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"It was in that moment that I really realised that we'd been missing something that so many of us wanted – that change was finally happening," Darcy Vescio recalled of the first-ever AFLW  match in February 2017.

With their hair in a warrior topknot and in front of 25,000 screaming fans, Carlton's 22-year-old marquee player tormented their Collingwood opponents with a best-on-ground performance including four goals and some athletic marks that thrilled the crowd.

"After I kicked a couple of goals, I was just floating in the electric atmosphere, the crowd was going nuts," Darcy recalls.

In 1982, a schoolteacher named Christine Louey walked into a pub in Wangaratta in regional north-east Victoria and met a barman by the name of Paul Vescio.

According to Darcy, the pair hit it off immediately and became a couple. Both were born to migrant parents who came to Australia after World War II, with Christine's Cantonese family hailing from Toishan, in Guangzhou, and Paul's from Calabria in southern Italy.

Along with two siblings, Darcy grew up on the farm alongside their Italian grandparents and in school holidays they would visit their Chinese grandfather Cheong Lip Louey, who they called 'Goong'.

Darcy loved football from an early age and was a star player for the Whorouly Lions and Myrtleford Alpine Saints before state-wide regulations banned mixed gender football after the age of 14.

"When I was forced to stop playing footy, I honestly didn't think I would play again," Darcy recalls. "It was over."

After finishing high school, Darcy moved to Melbourne to live with their Chinese grandfather 'Goong' and study at RMIT.

During their time living together, Darcy developed a taste for Chinese cuisine – particularly bitter melon, pork baos, salty plums and fish balls. "I always felt so lucky to live with my Goong and to have that day-to-day connection with him," Darcy says.

Darcy joined the Darebin Falcons, an independent female football club and thrived, winning four premierships and attracting the attention of AFLW clubs, with Carlton signing Darcy for the inaugural AFLW season.

In December 2021 Darcy announced their new gender identity as non-binary and using 'they' as their pronoun.

"Sharing this feels a bit daunting but brings me a lot of warmth and happiness. I am most comfortable with they/them pronouns and will always respond to Darcy unless in trouble," they wrote on social media.

At the time, the 28-year-old was the League's all-time leading goalkicker and a two-time All-Australian player. Having spent all six AFLW seasons at Carlton, one of Australia's most popular football clubs, Darcy was one of the few AFLW stars who might be considered a household name.

In 2022, Darcy became the first AFLW player to reach the 50-goal milestone.

"Before AFLW, when I went out to schools, I'd have to convince the kids I was a footballer," Darcy says. "Not any more!"