EVEN when he was out of the AFL team, Brodie Kemp always felt at home at Carlton.
He needed that.
The vast majority of his first three years were out of the side after arriving as a first-round draft pick.
Even despite Covid delays, Kemp’s first year in the system - coming off an ACL injury in his draft year - was written off before it even began. He served as the runner in unofficial reserves scratch matches while undergoing his rehab.
A syndesmosis injury on the eve of year two put a lengthy delay on things, finally debuting in the penultimate round. He played just three more games in 2022 and was an unused sub in one other.
While he entered 2023 under more pressure than he’s ever had, not once did Kemp think he was in the wrong place.
“It’s a testament to the playing group and the culture that we have at the moment at Carlton,” Kemp told Carlton Media.
“You always feel like you fit in and you’re part of this club. That’s something the leaders, past players and coaching staff have gone to a lot of lengths to build the culture and the environment.
“You do feel part of it, whether you’re playing AFL or not. It’s been really positive to be part of that.”
That’s not to say Kemp wasn’t feeling that aforementioned pressure.
After being named in the team of 23 just six times from his first 67 potential games, Kemp admitted there was a sense of not knowing where his next game was going to come from.
There were plenty of people that Kemp chose to thank for his development in 2023. Among them were Brad Ebert, Jacob Weitering, Nic Newman and Luke Power.
The follow-up question came. What about yourself, Brodie?
“You often forget yourself when you’re thanking other people,” he said with a smile.
“You forget you have responsibility in owning your career. At the end of last year, I took on that responsibility that while there’ll be people around to help me, I need to own my career a bit and start chasing a few things.
“I know draft picks don’t mean much, but I was a first rounder coming into a big club. There’s expectation on me externally, but the biggest one on anyone is the expectation you have on yourself — it was high, and I wanted to reach that.
“It definitely took a bit of weight off my shoulders.”
There was good stuff, plenty of it. He started the year “not sure how many games [he] was going to get”, he added another 17 to his belt. He settled into a role, found his niche and bounced from there.
Kemp will undoubtedly look upon 2023 as a positive one — even if it may have ended in a difficult spot.
Speaking openly about his omission from the preliminary final, Kemp said what was key that he’s not hurt by it, but hungry for more.
“It was tough, it was: it was one of the tougher conversations that I’ve had,” he said.
“As much as it was disappointing for me and upsetting, it was something to reflect on. As much as I’ve had a positive year, I’ve still got a lot of growth and improvement left in my game. There are some deficiencies that I need to work on.
“I see that as another opportunity to realise that I need to get better. Playing a few games in a row doesn’t mean that you’re the finished product, I’m certainly not. In a way, it’ll be good for me going forward, to know that I’ve got some work to do to become a genuine mainstay in the team.
“I take confidence from that, I’m looking forward to getting into it.”