COREY Durdin can't hear it on the field anymore, but he knows it still happens.

Playing for Central District in the SANFL before being drafted by Carlton in 2020, Durdin would regularly notice his younger sister Shianne's support for him from the sidelines.

"Crowds were obviously a bit smaller playing there than at AFL games but she would be the loudest voice in the crowd. You'd just hear her shouting 'Go Corey!' so it was pretty good being out there and hearing that," Durdin told this week.

But while Durdin could hear Shianne, she couldn't see him.

Corey Durdin and sister Shianne after round one, 2022. Picture: Supplied

Shianne, now 12 years old, is blind, having been born with a genetic condition called leber congenital amaurosis, which affects the retina in the eye. She is unable to see colours and it affects her ability to see light.

"From my understanding," Durdin said, "if you shut your eyes and flash a torch over them that's essentially what she sees full-time."

Durdin is busy forging an AFL career with Carlton, having made his debut last year at Adelaide Oval in front of his family, including Shianne, against Port Adelaide in round 22. But the hard-working small forward is also doing it with a different perspective than most players, having grown up with an extra layer of care for his sibling.

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He was eight when Shianne was born and remembers coming to grips with what was ahead for her.

"It was very hard to digest that my sister would be blind and couldn't see," the 20-year-old Durdin said.

"You put it into perspective that she doesn't know what I look like, she doesn't know what the sky looks like, just simple things in life that we take for granted at times. That hit me a fair bit. As we've gotten older she's been a lot better at dealing with the challenges that come with it and I've got more empathy for her and I'm much better at being able to help her out."

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The pair are close. Durdin's family, including parents Colleen and Phil and middle brother Tyson, remain in Adelaide as he settles into life at the Blues, having played six of seven games so far this season under new coach Michael Voss. But he speaks to Shianne on the phone regularly and they message over Facebook, with BrailleNote allowing Shianne to communicate.  

She uses a cane to help adjust to new places (and will get a guide dog when she turns 16), and has just started high school, which has brought on new nerves for her oldest brother.

"When she was younger obviously my main worry was how would she be able to do simple things? Like going for a walk, going to the toilet or even finding her way around the house," Durdin said.

"But she's actually grown to memorise the house so she knows her way around really well. And she was lucky enough to have a support worker that helped her out to be able to learn how to do simple things.

"Now she's started high school my worries sort of shift over to what other people are going to be like around her. It's bullying and those words that rush through your mind. As much as I don't want that for her, I can only assume it will happen at one stage which is really unfortunate.

"However I think it's gotten a lot better in schools with inclusion and embracing other people is a lot better than what it maybe used to be."

Adam Cerra, George Hewett and Corey Durdin enjoy Carlton's round one win in 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Shianne is a huge part of Durdin's football journey even though she is unable to watch him play. He has tried describing the game to her as best he can, explaining its rules, how he plays and its shapes and sizes, and she's revelled in his success as Durdin got closer to the draft and then had his hopes realised when the Blues selected him two years ago.

"Shianne is a really bright person. Just a simple talk with her she'll be so energetic and she just loves taking on everything that comes her way. She never gives up, she's really resilient in that way. When I hang around her I get so much energy and fulfilment from being someone who she cares a lot about and me the same for her," he said.

"She's probably one of my biggest supporters by far. She wouldn't even know what's going on but she just hears my name get called out and she'll cheer on. She cheers on the Carlton boys. It's just so good. I find it so funny how she would have no idea what's happening in the game but she still is one of the biggest supporters in my life."

Just as Shianne follows her brother's career, Durdin is keenly across her ambitions, too. She loves her music and is a gifted singer and pianist. She had also competed in athletics events in recent years, too, having broken some records in the 100, 200 and 800-metre races at her primary school.

Two years ago she was invited to compete at state level against other children with disabilities, but the onset of COVID-19 stopped the carnival. Durdin was disappointed – he had wanted to be her running aide, a requirement for vision-impaired athletes to ensure they stay in their correct lane during the race.

"I was hoping she would go on to do that because she would have needed someone to run with her and I would have loved to do that," he said.

"They need to run themselves and I would have been there purely as a guide to make sure she was running in a straight line. I would have loved to have done that and been there for her like she's been there for me my whole life so far."

Durdin's attentiveness to Shianne's needs has spilled into his football. Those at Carlton marvel at his selflessness on the field, knowing he has been wired to look after others. He tackles, pressures and harasses inside-50 and works at the feet of Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow, becoming a staple of the forward line under Voss, despite missing one game due to being a COVID close contact.

Corey Durdin celebrates a goal during round three, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

"It's life as a small forward. Sometimes you don’t get as many touches and some days you do. The thing that I really value and what I think internally is really valued is what I do for the team. Blocking for the talls, giving an assist off and then helping out our defence by running that off-ball pattern pays dividends for our system and our team," Durdin said.

"I think through my family it's helped me transition through how I take care of the people who are really close to me in life and my teammates on the field. It's a priority for me to always look out for others."


Durdin wants to take that elsewhere, too, and is keen to start working with guide dogs in his spare time. Human trials have begun to see if sight can be restored for those suffering with Shianne's condition, a dream shared by all of the Durdin family.

"I'm most proud of her attitude to life. There's a lot of people who take things for granted and give up possibly too easily. I look at my sister and I see someone who is so resilient and someone so happy to do things," Durdin said.

"She makes everything she does her own. I'm hoping one day she'll be able to see and watch a game of footy."