As with any young player, Luke Davies-Uniacke is pulling elements of his teammates’ games, both past and present, into his own as he continues to improve at AFL level.
His composure under pressure shows hallmarks of former North midfielder Shaun Higgins, his speed through traffic is reminiscent of Jy Simpkin, and some of his powerful, darting kicks resemble those of Aaron Hall.
As his strength and power have improved though, Davies-Uniacke’s positioning around the contest has the work of Ben Cunnington stamped all over it, and that’s no coincidence.
With the veteran and youngster sharing neighbouring lockers since 2017, Cunnington has become like an extra coach and mentor to ‘LDU’, helping him improve his midfield craft.
“Ben Cunnington has been a huge mentor of mine. He’s really lead the way and told me to back myself,” Davies-Uniacke told RSN.
“We both have similar traits and he really just looks into body work and those sorts of areas. When I got to the club I was probably really lacking in that area.
“I came from junior levels where I just used my strength and being bigger than anyone out there. When I first walked into the club, ‘Cunners’ just tore me to pieces in the intra-clubs.
“He sits in my reviews after games and I sit in his just to pick up things from his game. He’s just a quiet guy, but we get along really nicely just sharing a locker next to each other.
“When I first got to the club, he probably didn’t realise I was a country lad and a quiet personality as well, so he didn’t speak to me too much or realise I loved my surfing and a bit of fishing.
“I haven’t got an invite [to go fishing with Cunnington] yet, but he took the first years out and they didn’t catch anything, so he’s not that good of a fisherman I’ve heard.”
There’s no better tool for player development than senior games, and as he approaches the landmark of 50 games, Davies-Uniacke has risen to the challenge of becoming one of North’s go-to midfielders.
Fresh off of registering a career-high 28 disposals against Carlton, the number nine’s season average of 4.4 clearances per game is considerably higher than the 2.4 he registered in both 2019 and 2020.
With his 24 disposal, 11 clearance performance against Hawthorn in Round 9 still arguably the best game of his career, he says he’s rapidly learning from any mistakes he makes on a game-to-game basis.
“I’m just gaining confidence and every game I pick up little things. I might’ve mucked up but you watch it over and you know you’ve got more time,” Davies-Uniacke said.
“I look back on those things after each game and you realise you’ve got more space and time than you think you have.
“That confidence just comes from playing a lot of games and putting yourself in the slot at stoppages … I’m just finding more confidence each game.”
North’s second half performance against Carlton was one of its best and most consistent periods of football this season, with a seven goal to nil third quarter setting the tone for an impressive win.
“This one was a little different because our wins this year have usually come by a goal or two, so it’s a little bit odd the we beat a team by 40 points but we’ll take it,” Davies-Uniacke said.
“In the first half we felt like they were getting a lot of score off of our turnovers and we knew we had to clean things up. ‘Nobes’ (David Noble) gave us a good old spray at half time and told us we weren’t playing up to our level.
“We really stepped it up in that second half and it was fun smashing a team for a little bit there.”