As Nick Larkey prepares to suit up for his 50th game in royal blue and white this weekend, the former number 73 draft pick has evolved into one of the most exciting young key forwards in the competition.

With 242 games notched in his own playing days, North Melbourne ruck coach Anthony Rocca says Larkey should use his 50-game milestone as motivation to keep progressing through his career.

“It’s a great achievement to reach 50 games, but the bigger milestones like 100, 200 games meant more to me as a player. No doubt he’ll have those in his sights soon,” Rocca told North Media.

“It is a fantastic milestone though, it’s one to tick off an it’ll be a nice thing for him to reflect on at the end of his career.

“He understands the growth of experiencing games over a journey, and the fact is you’re always going to improve when you do the basics well, and he does that.”

02:35 Mins
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Larkey kicks seven (Round 19, 2021)

Nick Larkey booted a career-high bag of seven against Carlton.

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Coming into the club as a raw and rangy forward target, Larkey bided his time in the VFL before making his AFL debut in Round 18, 2017, where he failed to register a disposal in a loss to Essendon.

After one more senior appearance in that season, Larkey was unsighted at senior level in 2018, before coming back with a bang in 2019, playing 17 games.

He wasn’t the first player to have to wait and prove himself in the VFL, and he won’t be the last. Rocca says it’s that time in the VFL that has allowed him to become the dominant force he’s turning into.

“He’s been around for a little while now, and it’s almost like he served his apprenticeship in the VFL, it let him learn the ropes,” he said.

“He’s been so willing to do the work in training. There’s never a point where he’s not learning. He’s forever learning how to adjust to how the midfield works.

“There’s been a bit of a different system this season and he’s had to adjust … it’s been a work in progress but he’s really starting to get the rewards for it now.”

With a career record of 77 goals and 26 behinds, Larkey holds an exceptional ratio of almost three goals kicked per behind over the course of his young career, amongst the best in the AFL.

Sitting on 37 goals and 14 behinds so far in 2021, his 2.64 goals per behind is more efficient than any other player ranked in the top 20 of the Coleman Medal race.

Kicking 415 career goals and being one of the great key forwards of his generation, Rocca is well aware of the work that goes into being such an accurate set shot.

“Some people just have a natural ability to have a great routine, great ball drop, great leg extension and great follow through, but others have to work really hard at it,” he said.

“I reckon ‘Larks’ is a bit of a combination of the two. He’s got a great ball drop and follow through, but I know for a fact he works hard on it at the end of every training session.

“He’s relished the opportunity to become the main tall forward down there … he’s been taking his opportunities really well this year.”