After spending his first two years on the list without playing a senior game, Jordan Cunico finally realised his dream against Port Adelaide in Round 10. He shares his experience in an exclusive Aflplayers.com.au column.
Thursday night’s victory over Port Adelaide was a dream come true for me.
The game is almost a blur in all honesty, you don’t take too much notice on how many kicks or disposals that you have. Going into the game I just wanted to play my role and I’m proud of how I went.
Chris Scott rang me on Tuesday night and told me that I’d be playing my first game so to say I was rapt would’ve been an understatement. There was probably a little bit of relief because earlier in the day he told me that I was in the squad but I didn’t know I was actually playing.
Overall it was a bit of a surprise to go from being included in the squad to actually playing.
Honestly, I had a sense of relief that the day had finally come where all my hard work had paid off, after all, my first two seasons in the AFL system were far from easy.
In my first year, I had knee surgery and only played about 10 VFL games throughout the year, so I thought I got a pretty good taste of what that level of footy was all about. My dream did come close to becoming a reality that year when I was named as an emergency late in the season.
Then in my second year, things became tough as I only played four VFL games because due to having surgery on both of my knees so that kept me out for majority of the season, which was very disappointing. It was frustrating watching all your teammates run around while you’re by yourself in rehab doing all the hard things, especially when you know you should be out there doing those things with them.
And then this year I completed the entire pre-season, completed all the sessions and my body was feeling good. I’m just lucky to have played some good footy in the VFL and to have received a call up.
I’ve done a lot of work with Corey Enright and VFL coach Shane O’Bree this year which has been really big in helping me take the next step. I spent a lot of time with Corey because he is my ‘duty of care coach’, so I’ll often go and speak to him about how I’ve been going. And with Shane I do a lot of extra touch and vision to help develop my game.
The main message from them has been to continually improve my contested work and, because I don’t have the biggest frame, they have stressed the importance of getting the technique right.
Moving closer to the game, I knew I had to keep things as normal as possible on Wednesday night. I just wanted to keep the same routine as I did as if I was preparing for a VFL game and that was to do some recovery on Wednesday night and get stuck into some pasta.
I haven’t played many night games since being drafted so that was probably the biggest difference in terms of my preparation, I just had to be prepared to wait around during the day to run out there.
On Thursday afternoon, my mum and dad, who had travelled down from my hometown of Traralgon with other members of the family, came to visit me just before I left for the ground. They told me to enjoy the moment, which was special for not just me but also them.
Everything became surreal when we were running out for the warm-up.
It made me think ‘this is actually happening’. The crowd got up and about when we went out for the warm-up. I’ll never forget the sound the crowd made, it was almost impossible to hear your teammates talking.
Personally, I don’t feel you could ask for a better place to make your debut as a Geelong player than at Simonds Stadium in front of an amazing crowd. You think about the possibility, but for it to happen is amazing.
Starting on the bench was a nerve-racking experience, you just want to get out on the field and get your hands on the footy.
I came on about five minutes in and I got my first kick pretty much straight away, which helped to settle the nerves a little bit.
I was on the bench when Paddy kicked the goal to put us ahead and all of the boys just got around each other, because we knew there wasn’t very long to go. There was a sense of relief when that goal went through, we just had the confidence in each other to hold on.
Singing the song with the boys after the game is a moment I am always going to cherish. Everyone came up to me and said how proud they were of my efforts. But perhaps what stood out to me most was when ‘Scotty’ came over and said that I looked right at home out there. It gives me a lot of confidence in hoping to achieve my goals for the remainder of the season.
For those who don’t know a lot about me, I spend a lot of my time on the wing with the occasional stint across half-forward.
On a personal level, I feel the biggest attribute to my game is my speed so I will always try to use that and take the game on.
I hope to bring that to the team for the remainder of the season.