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"He put his heart and soul into everything he did at this football club."

Andrew Carrazzo


Career : 2004 - 2015
Debut : Round 21, 2004 vs Melbourne, aged 20 years, 250 days
Carlton Player No. 1083
Games : 194
Goals : 48
Last Game : Round 23, 2015 vs Hawthorn, aged 31 years, 264 days
Guernsey No. 44
Height : 182 cm (5 ft. 11 in.)
Weight : 82 kg (12 stone, 13 lbs.)
DOB : 15 December, 1983
John Nicholls Medal 2007


Sometimes the path to an AFL career for an ambitious young footballer can be a long journey. Luck always plays its part of course, but then again a healthy dose of bloody-minded determination and persistence often works wonders. This is precisely what happened in the case of Carlton’s 2007 Best and Fairest winner Andrew Carrazzo, who spent two fruitless seasons on the rookie list at Geelong, before crossing to Princes Park in 2004 to begin his notable career with the Old Dark Navy Blues.

The whole Carrazzo family were rusted-on Carlton fans from shortly after Andrew’s great-grandfather Pasquale migrated to Australia from Italy, and settled in Drummond Street, Carlton. Three generations later, Andrew began his football journey with the Knox Eagles and East Burwood Football Clubs, before joining the Oakleigh Chargers in the elite TAC Cup Under-18 competition. Quick and determined, he was soon displaying super ball-winning skills and was used primarily as a midfielder. In his second season in the TAC Cup in 2001, he captained the Chargers and finished runner-up in the competition Best and Fairest award; the Morrish Medal. He was outstanding in the Under-18 National Carnival, and was one of the first on-ballers selected in that season’s All Australian team.

Although stress fractures in one of his feet derailed his efforts in the 2002 AFL Draft Camp, Carrazzo (already nicknamed “Carrots”) had been assured by Carlton that he would be selected by the Blues in the Rookie Draft. But Carlton’s plans were thwarted when Geelong swooped with their selection two places earlier, and Andrew – to his family’s dismay – was suddenly on his way to Kardinia Park. Over the following two seasons, Carrazzo was a star at VFL level for the Cats, winning their Best and Fairest in 2003, while being frustratingly unable to break into a stellar senior midfield line-up that included four All-Australians in Gary Ablett, James Bartel, Joel Corey and Cameron Ling. Even so, it was a major surprise when Geelong delisted him, and Carlton immediately invited him back to Princes Park. There was a place on Carlton’s rookie list available, and Carrots wasn’t going to let anyone else claim it before he did.

The financially-shattered and struggling Blues managed a minor resurgence in 2004, while Carrazzo was a standout performer in the red and white strip of the Northern Bullants. The only drawback was that most of the season had passed before he became the seventh Carlton player to wear guernsey number 44 in a senior match, on debut against Melbourne in round 21 at Princes Park. Andrew’s true blue father, Peter, was probably more nervous than his son on that Saturday afternoon, as he later admitted. "It just made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” he said. “That first game he played was enough for me. I could have died the next day and been a happy man. Everything else is a bonus."

Indeed, that match remains a fond memory for Carrots. "I was chasing Aaron Davey around in my first game, which was a bit of a challenge," he said later. "I'm not sure I had the speed to go with him, I just had to hold him as much as I could without giving away a free kick. I look back now with fond memories because we won, and I won my second game as well, at the G against Collingwood, so it was a great start." Typically, that self-effacing statement downplayed two impressive efforts by the 20 year-old, who restricted Davey to only a handful of possessions. Indeed, in his first two matches – victories over Melbourne and Collingwood – Carrazzo averaged 18 disposals per game, and the Blues finished off the year on a high by climbing to eleventh on the ladder. But the optimism that resulted was doomed to be short-lived.

In just his second year, Carrazzo became a key part of his team’s game plan. The Blues were desperately short of quick small defenders, so Carrots was in real demand. He missed only two games all year (due to a minor calf tear) averaged almost 16 disposals per game, and announced his arrival as an AFL footballer by gaining his first top 10 placing in Carlton’s Best and Fairest award. Overall however, the Blues relapsed into mediocrity, and fell to last place on the ladder.

Andrew continued his development throughout 2006, chalking up another 19 games during which he was often asked to play as a defensive forward on the opposition’s creative runners, like Guerra at Hawthorn and Kenneally for the Swans. He was also given tagging jobs in the middle, where he remained a ball magnet - averaging just under 20 possessions a game. Although his kicking was sometimes wayward, Carrots' knack of finding the ball was becoming a real asset for the Blues, even though the club collected another wooden spoon after managing only three wins and a draw from 22 matches.

Throughout 2007 Carrazzo remained a key in Carlton’s set-up - especially during the extended absence of Nick Stevens through injury. In round 7, Andrew racked up a career-high 34 disposals against arch-rivals Collingwood, followed by a Carlton-high 28 against North Melbourne on a Saturday night at the Gold Coast. A week later, he brought up his 50th game of AFL football, and the records kept on coming when he picked up a massive 38 disposals against St Kilda, ending up 5th in the AFL for disposals at an average of just under 26 per game. After such a stellar season, he was a hugely-popular and deserved winner of the John Nicholls Medal as Carlton's Best and Fairest at season's end.


