he’s been itching to get back.
“But he’s doing everything he can in rehab and it’s really exciting for him the progression he’s made.”
Being the less talked about Daicos “sits perfectly fine” with Josh, also suggesting the added interest in his brother has at times gone over the top.
“Nick deserves all that attention, to be doing what he’s doing at 20,” Josh said.
“He probably almost would’ve won the Brownlow if he didn‘t get injured. What he’s doing, I don’t think we’ve seen before.
“I feel for him at times with the attention he gets, the hype and the way the media always use his name and need to talk about him.
“He’s super humble though so I’m super proud of him.
“We just love getting better, individually and as a team.”
It made last week’s All-Australian presentation an extra special night for the brothers as they stood on stage together.
Josh’s Instagram caption in saluting their achievement summed it up perfectly, saying: “All those hours in the backyard paid off.”
Further expanding on what it meant to be recognised with the game’s elite alongside Nick, Josh described it as a surreal moment.
“You do (have to pinch yourself) because it’s something you couldn’t have dreamt about in your wildest dreams,” he said.
“All the practice in the backyard and local parks and always carrying a football around.
“It’s pretty crazy to think now what we’ve been able to achieve, and who knows what in a month we can achieve.
“It was an amazing night and great to celebrate, but we know the bigger picture and switched up our focus pretty quick to what’s happening this next month.”
Ahead of a defining September for their club, thousands of Collingwood fans flocked to training over the last week to support Craig McRae and company – and no supporter base has a bigger presence than the Magpie army.
Despite the team’s shaky form on the eve of the finals – even prompting some to question Collingwood’s flag credentials – a whole new season begins when the Pies and Demons face off in front of a crowd of up to 95,000 at the MCG on Thursday night, with a spot in the preliminary final on the line.
Having been so ingrained in the Magpies culture and fandem his whole life, Josh said it was “super special” to now be at the forefront of a finals campaign.
“I remember going to the football and the buzz of watching the Pies play back in the day,” he said.
“To think that now a lot of us players are in that position, it’s so exciting.
“We do everything we can to make them happy and hopefully give them joy and entertainment.
“We know, with a lot of them, that’s what gets them through their week or can make or break their week.
“It’s so nice to see them turn up, they always turn out in huge numbers. I’m sure this finals series won’t be any different.”
Asked what it would be to become a premiership player for Collingwood, Josh said: “Everything. It’s something you dream about as a kid.
“For dad to be able to do it in 1990, I always hear what it meant to him and the bond it creates as a club with your teammates, staff and coaches.
“You can only dream of it, but we’ve got the opportunity this next month to really grasp that and dream big.”
As for Daicos Snr’s advice for his two sons ahead of the finals, the ‘Macedonian Marvel’ simply urged them to stay in the moment.
“(Dad’s message was) Just to let us know how important they are in terms of they don’t come around every year,” Josh said.
“You’re not always in the same position you were last year and it can change pretty quick for good or bad.
“Make the most of it and have fun – he keeps it pretty simple. Playing hard and doing everything you can and holding your head high by the end of it.”