Coaches love the foot soldiers that cross the white line and just whack away and perform the role that has been set out for them pre-game. Week after week, game after game, year after year, putting the mind, body, and soul into the performance on the football ground.
This week, Carlton will celebrate exactly that as Ed Curnow brings up his 200th AFL game when the Blues meet North Melbourne on Saturday.
In doing so, Curnow will become the 33rd in VFL/AFL player to reach the milestone coming off the rookie list, and just the 38th Carlton player to notch the double ton.
Initially drafted by the Adelaide Crows in the 2008 rookie draft, without playing a senior game, Curnow came back to Victoria and linked up with Box Hill in a bid to ignite his football career at home.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Curnow acknowledged the journey, the path travelled and the passion he had to make it as a league footballer.
“I was always passionate to want to be an AFL player,” he said.
“I was still disappointed that Adelaide didn’t give me that chance so that kind of drove me.
“The first year at Box Hill, I didn’t get drafted, I probably didn’t play that well but I still believe I should have gotten drafted after that one year and I can remember thinking about throwing it in and going overseas like other guys my age but I stuck at it one more year and it really paid off”
“I couldn’t thank Box Hill enough”
It was a competitive senior group at Box Hill when Curnow arrived there. Surrounded by senior players; Adem Yze, Luke Ablett, Sam Gibson, Sam Iles, and new senior coach Brendon Bolton, who would of course link back up with Curnow at Carlton later down the road. This was the environment where Curnow developed his competitive spirit and saw the Blues give Curnow his second chance in the AFL system after selecting him with pick 18 in the 2011 Rookie Draft.
A spirit and drive which has been on show every time he has run out in the Navy blue jumper.
A self-confessed “late bloomer”, Curnow says he was in a rush to play AFL football early, but the extra time in development and getting over a big injury setback along the way has helped him become the player that he is.
Ultimately, it was the three-year block that helped the inside midfielder understand and grow into his body and become more confident playing against more senior players he would encounter in the big leagues.
“It took me time, I was in a hurry, I wanted to play that first year at Adelaide,” he said
“I thought I could play AFL and I kept pushing through injuries, I couldn’t even break into the Glenelg senior side so I was a long way off it.
“for me the way it’s panned out, I wasn’t ready to play AFL till I was 21 turning 22”
“That’s when I played my first game with Carlton’
The patient approach has paid dividends for Curnow. While it worked for him, you find him preaching the same messages and passing on his wisdom to his younger teammates, most of whom are desperately hoping to make a significant footprint in the AFL system.
“I don’t really believe in that approach. You’ve got to be in a hurry.” Curnow said
” I think if I could have done it differently, but I don’t think I would have.
“You’ve got to push yourself and you’ve got to try and make it as quick as you can. You’ve got to push coaches and work as hard as you possibly can to be a better player every single day of every week, and to beat guys that are in front of you.”
“On the other token, you do have to acknowledge that it doesn’t happen straight away. I do let them know that ‘boys, it didn’t work out for me until I was 22 or 23’, but by the same token I want to see them pushing themselves all the time. I feel like that’s what is going to make you a good player and give yourself a career.”
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Curnow’s Carlton career has taken on greater meaning in recent years since his brother Charlie joined the playing ranks at Ikon Park. It’s been over 2 years since Charlie and Ed took the field together – a game in which Ed was captaining the Navy Blues.
Charlie made his long-awaited return to match play on the weekend after getting through his allotted minutes in a mixed team scratch match on Sunday morning. While Ed would love his brother running out beside him in his milestone game, the on-field reunion will likely have to wait a further week as he gradually builds up.
Ed may have joked that his Carlton teammates sometimes wonder whether he and younger brother Charlie like each other but there is no doubt the pair are buzzing at the prospect of playing in the same team again.
“It’s been two years for Charlie: he looked great on the weekend. He’s done a good six weeks of training with the group. I don’t think he’s going to quite make it for the game this weekend, I know he was trying to convince the coaches he was ready to go” Ed said on his brother’s comeback.
The Blues could be boosted by the returns of captain Patrick Cripps who sat out the win against Collingwood with soreness and former captain Marc Murphy who has missed the last month with a calf complaint. Murphy is only 4 games adrift of notching the 300 game milestone and is out of contract at season’s end.
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