Heading into 2008, the sensational recruitment of Chris Judd during the off-season, and the welcome return of Nick Stevens meant that Carrazzo was asked to play more defensive roles. Yet he still managed to lead the Blues for disposals, on the way to becoming the first Best and Fairest winner since Brett Ratten and Scott Camporeale in 2000 to have a prolific follow-up year. He was rewarded with fourth placing in the Nicholls Medal, and his popularity around the club was acknowledged when he was named Best Clubman. The resurgent Blues won 10 games, jumping back up to eleventh by season’s end, and serving notice that once again, a football giant was stirring.

Carrots’ charmed run with injury came to an abrupt halt in 2009, when he unluckily fractured a forearm during a pre-season practice match. Out for the first four weeks of the season, he came back through the Bullants for two games, and dominated both – racking up 41 disposals against Bendigo, and a scarcely-believable 55 against Box Hill. Straight back into the seniors after that, he damaged a thumb in round 6 against Hawthorn, costing him another four matches. But from then on Andrew stayed match fit for the rest of the year, and in September was part of a Carlton team that returned to the finals at last after an absence of eight years.

On that memorable Saturday night under lights at the Gabba in Brisbane, Carrazzo played his 99th senior game when Carlton met the Lions in a hard-fought Elimination Final. For three quarters, the young Blues were right in the contest and led by four goals at three-quarter time, only to wilt in the last ten minutes to be beaten by 7 points. With that disappointment still burning, Andrew was honoured by being appointed acting captain of Carlton for his 100th game in round 1, 2010. Deputising for his suspended captain Chris Judd, Carrots led a revamped Carlton team out onto the MCG in front of 72,000 fans, and was instrumental in the Blues’ 72-point demolition of Richmond. From then on, he didn’t miss a game all year, averaged almost 23 possessions a week, and finished another creditable fifth in the Best and Fairest. The only black spot in another fine individual season was Carlton’s second-successive, heart-breaking Elimination Final loss – this time to Sydney, by 5 points.

Carrots began 2011 as a member of the Blues’ Leadership Group for the fourth straight season, and took up where he had left off in 2010. He was valuable throughout Carlton’s first fifteen matches (by which time the team had just about guaranteed themselves a finals berth) only to suffer another calf muscle tear in the Blues’ record win in round 15 against Richmond. Sidelined for five weeks, Carrots resumed in Carlton’s victory over Fremantle in round 21, but twinged a hamstring early in the match and was subbed off. Then his troubles continued when he was the innocent victim of a nose-to-tail traffic accident a few days later, and the resulting whiplash injury he suffered cost him his place in the Blues’ impressive round 24 win over St Kilda.

But the following week he was back again, and played one of the most effective games of his career while the Blues – to the joy and relief of their multitudes of supporters - destroyed Essendon in an Elimination Final blockbuster at the MCG. Wearing Essendon captain Jobe Watson like a glove, Carrazzo kept the Bomber playmaker contained all match, as Carlton’s potent midfield set up a glorious ten-goal victory.

Cruelly for Andrew and the legions of Carlton faithful however, the Navy Blues stumbled at the next finals hurdle, going down to West Coast by 3 points in a desperately close Semi Final at Subiaco Oval. After similarly agonising losses in our previous two finals campaigns, this one was extra-hard to stomach. Still, it had been a memorable year for Carlton's popular ball magnet - and it was topped off when he was awarded life membership of the club at the 2011 Annual General Meeting. Andrew Walker and Heath Scotland were similarly honoured – all three having contributed eight years of senior football to the Navy Blues.

In the first months of 2012, life just kept getting better for the Carrazzo family. On January 10, Andrew and his wife Yvette were thrilled by the safe arrival of their first children – triplets no less, and all girls; Grace, Charlotte and Sophia. Historians across the country could not recall a previous VFL or AFL player's wife producing such an instant family. On the field, Carrots was in top form from the first bounce of the new season, averaging 30 possessions per game as the Blues destroyed Richmond, Brisbane and Collingwood in succession. During Carlton’s emphatic demolition of Collingwood at the MCG in round 3, Andrew was assigned a run-with role on Magpie star Scott Pendlebury. Not only did he cut the in-form playmaker right out of the game; he won the ball 29 times himself, and booted a goal on the way to deserved Best on Ground honours.

However, in the first torrid minutes of Carlton’s round 4 clash against Essendon, Carrots was crash-tackled, hit the turf hard and was substituted out of the game before quarter-time. From that point on, his opponent Jobe Watson was the Bombers’ most influential player, and led his side to an upset win. Scans afterward revealed that Andrew had suffered a broken shoulder-blade – a debilitating injury that kept him out of action for seven matches. Four of those games ended in losses for Carlton, as a mounting injury toll played havoc with the team’s stability and sapped the confidence of too many.

