ALEX Cincotta’s path has been one well-travelled.

The story has been told before, particularly throughout his whirlwind debut year of 2023. After missing out on seven drafts, being mentored by the great Danny Frawley and even living in a gym during Covid during ACL rehabilitation, he had ever reason to give up on his AFL dream.

Yet, he didn’t, and on Friday night, he returns for the first time in 2024 in front of a capacity crowd.

Not that that’s uncharted territory for the Carlton rookie, who has played 11 of his 19 career games to date in front of over 45,000 people. We reckon Friday night might just get there, too.

And coming in for a game against the old enemy, who he kicked a goal against (followed by a tug of the Navy Blue jumper) last year, is further validation that he’s right where he wants to be.

“My first year, it was a pretty amazing experience to play in front of [86,785]. Two big clubs come together on a Friday night,” Cincotta told’s Knock Offs.

“It’s a great experience and a great game to be part of. ‘Vossy’ speaks about it all the time, how special it is to play in front of those big crowds and to never take it for granted.

“They’re special. I think both clubs - regardless of where they sit on the ladder - will always bring their A-game. It’s definitely an amazing experience.”

It wasn’t just that Collingwood game that sticks in the memory for Cincotta. He had two games in front of over 90,000 when he featured for the Blues in their elimination and semi finals last September, with tonight’s clash his first time back on the venue since that famous night against his boyhood club Melbourne.

But he admits there was a time where that all seemed a world away.

Playing senior footy for Newtown & Chilwell in the Geelong Football League for four years, Cincotta - who didn’t take the traditional pathway through under-18s football - could’ve been reserved to playing alongside his school mates in the local leagues.

However, it was a conversation with a much-loved figure in the football world after a game of rep football which gave Cincotta the confidence he needed.

“I hadn’t played a single VFL game yet, I had a really good year at local level and played really well in rep games.

“’Spud’ [Danny Frawley] gave me a role in the Vic Country game, and I shut down a small forward named Josh Green [ex-Brisbane, Essendon]. I remember ‘Said’ saying at the time that if you’re going to play AFL, you’re going to have to shut down some really good players.

“That one game gave me a lot of confidence. For the first time, I had someone that really back me, my ability and me as a player. ‘Spud’ said to me ‘mate, I think you can play AFL’.”

A move to the inaugural Carlton Reserves a few years later from Geelong VFL ensued . . . and the rest is history.

To watch the full interview with Matthew Richardson, click here.