CARLTON stalwart Ed Curnow will play his 200th game when he runs out against North Melbourne on Saturday.
While Curnow has always been a solid contributor in the Navy Blue, his last four years have arguably been his best, hunting around the midfield and being the big body to back up Patrick Cripps.
Curnow’s speed and strength are his main attributes in the middle, leading the 2km time trial since he came to the Club in 2010 before the arrival of heir-apparent Matthew Cottrell.
Reinventing himself as a tagger in 2013, Curnow has combined those strengths to be a key leader for the Blues, becoming the first player since Chris Judd to achieve three consecutive podium finished in the John Nicholls Medal.
Being drafted to the Adelaide Crows in 2007, Curnow’s journey had been one of ups and downs, but he has never swayed far from the path of working hard and getting what he wants.
“I got drafted straight out of school in 2007 to Adelaide so I remember it was like a dream come true,” Curnow said.
“I remember that I thought I understood what it took to play AFL and I just thought I was going to make it, so that was a pretty steep learning curve with the disappointment and realisation that it might not work out.”
Delisted by the Crows after one season, Curnow returned to his home state of Victoria and signed with Box Hill in the VFL.
After a solid season in 2009, his second chance in the AFL would come at the Blues following an exceptional 2010 campaign in the state-league competition.
Despite suffering a broken leg in Round 13, Carlton's recruiting staff had seen enough, recruiting the midfielder with pick No.18 in the rookie draft: one selection before Hawthorn.
“It was a tough year and I struggled: all those learnings I had that year have made me the player that I am now,” he said.
“In that very first year at Adelaide, I continually tore my quad and I just didn’t want to tell people, and just wanted to train through it because I put so much pressure on myself to get a new contract.
“It was different when I got drafted to Carlton at the end of 2010 and I certainly felt a lot more confident in my ability: fast forward 10 or 11 years and it’s been unreal.”
Having always been a competitive beast, growing up with four siblings who were equally competitive, Curnow has always pushed himself to get absolute best out of himself, which he says takes a mixture of being serious and being fun.
“I take my training and game day pretty seriously, other than that, I know AFL is a job and it’s a stressful environment, but I definitely try and create a bit more of a lightness around it," he said.
"Otherwise, for me personally, I get caught up in the seriousness of the business and the pressure that comes along with it.
“I’ve always felt like, it’s generally a game, it’s a great game, it’s a game we’re all passionate about and we have great fans, members and history at this footy club. But, it is still a game, so I try to not lose sight of that.”
Outside of IKON Park, Curnow is a family man and a student, always striving to put his best foot forward in whatever he pursues.
“I started to have a fair crack at finishing degrees and doing some work experience. It’s given me a different life away from football, that I love then I come to football and just have fun and that helps,” he said.
“I’ve got baby Will now, he’s three and a half, and he gets the footy, he can sing the Carlton theme song better than I can. Emily (Ed’s wife) has been an amazing supporter, as has her family and then baby Alice, who’s now one and a half.
“There’s now a few more Carlton fans at home which is nice and it’s the best feeling being able to bring them into the rooms and enjoy this experience with the family.”
The Curnow name is well revered around Carlton, with Ed’s brother Charlie also coming to the Club in 2015.
Unsurprisingly, it was an exciting moment for the brothers - and the whole Curnow family - to cherish.
“To have Charlie come to the Club in 2015 was amazing and flukey and extremely lucky,” he said.
“It’s been a good experience and I would’ve hoped we played more games together, but he’ll ideally play in the next couple of weeks and we’ll get a few more games together before he finishes up and retires and I keep playing.”
When all is said and done, Curnow had a mountain of people to thank along the way, starting with his mum and dad, his siblings and all of his former coaches, starting from his junior club in Torquay.
Through his time at Carlton, Ed has seen four senior coaches come, and believes that each of those have had the biggest impact on his playing career.
“Brett Ratten gave me a chance at the Club, Mick got me tagging, giving me a role and a purpose,” he said.
“Brendon Bolton, he was my coach at Box Hill so he’d already shown a lot of belief and faith in me and pushed me off the field in my study and work as well, so I’ll always be grateful for that.
“I had a bit of time with 'Teaguey' as the forwards coach and then he took over and we have a great relationship and I really love his passion and his knowledge of footy.”
When asked what Curnow would say to his 2007 self, this is what he had to say.
“Calm down,” he said.
“All I wanted to do was play a game of AFL and prove to myself I was good enough.
“The reality is that you just keep on taking little steps past that first game and you’re still trying to prove to yourself that you’re good enough and that’s what keeps you going.”