By: JESS WEBSTER
Grogan medallist Cal Carseldine returns to NEAFL
Western Magpies co-captain Callum Carseldine’s three-year journey to return to the NEAFL will be complete next year after the star midfielder signed with the Aspley Hornets.
Carseldine played three matches for Southport in 2013 before a combination of opportunity and two major injury setbacks put a halt on his NEAFL career.
A former top-up player with both Brisbane and Gold Coast, Carseldine tore his ACL ligament in his knee while playing for Western Magpies in a QAFL practice match in early 2014. It was his first game back from a shoulder reconstruction he had at the end of his last season with Southport.
But Carseldine returned in stunning fashion to the QAFL in 2015 where he won the Grogan Medal for the league’s best-and-fairest player.
Aspley came knocking on his door at the end of last season, but Carseldine felt he wasn’t ready. He eventually took up the Hornets’ contract offer last month after winning the Magpies’ best-and-fairest award and a second QAFL Team of the Year selection in 2016.
Now 24, Carseldine said leaving the Magpies after being co-captain the past three seasons was a tough decision, but he is looking forward at testing himself at a higher level.
“They were an amazing group of players and mates at the Magpies, and it certainly made the decision to have a go at Aspley very tough,” he said.
“I was approached by Aspley (in 2015) but for whatever reason it didn’t feel right. I felt like I needed another year at QAFL level to develop my game and my confidence in different facets.
“This year I felt like I had a larger influence on a few games and it really gave me a lot of confidence that, while QAFL level wasn’t something I was above in the slightest, I could start to control the game in a way.
“I felt like I progressed as a footballer and as a leader and I felt more rounded and equipped to go to the NEAFL. Now I feel like I won’t go there and waste Aspley’s time, that I can add value to the club if given the chance.”
The best of Carseldine is perhaps in front of him after the rising midfielder only took up the game at the age of 18, having played mostly rugby and cricket in his junior years.
He originally joined the Magpies in 2010 after he didn’t make the senior list at Mt Gravatt following his first and only year at the club in under-18s.
When the NEAFL was formed in 2011, Carseldine decided to try his luck with Southport.
He never played a senior game in his first season and only three NEAFL games in 2013, but won two consecutive reserves best-and-fairest awards at the Sharks.
When he wasn’t offered a spot on Southport's 2014 list, Carseldine returned to the Magpies before missing the entire season with a knee injury.
The two-time Queensland representative is already loving his time at the Hornets, and while making the starting 22 is Carseldine's first goal, winning his first senior flag is the ultimate dream.
“The thing I’m enjoying the most at the moment is the wide range of expertise in the coaching ranks – there are four elite coaches at Aspley so I’m really enjoying that aspect,” he said.
“Also seeing the way some of the senior players like train and think about football opens up a whole new perspective.
“You think you’re working hard and you think you’re playing football as well as you can, and then you have a player who is far better than you, like Matt Payne, and how they think differently or run differently, and you suddenly realise you have a lot to learn. But it’s a good thing.
“Winning a flag will be the pinnacle for me, especially when you’re up against other quality clubs like NT Thunder or Redland, but especially the AFL clubs.
“To show them that us guys who work full-time and play footy can still match it, if not beat them – that challenge excites me.”
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