Survive the Drive: Albury's Darcy Young, taken at 17, was too young to die

They haven’t yet left their teenage years.

Technically adults, but still battling the odd pimple and figuring out what comes next now school is over.

But already Albury Thunder’s under 18s have suffered a grief that has come far too soon.

For the rest of their lives, someone will be missing. 

Their friend Darcy Young was only 17 when his car crashed and caught alight in suburban Lavington on April 2, 2017.

Darcy’s teammates, now mostly 18, are still coming to terms with losing a mate.

Liam Wiscombe, 18, says Darcy’s sudden death changed the way the team sees things.

It has given them an awareness normally reserved for those decades older.

“With our mates, we’re all a bit closer now,” he says.

“It changed the way I look at friends.”

Teammate Bronson Meehan, 18, agrees.

“You don’t take them for granted as much, family too,” he says.

President Rick O’Connell says unfortunately Darcy’s death is something that will always be with the boys.

“These guys will miss Darcy for a long time,” he says.

“That impact will be felt for a long, long period throughout their lives.”

Having lost childhood friends himself, Rick knows it’s not something you forget or “get over”.

“It hits you when you least expect it,” he says.

“I think back to guys in my youth and you remember ‘Oh that happened and they’re not here’ or they’ll go to do something that Darcy would normally be a part of and it hits you.

“They mightn’t express it now, but it happens.”

As well as being Thunder president, Rick taught Darcy at Murray High School and has a long connection with the Young family. 

“It is tough, it is tough on everyone,” he says. 

“It’s just one of those things you don’t want to happen to someone you know, someone you get on well with, someone you love.”

As well as grieving himself, Rick worries about the effect Darcy’s death will have on his teammates.

“It’s difficult to deal with this experience as a 17 or 18-year-old,” he says. 

“Even our under 16s were good friends with Darcy because his brother Casey played under 15s and 16s.

“It has had a big impact through the club.”

Like many country clubs, Albury Thunder is a lot more than a team, it’s a second family.

The Saturday after Darcy’s crash, Albury Thunder took to their home ground at Greenfield Park.

Black bands wound their way around their arms.

A minute’s silence before the game.

Darcy was buried the following Wednesday.

He first started at the club playing under-10s or under-9s alongside Bronson and Liam. 

The boys grew up together – on and off the field.

Transforming from young tackers into fully fledged teenagers.

And together, they should be entering adulthood.

Darcy might be gone but the boys have ensured he will always be with them as they grow older.

The pair and a couple of friends inscribed ‘Forever Young’ and Darcy’s birth and death dates onto their skin.

“We thought it’d be nice,” Bronson says.

“It was our first tattoo and was for Darcy.

“We’ve come together a couple of times since at mates’ houses and had tea around at Kylie (Young)’s a few times in the weeks after.”

The pair say they miss the simple things most, playing rugby with Darcy, having a drink and popping over to his house.

“He was one of the boys, someone you’d ask to do something and we’d always see each other on the weekend at footy and get together at a mate’s house,” Liam says. 

“Everyone knew Darcy or knew his brothers – everyone knows the Youngs.”

Despite knowing the risks of driving, they boys didn’t think it would happen to someone they know.

“I knew it could,” Liam says. “But I just never thought it would.

“Sometimes now you pull yourself up and think I should slow down; I’m a bit more wary driving now.”

After the crash, the club came together, many gathering at Darcy’s grandparents house in the wake of the accident. 

“We spoke about it the best we could,” Rick says.

“And emphasised the fact you need to support your friends and mates. 

“Get together, talk and share your emotions because sometimes as males we aren’t very good at that.

“Those build-up of emotions can really impact your health.”

The club ran sessions with an NRL-provided psychologist to help the team through that early grief.

Rick says they’ve also been involved in road safety campaigns including playing special tribute matches in August, with specially designed jumpers to honour Darcy.

“We’ve lost two young blokes in motor vehicle accidents in the past two years,” he says.

“Anything we can do to stop that number, to stop families losing sons or family members and to stop blokes losing their mates – we’re happy to be a part of because we’ve seen the impact.

“Anything can happen in a very small amount of time and people need to be aware.”

This is the second of a three-part #SurviveTheDrive series, which continues later this week with the man who tried to save Darcy.