Come Sunday, Ed Curnow has bigger fish to fry . . .
But those with an interest in history will appreciate that when the boy from Modewarre awaits the outcome of the first centre bounce, he does so as the only Carlton footballer to represent his club in all 50 senior appearances as a rookie.
And in his first final on the MCG no less.
What a journey it’s been for Curnow, the running machine in Peter Dean’s No.35. Taken by Adelaide at selection 40 in the 2008 rookie draft, he was delisted without having opened his account for the Crows and duly turned out for Box Hill – only to be drafted as a rookie by Carlton with selection No.18 some three years later.
Not surprisingly, he cites his years at Box Hill as career-defining for him.
“I came into the Carlton Football Club with a lot of confidence, coming off a good couple of VFL years, and I played like that when I came in,” Curnow said.
“What happened there made me think that I could play football at AFL level.”
Fast forward to 2013 and the self-confessed “career rookie” looks back on the season as a watershed moment in time. As he said: “It was either make or break this year (and) I had to break into the team and make sure I stayed in”.
Significantly, he was overlooked for the first three senior matches of the 2013 season, which forced him to take stock.
“That put me under the pump, but it also taught me to keep persisting and if I’m playing on the edge I’m generally playing better football,” he said.
But the year has also been about learning to deal with the rigors of an AFL season in its entirety for Curnow.
“It’s very easy to go in and out of games having played a good one here and a bad one there, and coaches quickly lose patience . . . so it’s been a case of trying to understand what you can do to get your body right to play a full year of consistent football – which is probably the hardest thing about playing,” Curnow said.
“The guys who are good at it are the guys who have tried a few things which haven’t worked, but they’ve found out for themselves what has. As a professional athlete you probably have a duty to work out what’s right for you to be cherry ripe for a weekend’s game through a long year.”
Curnow, the nominated rookie now seeking to secure a place on Carlton’s primary list, comes across as the quintessential thinking man’s footballer – not that he wants anyone to think for one minute that he has all the answers.
“I need a lot of coaching and I’ve learnt a lot because the coaches here have been great for me and I’ve spent a lot of time with them,” Curnow said.
“Then there are your teammates and they’re all highly competitive here. There have been times through the year when the results have been poor and you can tell how disappointed the players have been because they actually do care.
“But with a little bit of tinkering, we can be a very good side, as opposed to an ordinary side that we’ve sometimes been this year. We’ve still got a chance this week and there’s a pretty strong belief around the club that we can knock over Richmond.”
Rob Wiley, Carlton’s Director Development and Coaching, is impeccably placed to cast judgment on Curnow’s football capabilities, having closely monitored the 23 year-old’s fortunes since renewing acquaintance with his old Richmond playing mate Michael Malthouse.
“From day one he (Curnow) was a player who trained so hard on the track. He had great ambition to be a consistent AFL footballer so he’s set his season up pretty well,” Wiley said.
“It didn’t go his way in the first few games and he was playing for Northern Blues, but once he got in, and with that burning desire to achieve, he’s really knuckled down.
“He’s been given huge tasks week in week out and through his fitness and his ability to focus and want to achieve it’s certainly helped him. It’s been a pleasure to see someone for whom it hasn’t come easily or naturally be a total professional in going about his work.”
Wiley unhesitatingly declared Curnow a truly committed League footballer. As he said: “He’s very proactive, he does a lot of homework on opposition players besides getting his own body right so he goes into a game very well-prepared (and) he leaves no stone unturned to get the best out of himself”.
And he rated Curnow “right up there on the top shelf” in terms of his sheer running power.
“Ed’s got a great ability to sustain his running capacity and that’s because he’s got a very good will-power to want to succeed. I know that Adam Selwood was a similar player at West Coast - he had great running power, but he also had great fight,” Wiley said.
“He’s never given up the dream and he’s never given up the hope. In saying that, it’s easy to hope for things, but it’s what you do in the meantime and his capacity to get the best out of his body has been a real plus for him and for us.”
Curnow is no different to any other player – there are strengths, there are weaknesses, and there are areas requiring tinkering – in Ed’s case, his decision-making.
But his importance to the team cannot be underplayed.
“He (Curnow) is a very important player with the way Mick coaches,” Wiley said. “Mick will always go with a run-with player, or two or three, and he plays a huge role because he’s always given the main players. And he if he can take the main players out of the game it helps our side win a game of footy.”