Emerging Carlton midfielder and AFLPA delegate Will Setterfield is beginning to find form and consistency after being cruelled by injury in his first two seasons at the GWS Giants. Setterfield spoke with aflplayers.com.au about building confidence in a growing role for the Blues.
Owen Leonard: Will, your injuries have been well-documented throughout the early part of your career. How frustrating were those first couple of seasons at the GWS Giants?
Will Setterfield: It was really frustrating. I did my ankle, had pretty bad syndesmosis in my first year, then I got concussed when I came back and played. I got into the ‘ones’ and then did my knee in the first game of pre-season in the second year. I had a pretty unlucky couple of years, but it taught me a lot about resilience and sticking fat, and I had a lot of great people at the Giants to learn off. It was still a great experience and they gave me my first shot at AFL footy, so I’ll always be grateful to them.
Your cousin, Isabel Huntington, from the Western Bulldogs’ AFLW side, also ruptured her ACL at a similar time and had done it before that as well, did you help each other out through that period?
Yeah, definitely. I was staying at her house after I had surgery, so we went back and forth to each other with ideas that helped us in our rehab and always checked on each other, so it was funny how it all worked out.
You touched on resilience before. Do you think in a weird way, in the long run, it might actually help with your career and the mental aspect of the game?
I reckon it will. I learnt a lot about attention to detail with my training, and getting out what you put in with everything you do on and off the field. Everyone goes through stages of their career where they have an injury, you’ll be pretty lucky if you go your whole career without one. Everyone goes through it, it’s just about how you handle it. I think it’ll repay me down the track.
Given injury interruptions in 2017 and 2018, did 2019 almost feel like the debut AFL season?
In a way it did, it was a fresh start debuting for a new footy club. I’d only played four or five games in a few years, so it did feel like that. I was fortunate to string 20 games or so last year for the Blues, so I was grateful to play some consistent footy. My body held up and I haven’t had an injury since.
How pleasing was it to finally get that continuity and end up playing 18 games last year?
It was very pleasing. I was still gaining confidence in the first part of the year in my body and in my knee, just trying to figure out where I wanted to play my best footy. When ‘Teaguey’ took over in the back half of the year I was just super confident. I was playing on the wing and had a clear role. After a pre-season, I’m starting to get a bit more midfield time and I’m enjoying it every step of the way.
David Teague has been widely praised for breathing fresh air into the club, how has he been for your own personal development?
He’s been good for a lot of us young boys. He encourages us to play our way, bring our weapons and just play with confidence. He’s given us all a lot of encouragement to do that, and especially myself as well, which has been good.
There’s been previous criticism that Carlton have been too reliant on Patrick Cripps, but do you think the past few weeks has shown you and a few others have also got the ability to step up on the inside of the contest and really help the team win the midfield battle?
Yeah, for sure. ‘Crippa’ has obviously had to shoulder most of the load for a long time now. He’s a great player, we still want him to play like he does but to have us helping him out now, he’d be loving it. I know we’re loving it and it’s just going to help the team at the end of the day if we’re coming through and playing our role as well. It’ll put a lot less pressure on him so he can just play his natural game and dominate like he does.
Your teammate Matthew Kennedy mentioned (head of development at the Blues) Luke Power has been really influential for him, do you have a lot to do with Luke yourself?
Luke’s massive with the younger boys. He’s looking after most of the first, second, and third-year boys and a couple of others like me and Matty Kennedy, who he’s close with. He’s been huge, he’s got so much experience with footy, his information is valuable, so we learn a lot off him.
You’ve played in a lot of different positions now including the wing and a fair bit up forward, but do you see yourself playing your best footy as an inside midfielder?
I do, but I think there’s a lot of us like that. If we can all be flexible with our positioning and share the load around and we all have stints up forward and on the wing, it’s just going to allow us to play our best brand of footy if we’ve got more fresh legs in there. If you can still be dangerous down forward, the coaches have confidence to put you wherever.
Lastly, as someone who is finding success after a few big injury setbacks, what would your advice be to anyone currently going through injury trouble?
Just be patient. Especially with the ACL, it’s a long grind so be patient and work hard. Have really good attention to detail and it will repay you down the track. Work hard along the way and don’t get too flat on yourself, because it’s never as bad as it seems.
Thanks for your time, and good luck up in the Queensland hub.