Charlie Curnow (Geelong Falcons)
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 95 kg
Position: Medium forward/inside midfielder
Player comparison: Jake Stringer
Strengths: Contested marking, endurance, game-breaking ability
Weaknesses: Football smarts, positioning, consistency
First year impact: Short-medium term prospect
Marking: Above average
Speed: Below average
Endurance: Above average
Charlie Curnow is one of those players that everyone has a different opinion about. There are those that love the fact a medium sized forward can play taller, then go into the midfield and win the hardball. Then there are those that are unsure of where his future at AFL level lies.
Right now, Curnow is expected to go top 10 just purely because of his uniqueness. In many ways, clubs that draft Curnow are almost getting two players in one, but the only concern is, he is not elite in either position, and rather a very solid player who has game-breaking ability, but does not show it enough.
This year has been tough on Curnow who was injured earlier in the year and missed the first half of the season. Earlier in the year, Curnow had been good, without being impressive, having short stints in the midfield, while going forward and kicking goals. The concern was that he would go missing for a quarter or two, then pop up, kick three goals and be remembered for 20 minutes of sensational football.
Since coming back he impressed at TAC Cup level, kicking 13 goals in four games, including four goals against the North Ballarat Rebels in the first final. But since half-time in that match, the concerns recruiters had earlier in the season reappeared. In the game, which the Falcons lost by 12 points, Curnow also kicked five behinds, which while he was certainly not to blame for the loss, in fact being one of the best, he was nullified after half-time and when he did get his opportunities, he missed.
A few years ago, Brendan Fevola quipped to an opponent about having front row tickets to see the ‘Brendan Fevola show’ before booting a bag after being held in the first half. This is similar to how Curnow plays. Not in the attitude sense, but in the way that he can be well held, then just come out of nowhere, kick a bag and then be celebrated as a champion.
Make no mistake, Charlie Curnow has the potential to be a star, he just needs to do it across four quarters consistently. In the disappointing loss to Eastern Ranges, Curnow was well held by bottom-aged Jack Maibaum and he booted 0.3 in a underperforming Falcons side.
In a way, his role this year was largely determined by the lack of quality big key forwards for the Falcons and Curnow was thrown down there to crash packs and be that x-factor. When he did play in the midfield, he was impressive because he has the tank and the body to bury under packs and extract the ball to a teammate.
If he had of played a full-season of midfield pinch-hitting forward, it might have given draft watchers an idea of his future at AFL level. Right now, he will play that third tall who might drift through the midfield, but a permanent midfield role would be an unknown.
In terms of Curnow’s strengths, his contested marking is the biggest thing that physically makes him stand out from the crowd. For someone who is not the biggest full-forward, Curnow crashes packs, leaps over players and becomes that big forward target that players can kick to and rely on to take a grab. He is already 95 kilograms, so his body is ready for AFL.
As already mentioned, the one huge tick Curnow receives and is the main reason he will be a top 10 prospect, is his ability to turn it on and look almost untouchable at times. Whichever club selects him, fans will not help but be excited, because if he is able to turn it on at AFL level, the ball will just levitate towards him and supporters will begin expecting him to be the saviour up forward.
These pressures could impact on his career, but Curnow seems like it would not worry him, in fact he would thrive on it. He loves to celebrate a goal, even when it has not actually sailed through, having being caught out pumping the arms, only for it to hit the post or miss to the left. But, at least teammates and fans can feel the energy from the pitch, because Curnow certainly has a lot of it.
His ability to push into the midfield and play a role there, even in short stints, shows he has above average endurance, certainly for a medium forward. Players of that height like Josh P. Kennedy at the Swans become a danger when they are under a pack because of their huge frames that can just keep players off the ball and win that crucial contested situation. Curnow is no different and this could be his future potentially.
Aside from consistency, the one aspect of Curnow’s game holding him back is his footy smarts and positioning. Curnow plays off instinct, which is great for fans knowing he wants to hunt the ball, but often it could be at the detriment of his teammates.
Often, Curnow will lead into spaces where a man has dropped back into a hole, or where his teammate has already lead, rather than creating space or heading in the other direction. In doing so, he brings a crowd with him, bringing more defenders to the marking contest and often an easy spoil is made. Curnow has been coached on this throughout the year, having to understand the leading patterns and leading to advantage and knowing when to stay at home and let his teammates go.
When on the lead, Curnow is strong overhead, with vice-like grips, but is not quick. Many would back him in an arm wrestle or where he leads from behind his opponent, but when in front, the kick to him needs to be perfect as a defender could catch up to him on the lead and spoil.
While Curnow needs to tweak these few things, they are coachable and at the right club, he could settle in nicely. In terms of his impact, his body is physically prepared for AFL football, being 95kg, but he will need to learn how his future club’s forward line works and be worked on in terms of his strategy and role up forward, so most likely he will play late 2016, or 2017.
Make no mistake, Curnow will be drafted this year and most likely in the top 10, if not, certainly first round. He is a talented forward that just excites the crowd and has that game-breaking ability similar to Jake Stringer, about him. If he can continue to develop his midfield game, then move into the midfield to play a role similar to Sydney’s Josh Kennedy and pinch hit forward kicking two goals a game, he will be a fan favourite.
Curnow is undoubtedly one of those players that will be closely watched over the years, because development will be the key whether he succeeds or fails at AFL level. With the tools he has to offer, draft watchers would love to see him on the big stage strutting his stuff.