Carlton has a proud history of recruiting South Australians to its club, and many have enjoyed premiership success with the Navy Blues. Darren Pfeiffer is the latest inductee to a growing list of young, talented Croweaters at the club, and is hoping to make an impact in 2008 after a frustrating two years in Crows colours. Mike and Dan caught up with Darren as he prepared to head back to Adelaide for his first NAB Cup game for Carlton.
For the Blues supporters who aren’t familiar with you, can you tell us a bit about where you grew up, and the junior and senior teams you’ve played for?
I lived most of my life in Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills, and started my junior career playing for the Roosters there. I moved on to Norwood at under 17 level and played 2-3 years there, before getting into league side, and I then got drafted to the Crows.
Like a lot of footballers who get drafted, I had played in the midfield for most of my junior career, then when I went to Norwood I started playing in a few different positions such as on the half back flank and on the wing. That gave me some different experiences playing in other positions on the field, and even pinch-hitting in the forward line.
Having played in a few different positions prior to coming to Carlton, where do you think you'll play the majority of your football with the Blues?
Well I’ve been training with the backline group and currently see myself as a backline player, but I am hoping to expand on that and play on the wing or on the ball. That would be great as I didn’t get a real chance to play on the ball with Crows or Norwood, mainly due to the team structure and shortage of opportunities there.
Is this your first time away from home? How are you finding the experience?
When I went to the Crows, I moved across from Birdwood to downtown Adelaide and lived with a host family in Adelaide and another listed player there, so I have lived out of home before. But last time my family was only an hour and 15 minutes away, and now that I’m in Melbourne it is harder to see them unless I’m getting on flights all the time!
I’m currently living with Nick Stevens, he has kindly taken in myself and another draftee in Aaron Joseph, It is great to live with a real leader at the club, I am learning a lot from him with his preparation and attitude, and as you know he has his own business too and he sets a great example with his balance on and off the field.
How does it feel to walk into a new AFL club? What kind of induction program did you go through when you first got to the club?
Coming from Adelaide, I knew what kinds of things to expect, but the atmosphere is really different with Carlton. I started at the club a little bit later after coming through the Pre-season Draft and went around and met everyone myself, and then the club got all young fellas in and gave them the formal induction.
We have regular meetings with each other, and the club got all of the young boys in and told them about the history of club. There is so much history here, and having Sticks around, Ratts as coach, and Braddles helping out with coaches is just amazing and they are always around to help.
Going to South Africa with the team was completely different to anything I have seen before, and doing things like going out to the HIV Village and seeing the huge gaps between the rich and the poor was just unbelievable. It was an amazing experience and really strengthened the group.
You have had a bad run with injuries, stress fractures in your back, fractured cheekbone and glandular fever. Have you put injury concerns behind you?
Injuries are one thing I’ve really looked to put behind me, and moving to a new club has really helped with that. I can now just concentrate on this year and making a fresh start, and forget about injuries and anything else that has held me back. I now have to prove myself to a new group of players and it’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to.
You played your junior footy for Birdwood in SA. Can you tell us a bit about the area? C'mon, sell it to us, why would we want to visit?
*Laughs* I always say to people when I retire I want to go back there! The lifestyle I had when young was just fantastic, it is so close to Adelaide but it is still basically a country town where everyone knows everyone. Footy is everything to towns like that and the whole community revolves around it.
I love the lifestyle there and the footy club has produced a few AFL players, guys like the James brothers, and Scott Burns from Collingwood.
Mike and Dan note that Darren is so passionate about his old football club that he forgets to tell us about the Birdwood Wine and Cheese Centre and the National Motor Museum… Birdwood’s finest attractions!
Now that you’re in Victoria, you are going to have to stop following other South Australian teams like the Redbacks, the Adelaide Giants and Adelaide United.
No way, I don’t think so! There are plenty of South Australian boys at Carlton, we all rally together and try to stick it up the Vics. We’ve got a good little rivalry going there!
Is there anything that particularly surprised you about the way Carlton does things compared to how Adelaide does things?
Nothing really surprised me, but its certainly a different environment here. Of course there is a different coaching group and different players, but there is a much younger playing group at Carlton whereas there were a lot of older heads at Adelaide.
As you know we had the Carlton Family Day the other week, and whilst we had them at Adelaide there were lots more people there at Carlton. There has also been a big number of supporters at training, and the main differences between the clubs and the cities will really show when season starts.
We’ve got the youngest list out of all AFL teams, and that would be the main difference between the clubs. But the way that Ratts is coaching, he is really telling us to back ourselves and this gives us a real confidence boost. I reckon that is the best way to go, with the young players growing and responding to the confidence he shows us.
Other than Judd who are you most excited about playing alongside?
I’m not really as familiar with the players as I will be shortly, but I’m really looking forward to playing with Stevo and the likes of Fev who are stars and who I can learn a lot from. Murph has also had a really good pre season so look out for him, and I didn’t know much about Jake Edwards before I came but he has got his head screwed on and has got a lot of talent.
I am really excited about playing with the younger brigade too, we’ve got a really close bond and there is a terrific atmosphere amongst the group.
Here's your chance to get a pre-emptive strike in against some of your teammates... anyone pay too much attention to their grooming, or think they are a hit with the ladies? Anyone with a particularly bad sense of humour?
I don’t think I’ve been at the club long enough to start making those kind of calls! Maybe get back to me in a few months time if I’ve established a spot in the team and I can give you a bit more information *laughs*.
Mike and Dan note that this is a particularly good move on Darren’s behalf, and shows a good sense of diplomacy and tact!
You have been named in the squad to take on Port Adelaide on Saturday night, are you nervous?
I am absolutely stoked to get an opportunity to play for Carlton and to play in front of my family. I told them this morning that I’m in the squad, and they will be making the short journey up to AAMI Stadium to watch on Saturday night.
I have a little bit of home ground knowledge, but I’m just looking forward to showing my team mates and the coaching staff that I can play.
It is a long way from Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills to MC Labour Park, but Darren Pfeiffer has made the journey and intends to make his mark with the Blues in 2008. Whilst honing his skills on the field, Pfeiffer is also learning at close quarters about off-field preparation from star midfielder Nick Stevens, which should help his transition into the Navy Blue jumper. This young and versatile player is over the injury concerns that stalled is progress with the Crows and is set to show the club why he is a former All-Australian at under 18 level.
For a list of all South Australian premiership players, click here