Ed Curnow may be approaching 30 years of age, but his 2019 season has been one of his most consistent yet. The Carlton leader spoke to AFLPlayers.com.au about the challenges and learnings of his career to date.
Katie de Haer: Ed, you’re 29 now and playing your ninth season. Do you still find as much excitement in the game as you did on your debut?
Ed Curnow: Definitely! I feel like, with my age and experience, and being at a club that’s developing, I can have a big impact. I feel like I’m at an age now where I’m playing, I suppose, the best brand of footy that I have played across my career and that I can help my teammates on ground with how I perform. So with that, and with playing with my brother and playing with a group of other talented players under some coaches that are really supportive, I am loving it.
Your career has taken a bit of a different path to others. You were originally recruited to Adelaide then delisted, spent two years in the VFL at Box Hill and then re-drafted as a rookie to the Blues. Can you tell me a little bit about the highs and lows of that time?
It was a massive high to get ‘rookied’ to Adelaide, but at the time I wanted to be drafted, so there was the initial disappointment of not getting drafted (in the National Draft), and then there was the big high of getting rookie listed and moving interstate and being part of a regeneration of Adelaide’s list for the 2008 season. But it was also a bit of a struggle too, playing reserve grade SANFL football all year, and not being able to break into the SANFL seniors side, and then ultimately being the only player out of the 2007 draft class to Adelaide to be delisted after one year. I felt at the time, being quite a dramatic and emotional 18-year-old, that maybe that was the end of my career. But by talking to the right people, wanting to prove people wrong and being extra driven I ended up finding my way to Box Hill in the VFL. It didn’t happen overnight, it took time and I’m not really a patient person, so it was an up and down journey in the early days, that’s for sure. I finally got an opportunity again with Carlton through the 2010 Rookie Draft. I didn’t find it easy to secure a spot in the Carlton team at first and it was pretty tough to get re-signed for a few years there. I suppose that’s why now, at 29, I finally feel like I can have some influence and that I really belong. I feel like I’m playing my best footy now because I’m finally building the belief and skillset that can take players time (to develop).
You’ve played more than 150 games now and you’re in the leadership group at Carlton during what’s been a tough time for the club. We know that Brendon Bolton departed mid-season and ‘forwards coach’ David Teague took over as interim coach. How difficult was that period? How did you approach it as a leader?
‘Bolts’ was my coach at Box Hill for two years and played a big part in my development (and me ultimately being drafted to Carlton). He moved across to Carlton for the 2016 season and he played a key role in blooding a lot of our younger, talented players who are really playing some strong footy now. Being in the leadership group under Bolts, he constantly challenged me to develop my game and leadership capabilities off field and around the football club. I’ll always be thankful for the time he spent getting the most out of me in my development. That was a tough week (after the Essendon game) and there was a very strange feeling at the football club. I think there were a lot of guys that felt like we’d probably let the coach down. But, in the end, footy is a pretty ruthless business and we had to move on and support ‘Teaguey’ and he’s been brilliant in his job since Bolts has left. I’m really happy for him and I’m hoping we can win as many games as possible to give him the best chance for the role.
I read an article where you said that your first win against Brisbane felt a little bit ‘hollow’ without Brendon Bolton. Are you able to talk a little bit about that?
I think what I meant at the time was that it was difficult experiencing that sense of relief and joy at a time when Bolts was missing. After you win a game, it’s such a great feeling. When Bolts was moved on from the football club, it just felt like a very, very long week. You did feel a little bit guilty celebrating such a great achievement, after someone that you’d worked with for the past three and a half years had just been sacked. I think that was the reason I made that comment.
Since that time there’s been a couple of close losses but there have also been three wins. The team seems to be playing with a lot of confidence. How have you assessed the past few rounds?
Dave and the assistants have been brilliant with their messaging. It’s been very clear, very smart and directed at the opposition that we’re playing. But, really, to be honest, I think we’ve all been more focused on what we can do as a team and how we want to play. Teaguey’s strategy is starting to gain a bit of traction with the group. It’s been a pretty good last five weeks and he’s done a great job.
You’re often talked about as one of Carlton’s ‘heart and soul’ players. You’ve been with the club for nine seasons now and recently re-signed for another year taking you until the end of 2020. What do you love about Carlton as a club? What makes you continue to pull on the navy blue?
They’re the club that gave me my second chance. What they’ve been able to create for me and my family, and the opportunities they’ve given me, I’ll always be grateful for. They drafted my brother (Charlie) and they’ve got a lot of good people there. Dave Teague is in the senior coaching role and I’ve got close relationships with the assistant coaches as well. I feel like I’m now in a position where I’ve been at the club for a long time and so it’s a place that I don’t want to leave and I’d like to stay a while longer. I’m loving my football and I’m loving playing under Teaguey.
You’re in the unusual position of playing alongside your younger brother at the Blues. What’s that like? Do you keep each other in line?
Definitely! We’re both pretty harsh on each other’s game and pretty critical of each other’s training standards, but we get on really well. It’s awesome to have the opportunity to play professional football with my younger brother. He’s a really talented player and a really hard worker. I admire the way he plays the game and his courage in the air. I take a lot out of his game and that kind of motivates me to try and be better than him (laughs). It’s a lot of fun.
We spoke about that core group of talented young players at the Blues. But you’ve also had a really consistent season and the club’s former captain Marc Murphy is also in the middle of a purple patch. What have you made of his contribution this year?
I’m just really happy for him. It’s potentially a stage in your career where you might be on the back burner a little bit but it’s great to see him playing some really strong footy. He’s playing to his strengths, his ball use and run and his ability to work well with ‘Crippa’ (Patrick Cripps) and ‘Kreuz’ (Matthew Kreuzer) at stoppages. He’s just setting a great example for our young group and he’s going to make it hard for a few of those players to kick him out of the midfield.
We know that football can sometimes be all consuming. What do you like to do off field to keep balance in your life?
I’ve got a one-and-a-half year old, Will, who is awesome. I love to surf whenever I get a chance. I work part time with a company called IP Generation and I love that. I’ve been studying and have just finished my Masters in Project Management and I’ll probably continue to study while I’m playing football, but in another area. I love to keep busy, I feel like that’s what helps me be a good person in a sense… I don’t get too grumpy or bored if I’m not doing anything (laughs).
Thanks for taking the time to have a chat, Ed. All the best for the rest of the year.
No worries, thanks Katie.