ALEX Cincotta used to dream of playing on the MCG. When he used to head to the home of football to watch his team, it was all he wanted to do.
That club he supported as a kid? The red and blue of Melbourne, the team Carlton will play in front of well over 90,000 people in a semi final.
No matter how determined Cincotta has been throughout his journey to get to this point, he hardly could have imagined his first season in AFL football panning out the way it has. He’s played the last 13 consecutive games, including a drought-breaking finals win, playing in front of crowds of 83,638, 86,785 and - on the weekend - 92,026 in the process.
Not bad for a guy whose previous record was around 25,000 people. That was in the second half of the Carlton Reserves’ VFL curtain raiser against Collingwood last year prior to that famous Round 23 game between the two old enemies.
The difference a year makes, hey?
“It’s going to be a year I won’t forget. It’s a pretty big difference, but both were amazing experiences,” Cincotta told Carlton Media this week.
“It’s been a big turnaround. This time last year, I was building a house for a Collingwood supporter . . . should’ve forgotten to put the stumps in.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing on the MCG as a kid. Dad he supported Melbourne his whole life and all Melbourne home games have been on the MCG, so to be able to play on the ‘G was amazing. My first AFL game at the MCG was against Melbourne as well.”
Among Cincotta’s earliest football memories are heading to the oval, learning how to kick on his left foot as well as his natural right. It may look natural to him now, but it certainly didn’t come easily to the man who was signed as the Blues’ last player on the list for 2023.
He remembers a fair amount of frustration, too, largely stemming from his competitive instincts which have served him so well in his debut campaign.
“I was a competitor even at that age: to not be able to do something, it really ate me up. I kept saying I couldn’t do it, but I stuck with it and I’m so glad I did.
“It’s something I do naturally now, even if I don’t always get it perfect every time. When you’re playing AFL and you’ve got some pretty good players chasing you down and shutting down space, to be able to swing onto your left to clear space or hit a target is important.”
He started out as someone whose heart beat true, but Cincotta - of the Alex variety - is very much a Blue nowadays. You just need to see his celebration for that first goal against the Bombers to show what it all means to him.
For his dad Joe, it’s been a case of old habits die hard, but he thinks he knows where his allegiance is going to lie, particularly after having a pair of experiences in Rounds 12 and 22 when the Blues and Dees met.
“It was really strange to be at the ground seeing your son play for Carlton after barracking all my life for Melbourne, such a staunch following,” Joe Cincotta said.
“You’ve got to pinch yourself sometimes, this week is going to be massive. It’s been such a journey for him, he got through it all. He was determined, he always spoke about AFL and wanting to play AFL: it’s a dream come true for him.
“The two teams in a semi final, how ironic is that! It’s been good. We saw him play not so long ago against Melbourne. It’s a strange feeling to be quite honest, to barrack for a team you’ve supported your whole life and then all of a sudden, your son is playing against them. It’s really odd.
“Alex comes first though!”
The gleeful retort from Alex then comes: “ask him what scarf he’s going to be wearing on the weekend”.
What scarf will you be wearing on the weekend, Joe?
“Depends who’s winning!”