When people think of North Melbourne, they often think of Ben Cunnington. Just a tough, unassuming and elite footballer. A man who embodies the famous Shinboner spirit.
After winning his first Syd Barker Medal in 2014 at the age of just 23, it feels like ‘Cunners’ has been one of the AFL’s elite inside midfielders forever.
It takes time for players to adapt to the AFL environment though, and it was no different for North’s number 10.
He says it was through the guidance of club leaders at the time that he began to truly express himself on the football field.
“As a mentor, I probably looked to Andrew Swallow … he was a competitor and he was the one who introduced me to body work and timing, He was a good first possession player so I did a lot of work with him on the field,” Cunnington said on North’s latest Member Q&A, presented by AIA.
“Daniel Wells helped me get comfortable within myself and helped me find my feet. When you first get drafted it’s a bit blurry … Daniel’s one that definitely helped me gain the confidence in myself.”
With Cunnington and fellow veteran Todd Goldstein leading the way for North’s young brigade of midfielders, the likes of Luke Davies-Uniacke and Tarryn Thomas are benefitting from their experience and leadership.
“[Davies-Uniacke has] got speed, he’s got explosive power, he can mark above his head, so he’s one that definitely could slip into my spot and do even better,” Cunnington said.
“[Thomas has] got wicked instinct, his awareness and skills, as everyone sees, are elite, especially this year he’s starting to really get our structure and understand roles within the stoppage.
“It’s something I’ve enjoyed over the last couple of years… to help the young guys and help direct where I want to get to, I’m all for that.”
To hear Cunnington discuss his career highlights, his love for North Melbourne and tips for midfield craft, tune into the latest Member Q&A above, presented by AIA.