The Collingwood cleanskin with a colourful connection to Harry Styles

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Dan McStay remembers having to convince his dad, Trevor, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

One Direction were in town and Harry Styles was keen to get a tattoo.

The unassuming Dan McStay plays a key role in Collingwood’s forward line.Credit: Luis Enrique Ascui

Dynamic Tattoos, the Richmond business Trevor has built over 30 years, had been recommended as the only direction in which the pop star should head.

Trevor’s hard-earned reputation as a tattoo artist, particularly of Japanese imagery, made him a perfect fit.

“Dad didn’t want to do it, initially,” McStay recalled. “He was like, ‘I don’t know who he is. I don’t want to do it’, but my sister [Tarlyn] and I were like ‘you have got to do it, he’s massive’.”

It was 2013 and, although McStay was hardly a One Direction fan, he knew enough about pop culture to make sure Trevor made the time.

Harry Styles made sure he visited Dan McStay’s dad Trevor when he wanted a tattoo during a 2013 tour. Dan made sure he got a photo with the pop star.

“Dad shut down the shop for the night and had to be very secretive about it because if it got out on social media, there would have been thousands of young girls flocking to the tattoo shop,” McStay said.

“I came in and met [Harry Styles]. He was a super nice guy. He offered tickets to any show that we wanted to go to. [He was] just a really, really down-to-earth sort of guy.”

Not that being raised by a tattoo artist made McStay interested in getting any ink, himself.

“It’s just been part of my life … I’ve just kind of watched everyone else get tattoos, and it’s never been something that I’ve ever thought about doing for myself,” McStay said. “It’s pretty funny.”

Even funnier when you consider he’s now at a club where the likes of Dane Swan, Dayne Beams, Jamie Elliott, Jordan De Goey and Jeremy Howe made tattoos de rigueur for Collingwood players.

The preliminary final against the Giants will be McStay’s 14th match at the Magpies after joining the club as a free agent last season, following nine years and 161 games at the Lions. Grateful to Brisbane, he just decided the time had arrived to return to Melbourne with speculation raging for much of last year about his intentions.

With his dad’s tattoo shop near Collingwood’s training ground and his sister – who is also tattoo-free – expecting a baby, the mild-mannered and modest McStay had only one thought: take me home.

“It was probably a massive drawcard for me to come to Collingwood,” he said. “Just having him five minutes down the road and [being able to] come watch me train, and I’ll stop in there after training. It’s been really cool.”

Dan McStay has kicked exactly two goals in seven of his past eight games. Credit: AFL Photos

He admits the years he spent in relative anonymity at the Lions had him better-equipped to play for the Magpies than he would have been had he been drafted to a big Victorian club.

“I’m more mature. I understand how to deal with the outside noise and these sorts of things [so] I was in a much better position to be able to handle it, and I was looking forward to that challenge as well,” McStay said.

“I feel like there’s so many more positives coming to a big club than there are negatives.”

McStay drew on that experience when he went into half-time of the qualifying final with just two disposals next to his name and question marks hovering all over him.

McStay was able to rationalise his impact, as he had spent part of the first quarter off the ground having a concussion test and reset to build some confidence in the second quarter.

“I felt like the moment where I took a mark and got it to ‘Checkers’ [teammate Brody Mihocek] and he was able to kick a goal, that was where I was like ‘I am back in the game here’,” McStay said.

He kicked two crucial goals in the third quarter, one from a courageous mark as he went back with the flight of the ball, and he had Collingwood fans on-side. The 28-year-old has now kicked exactly two goals in seven of his past eight matches.

Now he faces the third preliminary final of his career (having lost in 2020 and 2022 at the Brisbane Lions) but this time he is at the MCG wearing the famous black and white.

“He was a super nice guy. He offered tickets to any show that we wanted to go to.”

Quietly prepared, McStay is not daunted by the occasion, with his first match for Collingwood played in front of a bigger crowd than any he experienced at the Lions.

“I feel like every game for Collingwood you nearly play in a final like atmosphere … we’ve got a great rehearsal pretty much week in, week out … so we’re really lucky in that sense,” McStay said.

Rehearsals are over. The preliminary final is do or die. A win would take Collingwood one step closer to a premiership – a flag that would surely be a boost for tattoo artists right around town.

McStay admits that if that did happen, even he might be tempted to make a booking for a permanent reminder.

“Hopefully, I’ll get a Pies one,” he said.

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