When Carrots did eventually make it back to senior football in June, he was a revelation. He had worked tirelessly to maintain his fitness during the recovery process, and added much-needed spark to Carlton’s midfield straight away. While the Blues lurched through the rest of the season to eventually finish tenth, Andrew picked up 31 possessions and 8 marks in round 14 against Hawthorn, and averaged almost 25 possessions per game. Later it was revealed that despite being sidelined for a full third of the year, Carrots had been awarded Best and Fairest votes in 13 of the 16 matches he played, to finish sixth overall in the 2012 John Nicholls Medal. By any measure, it was a sensational effort, especially considering the seriousness of his early-season injury.

Carlton began 2013 under a new senior coach in Mick Malthouse (replacing Brett Ratten) and a new captain in Marc Murphy. Both endured a baptism of fire when the Blues were beaten in the first three games, before wins over West Coast and Adelaide in rounds 4 and 5 respectively began to right the ship. Like many of his team-mates, Carrazzo was far from his best to start with, but when he averaged 24 possessions in those victories over the Eagles and the Crows he showed he was coming back to something like his normal form. However, early in the week after the Adelaide game, stabbing pain in a lower calf muscle sent alarm bells ringing, and he was side-lined again for eight matches.

“It was just a strain, but it was in a funny, uncommon spot,” Andrew said later. “So we wasted three weeks trying to identify what was causing the pain, and where it was coming from.” By the time he had recovered and regained match fitness, Carlton was in the midst of a mid-season slump, so Carrots was rushed back into the side for the round 15 Friday night blockbuster against Collingwood at the MCG. The Blues went down by 41 points in their fourth loss on the trot, but then recovered somewhat to win the next three.

By early August, Carrazzo was playing his fifth match on the comeback trail when Carlton hosted Fremantle at Docklands on a Saturday night. Early in the second quarter, with the heat in the match at its peak, Carrots went down clutching his lower leg and Blues fans groaned in frustration. His calf problem had flared again, and once more his season was about to finish early. In football parlance, calf muscle tears or strains are known as the “old man’s injury,” because all too often they become a chronic problem for veteran players. Considering his medical history, and the fact that Andrew turned 30 by the time the 2014 season rolled around, the task ahead of him was not getting any easier.

Whilst celebrating the club’s 150th year, Carlton began 2014 with a confidence that was quickly destroyed by four straight losses. From there, the team staggered through a lack-lustre season to finish 13th. Carrazzo didn’t return to the senior side until round 3, and alarm bells started ringing when he was a late withdrawal from the team selected to play West Coast in round 6. After more than a month on the sidelines, he won back his place in the Blues’ midfield and was soon back in form. Twice during the year – against Hawthorn in round 13, and Geelong in round 21 – Carrots racked up 32 possessions, leaving no doubt that when he was match-fit and in form, he remained an automatic selection in Carlton’s best line-up.

Some footballers are blessed by good fortune during their careers, while many end their playing days without reaching the level of success that their ability and determination deserves. The latter was certainly true for Andy Carrazzo, who retired in 2015 after one of the bleakest seasons in the history of the Carlton Football Club. The Blues won just four games, suffered an horrific list of injuries, and sacked coach Mick Malthouse on the way to finishing last on the ladder. Despite persistent calf strains, Carrots played 16 of Carlton’s 22 games for the year, including all four wins. As always, he was tireless in his efforts to lift the flagging spirits of his team-mates, and found something extra in his final game to rack up 33 disposals and 10 clearances as the Blues went down to Hawthorn by 54 points.

Afterwards, Carlton’s Football Operations Manager Andrew McKay echoed the feelings of everyone at Princes Park when he said, “Andrew is one of those players you know would bleed blue. He put his heart and soul into everything he did at this football club, and we have been privileged to have him as part of our team. He has always shown tremendous leadership both on and off the field, especially as a mentor to our younger players.”

Soon after Carrazzo’s last game, reports began circulating that he might not have been lost to AFL football after all. Earlier in the year, he had held informal discussions with the League regarding the possibility of taking up umpiring when his playing days were done, and sure enough, by Christmas 2015 he was back in training with a whistle in his hand. However, the persistent calf problems that ended his playing career soon struck again, and he broke down four times in six months before deciding that it was futile to continue.

Milestones

50th game: Round 9, 2007 vs Adelaide
100th game: Round 1, 2010 vs Richmond
150th game: Round 18, 2012 vs Richmond

Career Highlights

2005 9th Best and Fairest
2005 Pre-Season Premiership Player
2007 Pre-Season Premiership Player
2007 John Nicholls Medal
2008 Leadership Group
2008 Best Clubman
2008 4th Best and Fairest
2009 Leadership Group
2010 Leadership Group
2010 5th Best and Fairest
2011 Leadership Group
2011 Life Membership
2012 6th Best and Fairest
2012 Leadership Group
2013 Leadership Group
2014 Leadership Group
2015 - 10th Best and Fairest

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