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Keeping it simple is Sam's way

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Speak to Sam Rowe, and you quickly realise that in mind and body he’s at one with Carlton’s time-honoured motto.

“Mentally and physically I’m feeling really good. I’m pretty prepared for the year ahead,” Rowe said in a break between training sessions recently.

“As a group we’ve had a pretty consistent pre-season. We’ve had the majority of guys on the track and we haven’t had any big injuries which brings continuity to everyone’s game. It’s been pretty solid and we’re looking forward to starting off the season very well.”

Through 2016 Rowe primarily sought consistency of performance, “and for the most part I was getting that”. The good judges saw that too, and so it was that Rowe finished equal sixth alongside Matthew Wright in the John Nicholls Medal.

It’s a matter of record that Rowe appeared in all 22 club matches and tallied the most game time of any of his Carlton contemporaries, averaging 95.45 per cent a game. It’s also a truism that Rowe was the AFL’s numero uno for one-percenters with 215 through the season proper.

Now, as the 2017 home and aways loom, consistency remains the buzzword for big Sam. As he said: “Coming into this year not much changes, although at this stage the focus is to train as much as possible through the pre-season to get that continuity into your game again and give yourself the best chance for another good year”. 

With Andrew Phillips going over early in the summer campaign and Daniel Gorringe also temporarily sidelined, Rowe understands that he’ll be called upon for following duties sooner or later.

And that’s fine by him.

“I do train a bit as a ruckman, I always do, and I don’t mind having a run in the ruck,” Rowe said.

“No doubt there’ll be times through the year when the big blokes are sore or injured, it will happen at some stage, and I’m ready for that.”

Sam Rowe recharges during pre-season. (Photo: AFL Media)

On the cusp of his sixth season with Carlton, and contracted until the end of 2017, Rowe understands football can come and go in a blink.

But given his own experiences - his drafting to Sydney as a rookie in 2006, and his selection by this club at No.44 in 2011 - Rowe believes he’s fully equipped for the inevitable twists and turns. As he said, “because this is my second crack at it, I’ve had that approach while I’ve been here”.

Just prior to Christmas, Rowe and his long-term partner Natarsha announced their engagement – about time too, according to the former, as the pair had first crossed paths in Adelaide some seven years ago.

They’ve pencilled in December 29 (a month after the big bloke’s 30th birthday) as their wedding day, and plans are already afoot - although football obviously remains the primary focus.

It is here that Rowe talks of the teacher who is Senior Coach Brendon Bolton, and of the trust that exists between him and the playing group.

“Brendon’s technically very good, but he has the ability to give the information in ways we can take on board - which in turn enables us to problem-solve ourselves, which I think is really important” Rowe said.

“As good as coaches might be, the players need to be given the licence to problem-solve and have the ability to problem-solve during a game. That’s because it’s too late for changes to be made at the breaks. What that means is that ‘Bolts’ is empowering the group. He’s allowing the players, once they have the knowledge, to express their opinions with anyone.”

Though it’s never been about personal gain for the big bloke from Walla Walla, Rowe admitted he’d be lying if he said the prospect of playing 100 club games had never crossed his mind - particularly now that he’s 73 games in to his Carlton tenure.

“Look, I have to get a bit closer, but getting my name on the locker would be something I’d be pretty proud of,” Rowe said.

To do that, Rowe would have achieved what previous wearers of the dark Navy Blue No.17, the likes of 1964 Brownlow Medallist Gordon Collis and dual Premiership player Brent Crosswell, did not.