Levi Casboult didn’t think he’d make it to 100 games, he thought his career at Carlton was coming to an end.
Two years into his AFL career, Casboult was elevated to the Carlton senior list but, due to a knee complaint, was placed onto the long-term injury list, with then housemate Zach Tuohy, who played his 150th AFL match last weekend, replacing him.
Things weren’t going to plan for the young Casboult and, at the age of 21, he thought his AFL journey was over before it had even begun.
“Before I debuted, after my second year I had a few injuries and was worried I wouldn’t get another contract, let alone debut or play 100 games,” Casboult told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“There were a couple of moments like that along the way. I had some patchy form early, which makes you question a few things so it’s good to come out and reach a milestone of this significance.”
Casboult’s journey has had its fair share of challenges. AFL clubs didn’t think he was good enough as a ruckman after two seasons in the TAC Cup so he returned to the Dandenong Stingrays as an over-age player in 2009 and played forward for the first time in his career.
The result was 41 goals and a chance to train with St Kilda and Carlton before the rookie draft, with the Blues ultimately striking first. Like most young, raw key position players, the physicality took some adjusting to for Casboult but things progressed steadily to a 2012 debut.
In a sign of things to come for Blues fans, he took two contested marks against the Bulldogs in his first game. Remarkably, only two Carlton players who took the field that day, Marc Murphy and Ed Curnow, still remain at the club.
Over time, though, because of confidence and technique Casboult’s inaccuracies in front of goal drew the ire of many pundits and footy fans.
At stages, he seemed to improve while at other times it deteriorated but Casboult believes he’s been good at blocking out the negativity from outsiders — getting off social media, although he still uses Instagram, more than a year ago has helped.
But when it comes to his form in front of the big sticks, Casboult believes sheer time spent on the track has led to improvement in his goal-kicking.
“There were a lot of inconsistencies in my routine but the last couple of years, I’ve been able to knuckle down to a specific routine and mindset and things have flowed on from there,” Casboult added.
“I’ve worked closely with Sav Rocca and he’s been great but, a lot of it has been time on the track. I know it’s always going to be a work in progress but I’m happy to put the work in.”
Casboult isn’t strict but said he aims for around 100 shots at goal per week and is happy spending extra time after training or on days off if it means he can get the adequate kicks in.
The 28-year-old admits he doesn’t have the most sound technique but the addition of Rocca to the coaching staff has helped the 200cm Blue kick 34 goals and 18 behinds in 2017 and he has seven goals and three behinds so far this season.
It clearly hasn’t been a smooth ride for Casboult, who admits to letting the negatives affect him too much at times, especially early on in his career, but that’s changed recently with the birth of his two kids — two-year-old Lonnie and seven-month-old Arlo.
“I definitely got caught up in the football bubble,” Casboult said.
“I think about the game a lot and even now at times I get caught up in the ups and downs, so having a family to come home to has helped me switch off. When things haven’t gone to plan on the field and I’m a bit grumpy, I come home and my kids are waiting for me at the front door.
“It snaps you out of it pretty quickly when there are still nappies to change and kids to feed.”
Casboult earns his own piece of Carlton history with his name printed on the number 41 locker forever, a special moment for any player, especially one who sported a navy blue scarf growing up.
Not bad for an individual who didn’t think he’d make it past his initial contract.
“It’s not just me on the journey, I’ve been with my wife for seven years now and she’s played an enormous role in that. It’s almost like she has three kids at times.
“It’s something that’s special for all of us.”