“IT’S STILL a ‘pinch-me’ moment every now and again.”

Where does the time go? In Alex Mirkov’s case specifically, the last 18 months has gone by just like that. 

And while he wouldn’t change a second of it, he admits that the life he’s living now seemed like a world away less than two years ago.

Rewinding back to January of 2021, Mirkov hadn’t yet signed for the Carlton Reserves in the VFL.

He had just wrapped up two seasons of VAFA football before the VFL Blues came calling on the eve of the season. Come June, he was on Carlton’s AFL list following the mid-season draft, and now, he’s entering year three.

It’s been a wild ride for a guy who - since he was drafted - has largely been referred to as the ‘ex-volleyballer’. 

“It goes pretty quick: I can’t believe that it’s already been 18 months,” Mirkov said upon the resumption of pre-season training for 2023.

“It’s been nothing but positive and I’m loving my time here. I’ve made some strong connections with the guys and it’s a great culture around the place.

“At times, you still forget about the position you’re in and that this is what I’m doing for a full-time job.”

“It's still a ‘pinch-me’ moment every now and again.”

- Alex Mirkov

When comparing his current situation to where he was this time last year in terms of his football, Mirkov’s response is immediate — “heaps ahead”.

The context is important. 

A week after being drafted, Mirkov’s first campaign as a fully fledged Carlton player was over just as quickly as it had began: a landing gone wrong five minutes into the game meant the rest of his year was on the sidelines.

He entered the pre-season last year under a new coach, on the back of rehabbing an injury and still very much learning the game. And while he’s still very much in a development phase, his game came on in quite large (literally) leaps and bounds in the VFL last year.


While this will technically be year three, Mirkov admits he was - in effect - starting at ground zero when it came to his football.

“The first pre-season under the belt was a good experience, but a tough experience: I didn’t play much footy growing up, so I hadn’t had any pre-seasons,” he said.

“Even just from my body point of view in terms of fitness levels, I didn’t have much of a base coming in last year and I was still learning the game. I’ve built my foundation over the last 18 months.

“I played 17 of the 20 games that we ended up playing in the VFL season, including the semi final, which was a big positive… it was a big year for me in my development.”

Mirkov cited the influence of former VFL Senior Coach Daniel O’Keefe in his 2022 development, as well as the input of former Carlton favourite Matthew Kreuzer in his role as ruck coach.

The 210-centimetre ruckman grew up supporting the Blues. And while he admits he wasn’t as much of a footy lover as some others (his old man, namely), it was difficult not to take notice of the ‘Tractor’ in the No.8 guernsey.

“I wasn’t a massive footy man growing up, but I obviously supported Carlton — mainly because of my dad, who was and still is a crazy fan,” he said.

“‘Kreuz’ was a big guy that I wanted to replicate my game around when I came into the Club, because he was so good at it. 

“He’s an amazing guy that’s always checking in with me, whether it’s about football or my family and friends. He’s been a big positive influence on not only my game on the field, but off it as well.”

Mirkov enters the 2023 campaign as one of six Blues yet to open his account at senior level, and while he’d love to fulfil a dream by pulling on the Navy Blue guernsey.

Contracted until the end of 2024 following a contract extension early last year, Mirkov is very much about trusting the process and - as is the case of the modern-day footballer - “mastering his craft”.

“It’s great when the Club backs you in and sees that potential in you. Having that in your back pocket is quite nice, knowing you can relax a little bit and have the time to work on your craft and yourself,” he said.

“Obviously I want to make my debut as quickly as I can — it’s a hard one to put a timeframe on. I just want to make sure that whenever that time comes, I’ll be ready to go — it’s the development piece for me, and staying consistent with it.

“I think the whole role is ‘craft’, every day is ‘craft’… it’s just ruck craft,” he added with a laugh.

“It’s a major part of our role. It’s having soft touch, soft hands, the perfect pop and every player being different how they want to receive it. It’s something we work on immensely before training, after training and whenever we can fit it in.”

If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that Mirkov is enjoying his time working with the Sherrin — and the volleyball is very much a thing of the past.

“I haven’t played volleyball for a while — haven’t even thought about it!

“I haven’t played since 2017 but the media has run with ex-volleyballer a fair bit, which is probably fair enough. I’m not flat with it, but it’s a bit sad when they ask how good I was — I wasn’t a professional player or anything like that.

“I just did alright in school.”

Would he be happy dropping the term ‘ex-volleyballer’ simply for ‘Carlton footballer’ anytime soon?