When Jackson Kornberg drove down Punt Road after the Vic Metro vs. Vic Country game in the 2017 National Championships, he knew he’d unlocked a gem.
After missing out on Vic Metro selection the week before, Sandringham Dragons product Charlie Constable was determined to prove his naysayers wrong.
The inside midfielder collected a game-high 31 disposals, six marks and six inside 50s in what is widely regarded as one of the best under-18 contests in recent years.
“I remember leaving that game and calling the Sandringham Dragons Talent Manager saying, ‘I think we’ve got one here,'” Dragons and Vic Metro assistant coach Jackson Kornberg told AFLPlayers.com.au, after Constable’s Round 2 Rising Star nomination.
Kornberg and the Dragons coaching staff had always known Constable was capable of such a dominant performance but it was that game where he imposed himself on the competition and his wider draft standing.
“As I drove out of Punt Road Oval I knew he would be able to hold his own,” Kornberg recalled.
“He had the mentality that he wanted to prove us wrong (for missing Round 1 selection) and he could have come away smug or arrogant from that game but he didn’t.”
Instead, Constable relished in the opportunity and enjoyed the time he was able to spend playing footy with his mates — it’s what drove him.
Constable and Dragons teammate Andrew Brayshaw were inseparable on and off the field.
The two boys had grown up together, attended school together at Haileybury and were best mates.
According to Kornberg, the two couldn’t be separated.
“It’s rare to have kids like that play together for so long,” Kornberg said.
“They knew each other back to front, what they were good at and what they were capable of.”
After Andy’s older brother Hamish returned from his VFL stint to the Sandringham Dragons line-up, the three boys requested they all start on-ball together.
Although Andy started on the half-forward flank that day, Constable had almost become the fifth Brayshaw brother.
“You’d watch in games and Charlie would pop up, he’d kick the ball to space and then Andy would appear and down the line Hamish was waiting,” Kornberg said.
The trio had an ability to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses more than most.
Similarly to his time at Geelong, Constable’s rise to the top was not without hard work and determination.
During his bottom-age year in the then-TAC Cup, Constable was prying for a spot in a midfield line-up consisting of Andrew McGrath, Oliver Florent, Will Setterfield, Tim Taranto and Corey Lyons, who are now all AFL-listed players.
Constable had to change his body and change his game to drive his ambition of wanting to play football at the highest level.
“I think ‘Chook’ would be the first to admit that he probably wasn’t in the best shape as a young kid coming through the Dragons program,” Kornberg said.
Returning to pre-season ahead of his top-age year, Constable was leaner, fitter and a more well-rounded athlete but there was still one blight on his game that the coaches were edging him to improve.
“I remember a conversation we had over coffee in December leading into his top-age year,” Kornberg recalled.
“It was to the essence of ‘if you can get yourself right and your body right we want you to play midfield this year.'”
It was a conversation that Kornberg said ignited a fuel in Constable to improve.
He went away and worked tirelessly to improve his gut running and ability to impact the game as a midfielder.
Earning his stripes in the Round 1 line-up, Constable gathered plenty of the ball but blazed it away with every disposal.
“Jeremy Barnard (former Dragons coach) and I sat with him and told Chook he wouldn’t play midfield again until he worked on his ability to use his hands and pace out of a stoppage,” Kornberg explained.
To Constable’s credit he made that area of his game a focus point — he was willing to work and take on feedback to improve.
“It’s been said that he needed to improve that area of his game but in his first two games at AFL level we’ve seen that it’s now almost become a weapon of his to run away from the stoppage and accumulate possessions,” Kornberg said.
Although Kornberg isn’t surprised to see Constable flourishing in Geelong’s midfield after waiting a full season to debut, it has caught him off guard how easily he has settled in to a star-studded midfield.
When people doubted Chook, Kornberg always came back to the same argument: you pick the pure footballer.
“There was a kid who could win contested ball, move well and then have the ability to go forward and impact the contest,” Kornberg said.
“We always knew that he was going to be able to impact the AFL when he eventually got his chance.”
AFL RISING STAR NOMINEES IN 2019
Round 2 — Charlie Constable (Geelong)