Alex Cincotta tackles Tom Stewart during the R15 match between Carlton and Geelong at the MCG on June 21, 2024. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

TRIPS to the MCG are drastically different now for Alex Cincotta. He used to make the pilgrimage every weekend in winter with his dad to watch Melbourne, amid a dark period for the Demons during the Mark Neeld and Dean Bailey years.

Now the 27-year-old travels to the home of football to get a job done for Michael Voss. Although, that job has changed in 2024. 

Last year, Cincotta played 19 games, including three finals, across half-back after being signed in February via the pre-season supplemental selection period to cover the loss of Zac Williams, after he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament late in the summer.

But over the past two months, Cincotta has been handed a range of different lockdown roles. It started with gun small forwards – Bobby Hill (one goal), Kysaiah Pickett (one goal) and Tom Papley (two goals) – and then evolved into All-Australian midfielders in Touk Miller (21 disposals), Zak Butters (24 disposals) and Zach Merrett (21 disposals). 

Friday night was different. Cincotta nullified five-time All-Australian defender Tom Stewart, while kicking two goals of his own to win a crucial match-up in the 63-point win over the Cats in front of 75,218 people at the MCG. 

"It is challenging, of course. I'm playing on some of the best players in the competition. They are stars of the game for a reason. I just try and play my role. Whoever I get each week I just try and limit them as much as I can and see where it lands. I just want to help the boys get the four points," Cincotta told after the win. 


"You are in survival mode a lot of the time. I think for me personally, it has been great because it keeps you on edge all the time. You always look at ways how you can get better and I just look at these roles as a way to get better, another opportunity to challenge myself against the best players in the comp. I really thrive in those situations."

Voss chose not to declare his hand the day before the game in his weekly press conference, or even 60 minutes before the bounce when speaking to Fox Footy. Patrick Dangerfield, Max Holmes and Gryan Miers all presented as tag targets, but the Blues identified Stewart as the player they wanted to restrict. And they had the man to do it. 

"I found out on Wednesday," Cincotta said. "He [Voss] gave me a couple of days to prepare. I wasn't too sure who I was going to go to, but it ended up being Stew. We felt like he is a star of the game, a five-time All-Australian and I was really looking forward to the match-up. 

"I was on Geelong's VFL list for a little bit there and I actually trained with the boys quite a bit down there when I was on the list, so I got to know Tom Atkins, Stewy, Cam Guthrie, Mark Blicavs so I actually know a few of the boys there."

Alex Cincotta in action during the R15 match between Carlton and Geelong at the MCG on June 21, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Cincotta's story is well known by now. Nothing has come easy. He didn't play at VFL level until the age of 24. By then, the Newtown and Chilwell product had lived in a gym in Geelong West during the early stages of the pandemic to put his body back together after a knee reconstruction. 

Unlike notable mature-age recruits like Dayne Zorko, Tim Kelly, Kane Lambert or James Podsiadly, his state league CV didn't leap off the page. But things changed in 2022. 

Cincotta proved he was a star at VFL level, finishing runner-up in Carlton's VFL best and fairest behind Paddy Dow. When Williams went down, Blues list manager Nick Austin scoured the country but then invited the half-back under his nose down to trial. Oleg Markov was also invited to audition for the spot, before Collingwood found room on its list days after not offering him a rookie deal.  

Alex Cincotta looks on during the VFL R16 match between Carlton and Sandringham at Trevor Barker Beach Oval on July 31, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

"It has changed quite a bit, hasn't it?" Cincotta reflected. "Two years ago, I was a chippy and I was on the tools, now I'm playing in front of 75,000 and sometimes 90,000 people. 

"I do what I love; I always loved playing football as a kid; my dream was to always play AFL. I used to come here every weekend and watched my beloved Dees get smacked around a bit with my dad. We were both members. It is a really special place for me, the MCG."

Cincotta has been living on one-year deals, playing life and death football. He triggered an extension for 2025 when he faced Essendon on King's Birthday Eve and will enter next year with greater security if he maintains this form. 

Twelve of his first 26 games have been at the MCG in front of an average crowd of 73,651 people. Life has certainly changed a lot since the start of last year when he was covered in sweat, sawdust and sunscreen, building a deck in Geelong.