This article was originally published in March, 2016.
One is a young gun and a former first-round draft pick ready to take his game to the next level.
The other, a working-class journeyman establishing himself after being on the pathway at two other AFL clubs.
While at different stages of their careers, Sam Docherty (pictured above, far left) and Ed Curnow (third from left) want to make Carlton great again and are stepping up their duties behind closed doors.
Docherty has been at Carlton for a little more than two years while Curnow is approaching his sixth season in the navy blue.
The duo are new additions to the Blues’ leadership group in 2016, joining skipper Marc Murphy, Kade Simpson, Bryce Gibbs, Andrew Walker and reigning best and fairest winner Patrick Cripps as Brendon Bolton’s right-hand men.
The seven-man team will lead Carlton into a new era under the guidance of their first-year coach, with Docherty and Curnow (along with Cripps) featuring as the most inexperienced members in the group. The journey begins with a Thursday night season opener against Richmond at the MCG.
Having leaders with varying experience levels is important, and Curnow tells aflplayers.com.au it takes a variety of characters to build a rapport with the playing group.
“Everyone’s their own personality and connects with different people within the group, so the diversity of players we have in the leadership group this year will cover how the group is going,” Curnow says.
“We came up with some values we want to stand for as a footy club in the way we train, perform and prepare basically within our lives, so being in the leadership group, for me, means you have to represent those values and live them. You’ve got to be the guy setting the example through the values and behaviours we’ve agreed to live by while challenging your teammates and yourself to perform in those areas and lead the way by action.”
“Sam is very vocal and his knowledge of the game is quite remarkable” – Ed Curnow
Docherty and Curnow bring different things to the leadership table following vastly different experiences in the AFL system.
Curnow began like any other draft prospect, representing Vic Country in the Under-18 Championships, where he was named in the team’s best players in two of the three matches.
But the hard-working midfielder slipped through the draft cracks and spent a year at the Adelaide Crows as a rookie before being delisted.
He returned to Victoria, playing for the Box Hill Hawks in the VFL where exceptional form in 2010 prompted the Blues to give the then 21-year-old a second chance via the rookie list.
Playing in a variety of midfield roles since, Curnow said his unique pathway was an asset to the playing group.
“The good thing about where I’ve come from is the perspective of having two years not living the AFL lifestyle and I think I can bring a bit of a knowledge of that to the group – a bit of life balance.
“I certainly bring that to the leadership group as well – to not become all consumed by the AFL lifestyle. My past experiences with being at university full-time for a couple of years, VFL and at Adelaide have definitely helped me as a player and leader.”
Docherty’s had a more conventional path onto an AFL list. Playing one year in the TAC Cup level, the long-kicking defender was drafted with pick 12 by the Lions in 2011 before returning to Victoria two years later and joining the Blues.
Harbouring leadership aspirations since his junior days, Docherty says Curnow complemented his own leadership strengths which makes them valuable as leaders around the club.
“Ed is a very on-field based leader. On the training track he’s one of the hardest workers and he’s very strong over the ball, whereas I’m probably more off-field learning, game structures and knowledge around how we want to play and implementing them during the week,” Docherty says.
“Ed is a very on-field based leader. On the training track he’s one of the hardest workers and he’s very strong over the ball” – Sam Docherty
Curnow agreed and was impressed with Docherty’s footy smarts given his inexperience at the top level.
“Sam is very vocal and his knowledge of the game is quite remarkable so that’s where he stands out as a leader at the football club.
“My qualities are based more on training standards and my connection with different groups of players around the football club. We also play different positions so it’s good to have different leaders across different lines on the field.”
Both players represent Carlton as AFL Players’ Association delegates, having stepped into the role at the start of 2015.
Wanting to develop their leadership skills further, the duo say being delegates for the players’ representative body served as an initial step into the club’s leadership group.
“I saw it as a chance to work on my leadership skills,” Curnow says.
“Being a delegate provided the opportunity to be a player representative and you have a voice there. You take that confidence back to the footy club and it definitely feels like a good little stepping stone into the leadership group.”
Docherty says: “I wasn’t in the leadership group last year so I had a bit of spare time and I thought it would be a good precursor to getting into the leadership group this year.
“You talk a bit more around the club in terms of scheduling and a lot more blokes come to you around that sort of stuff. In terms of leadership, it was great to get involved.”