North Melbourne star Ben Cunnington will play his 200th AFL game against the GWS Giants, so teammate Jamie Macmillan has provided a unique insight into what the hard-at-it midfielder is like on and off-the-field.
There’s three things in Ben Cunnington’s life – football, family and fishing.
That’s literally his life. And ‘Cunners’ loves them all (well he loves his family first and foremost).
Cunners is a really simple guy. He never misses a training session, does his weights to an absolute ‘T’, does his recovery, doesn’t like talking about himself and doesn’t like doing media and the guys now absolutely love Cunners for who he is.
They love the fact that once he finishes all of his training he just wants to go home and spend time with his kids. And they love that on his day off he’s always out on the water fishing.
When he first got to North Melbourne in 2010, he potentially tried to be someone he wasn’t and that’s why I think it took him some time to get comfortable in his new surroundings.
Being a country kid coming to the city, it was like he was a square trying to fit into a circle and it just wasn’t working for him.
After a few years in the system he went: this is who I am, this is the type of player I am and this is what I’m good at.
And he hasn’t looked back since then.
In 2012, after he went through a bit of a form slump and people and the media were questioning whether he would make it, he got dropped to the VFL and ‘Scotty’ (then coach Brad Scott) said to him just go back and play footy and enjoy it for what it is.
The AFL team was playing on the same day, but word quickly filtered through that Cunners had had 31 disposals and kicked four goals from the midfield and to me that was the turning point in his career and the game that made him realise he belonged.
Once he really understood what he was good at and got to understand his game and how he fit into the team’s structure, he flourished and there’s no doubt in my eyes that that game and that moment in time set him on the path to becoming an elite player in the competition.
I reckon he’s the best handballer in the competition by a mile. He never misses a handball and he’s got this knack of putting people into space that even they didn’t know they had. The even more impressive thing is that he does it all without using his right hand.
He’s done one right hand handball in his career, he said to me the other day, and apparently he was quick to point it out to the midfield coach in the review.
He’s also got one of the worst dress senses I’ve ever seen.
He owns one pair of jeans that he bought in his first year in the AFL when he was trying to be one of the ‘city boys’. He still owns that pair, but the top button doesn’t do up because he’s put a bit of weight on since then.
He honestly just gets around in hoodies and ‘trackies’ everywhere he goes.
His walk-in wardrobe is quite humorous. He hangs his trackies and jumpers on coat hangers and he colour coordinates them as well, which you wouldn’t expect from a guy that has the on-field reputation he does.
He looks like the big tough guy on the field but he’s actually a bit of a ‘softie’ when it comes to his relationships with his mates. Once you get to know Cunners, he’ll bend over backwards for you and he genuinely cares about you.
He just wants to make sure that everyone’s having a good time and being the best person they can be.
I just love him for who he is and so does everyone else.