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Why 'rookie' is a dirty word for Gallucci

The Journey | S2E1 Season 2 | Episode 1. In the first episode of Season 2 of The Journey, go behind-the-scenes of Carlton's pre-season preparations for the 2017 season. Presented by Virgin Australia.

Andrew Gallucci still remembers Ang Christou thumping the ball his team’s way through the winter weekends of Carlton’s last great era.

Then a curious kid of five or six, Gallucci sat captivated as he saw the No.39 plying his footballing craft, from his vantage point high in the Ald. Gardiner Stand. 

“I used to come to Princes Park every week. Before and after every Carlton game, me, my old man and my uncle would have a kick of the footy in the park out the back of the Elliott Stand,” Gallucci recalled. 

“I’d be with my Dad and we’d watch games from the Gardiner Stand, while my Nonno watched on from the Robert Heatley Stand. I used to love it when Christou got the ball, banged it long, and everyone yelled ‘Woof’ – and ‘Skinny’ Lappin was my favourite player.” 

For Gallucci, Carlton and Princes Park was everything then – and so it goes. As he said: “I got to play here in the NAB Cup against Essendon last year, I managed to kick a goal, and that will stay with me forever”.

That 'The Gooch' found his way to Carlton as a player is something of a mystery to him, for by his own admission “it was the least interested of the clubs that I spoke to”.

As he said: “I caught up with one of the Carlton recruiters Glenn Elliott, who met me in a café near my work, and I was picked up on the strength of a 25-minute conversation over a cup of coffee”.

And it hasn’t been all beer and skittles for the kid from Pascoe Vale either. At 23, and having been redrafted as a rookie to the Club he so passionately followed, Gallucci has had to deal with the many and varied challenges League football has incessantly posed.

Andrew Gallucci is savouring every moment at the Club he grew up barracking for. (Photo: AFL Media)

Recently, he earned an elephant stamp in the Northern Blues’ final pre-season hit-out against Werribee, when he booted three in his comeback match some 12 months after damaging his shoulder in a contest with Williamstown.

Gallucci’s return from the shoulder setback was carefully monitored throughout. As he said: “I’ve always had trust in the physios and what they were doing. I really trusted them, they listened to me and we worked together”. 

“Once I found out I needed surgery, we had a meeting and it was all thought out for me so I could get my head around it early. I knew I was going to struggle to make any JLT games and accepted that, so I really concentrated on making VFL Round 1, which is what I have now achieved,” Gallucci said.

“I’d been doing contact work and tackling for four, five and six weeks now, and to get the cobwebs out in that match was brilliant. I now reckon I could run through a tram.” 

Andrew Gallucci booted three goals for the Northern Blues in his return from a shoulder injury. (Photo: Tim Murdoch)

A more upbeat character than Gallucci you’d never meet – and yet even he conceded there were plenty of glass half-empty moments through the post-op/rehabilitation period. 

“I’d been in rehab for so long and while you don’t feel out of it because the coaches are so inclusive, you’re not playing – so to just get out there and bump a few blokes, tackle and handball with your mates, well, you feel like a new recruit,” Gallucci said. 

“Before the game I was really nervous, but as soon as the ball was bounced I forgot about it. I had 17 mates out there so I didn’t feel that I was on my own, and it was handy to get on the end of a few.

“After that six weeks in a sling I was doing more kilometress than anyone at the club, so now when I go out I’ll be trying to do everything I can to help the team win and continue to work on the things I might not be doing as well.” 

While “goalsetting” is truly a buzzword at Bluesville, the term “rookie” isn’t part of the Carlton vernacular. As Gallucci readily admitted: “since I’ve got to the club I’ve never looked at myself as a rookie”. 

“Though I am a rookie obviously, ‘Bolts’ (Brendon Bolton) has said if you think of yourself as a rookie you play as a rookie,” he said.

“‘Rookie’ is a dirty word, so there’s no ceiling.”

Gallucci truly knows where the big sticks are, but he doesn’t see himself as a stay-at-home goalkicker either. In this current climate, he appreciates the need to play as a small forward pushing up.

“In this day and age, even if I wanted to stay forward I couldn’t,” he said. “I know I can also go inside, into the midfield, and with my skillset and pace I could play on a wing.”

An accountant by profession, yet remarkably blessed with a welcome sense of humour, Gallucci saw his time off the paddock as a chance to bring some bubble to the joint - for football can be a fairly serious business otherwise. 

In the most recent episode of The Journey, during a quick break between training drills at Ikon Park, Gallucci can be heard relating a gag to Zac Fisher. 

Gallucci: “Hey ‘Fish’ . . . what do you call an Italian with a rubber toe?” 

Fisher: “What?” 

Gallucci: “Roberto.”

Regrettably, the gag went over Fisher’s head, but for Gallucci there’s a bigger picture.

“Not being able to play, I saw myself as the guy who could put a smile on people’s faces and maybe the one people want to be around . . . you want to play with people like that,” Gallucci suggested.

“I unleash a lot of fresh jokes – some well received, others not so well-received - and I tend to go with the quick gags. That’s who I am as person. I’m lucky enough that I get to be myself and not get stood on, which I could get in some jobs.”

Gallucci shares Greek-Italian parentage with but in the reverse order to the great Anthony Koutoufides. Whereas ‘Kouta’s’ father was Greek Egyptian and mother Northern Italian, Gallucci’s maternal grandparents are Greek and his paternal grandparents central Italian – and the bloodlines cut deep. 

“My Mum’s mother – my ‘yia-yia’ (grandmother), is from Karto Peloponnese in southern Greece, and Mum’s father is from Athens,” Gallucci said.

“My Dad was born here, so there were no soccer balls in our house, but Dad’s older brother and his father were born in Castelforte in Lazio on the western side, near the Tyrrhenian Sea.

“Dad’s people settled in Coburg then moved to Pascoe Vale, and I lived in Pascoe Vale. My Mum’s mother, who lives in Hadfield, worked in the Razzamatazz stocking factory after she arrived, while Dad’s mother and father worked in factories also. 

“These were hard days for them, and they always used to talk about working extra hours and ‘save, save, save’. It’s hard to fathom how they did it because they were effectively isolated in a new country, and I often asked them questions about it.” 

Though he’s never been to Greece or Italy, Gallucci dreams of the day he can follow in their footsteps, to the old world from which they came. But first thing’s first, and Carlton and football remain the priorities. 

Injury has forced Gallucci to take stock, but rarely does a day go by that he doesn’t remind himself: “I’m at the club I barracked for as a kid”. 

While that’s a nice sentiment on which to end this story, 'The Gooch' knows it just wouldn’t be right not to round it out with a gag of the week – a straight lift from the twitter collection of Melbourne funnyman Marty Fields as follows; 

“The origami championships are on Foxtel tonight. It’s paper view.”