The curious case of Charlie Curnow

Charlie Curnow is going to cause some serious headaches for recruiters come draft day. The 191 centimetre forward/midfielder missed the entirety of the Under 18s National Championships with a knee problem, but has returned to the TAC Cup in solid form.

Curnow is a strong chance to bolt into the top five, according to several of the in-the-know draft reporters.

His story is eerily similar to Jake Stringer’s in some parts. Both looked like top 10 picks as 17-year-olds, despite queries over height, position and ongoing injury issues.
Stringer looked to be a talented, strong-bodied midfielder as an underage prospect, but after returning from a broken leg, Stringer played as a forward as he regained fitness. He was absolutely dominant, kicking bags of goals on several occasions.
Yet recruiters were unsure on where he stood, as he sat in that awkward height range. Was he a forward or a midfielder? Ultimately, the Bulldogs took him as the pick with the most upside and that has clearly paid off.
Curnow is in a similar boat, as he has played as a key forward for the Geelong Falcons in most of his games.
He kicked eight goals in 11 games last year, and when you consider he was playing behind Paddy McCartin and Hugh Goddard in the key position spots, that’s not so bad. He also did plenty of ruck work last year as well, highlighting his excellent leap and athleticism.
This year, he’s been restricted to just seven games, but he’s been able to kick 14 goals. He hasn’t had any huge hauls, but he’s kicked more than three goals in a game three times this year, and has only gone goalless once.
In his return to footy two weeks ago, he had his best game up forward with four goals and six marks – three of which were contested.
Curnow’s bread and butter is contested marking. He often has as many contested marks as uncontested. With his fitness still below where he’d like it to be, you can only see his marking totals increase.
He’s the type of player who knows exactly where to lead and he doesn’t get caught leading to would-be congested areas. But when he does enter a pack, he splits it open and he’s terrific overhead.
Curnow’s upside is his development as a midfielder. Against the Pioneers early in the year, Curnow racked up 20 disposals. 11 marks (three contested), three tackles and a goal. The week before that, he kicked three goals, had 11 disposals, six tackles and 18 hitouts.
The biggest tick with Curnow is the recent history of picks with similar bodies. Patrick Cripps, Marcus Bontempelli and Jake Stringer all have different game styles, but they shared that height, strength, versatility and ability up forward.
Recruiters must seriously consider Curnow in the first handful of picks. The Bombers, Demons and Saints will be seriously interested.
At his peak, Curnow could be a bulky inside midfielder who is also a steady kick, yet he could also be an interesting option as a second or their tall forward. His fitness probably isn’t good enough to play in the midfield at all for the rest of this year, so recruiters may not get to see his full potential.
Some have suggested he could become a Josh Kennedy-type midfielder. It is possible, with his strength, big body and running power. But at this stage, he’s struggled to find the ball.
What recruiters may like about his game is that he’s composed in traffic and seems to have a strong sense of spatial awareness. He’s classy, and doesn’t need to rely on his strength to be a bully.
A Jake Stringer comparison seems much more applicable, based on what we have seen on his small sample size. But what we know for sure is that he has many tricks and some of them are quite rare qualities.
Recruiters would have been a bit apprehensive 10 years ago as they got stuck labelling him in certain positions and as a certain type of player. He could have been seen as a ‘boom or bust’ type project player. But now, recruiters understand that they have to have an open mind and look at players as a whole.

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