Christian Petracca at Melbourne training on March 17, 2023 ahead of the Demons' round one game. Picture: AFL Photos

CHRISTIAN Petracca is one of the game's biggest superstars with a sparkling CV that includes a premiership, Norm Smith Medal, best and fairest and three All-Australian jumpers. But he wants more.

Cal Twomey chats to the Melbourne match-winner for Cal's Q&A this week ahead of the Dees' Anzac Day Eve clash with Richmond about the secrets to his success, his motivation, maturing, leadership ambitions and why he can't slow down.

Let's start by talking about drive. What's driving Melbourne this year?

For us it's what we have. It's the list we have, the culture we've created, we want to make the most of what we've got with our group, staff and amazing coaches. I wouldn't say last year is fuelling us for this year, each year is different, but we do want to build a culture where we have sustained success for a long period of time.

What about your personal drive?

I'm always wired pretty differently with that. I love training. For me what you see out on game day is the preparation and the time and effort I put into my training and my body. Last year I was really disappointed with how I kicked my set shots and this year in the first five weeks I've really improved that and put a lot of effort into it. I'm trying to keep my game as consistent as possible and try not to have any flaws.


I've seen you have bursts of success throughout the past decade and get hungrier each time. Is that a fair assessment?

Yeah, but it's a fine line. I feel like sometimes it forces you into over-trying and over-wanting something and needing something. I do touch that line a fair bit. I can get better at letting things come to me. The premiership is the main catalyst for why I play and want to work as hard as I can because that is one of the best feelings I've felt, especially when a lot of people in the industry didn't think we'd win it that year. To come from nowhere to win it with the group we had was really special.

You've played in a lot of big games across your career now. How special is Anzac Day Eve against Richmond?

I absolutely love it. This game and King's Birthday/the MND game are the two I circle on the calendar as the most special each year. The spectacle before the game with the lights turning off, the horses around the boundary line and the national anthem always sends shivers up my spine. We did a tour of the Shrine of Remembrance and listened to people speak about their time in the army. There's no comparison between war and footy – that's a bit embarrassing – but I do think the idea of mateship, loyalty, respecting each other, unity and playing your role are things we can associate with.

Christian Petracca celebrates a goal during round six, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

How influential can a loud crowd be in these contests?

Massive. Huge, huge, huge. I love playing in front of a crowd. I absolutely love it when our fans are rocked up and we have a big crowd against one of these teams like Richmond, who you know their fans are going to come out too. I hated it when we were in COVID when we had games at the MCG and Marvel when there were literally zero people there. It was so hard to get motivated for. But having a loud crowd there adds that extra pressure which I love being a part of.

Melbourne's drop-off last year has been heavily discussed, but was it a reminder to you about how difficult it is to actually win a premiership?

Definitely, and also respecting the game and taking each game as it comes and understanding how hard it is to win. It did give me an appreciation for the Grand Final and how when we won you can't take it for granted. Everything has to be earned. 'Goody' (coach Simon Goodwin) has told us that in his career he won two premierships in his first two years and after that played three or four preliminary finals but never another Grand Final.

Melbourne players look dejected after losing the qualifying final against Sydney on September 2, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

We'll get more into 2021 but when we met a decade ago you didn't have all the accolades. How do you look back on yourself before you entered the AFL system?

I look back at a pretty immature, arrogant kind of kid to be honest. I was probably a young, brash 18-year-old who won a lot of awards growing up and who thought going into the system it would be the same, but it's very different. I wouldn't change what I've done at all. I do have a few regrets but for me, this is who I am and it's the journey I'm on and I can't change that. Going through the situations I've been in with my ACL in my first year, not playing some great footy, being touted as a high draft pick and going No.2 and the pressure of that, it's all helped me become the person I am.

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What's a regret?

I wish I started earlier. My professionalism, good habits, a really good routine and who I am now…I wish I started that when I was 19 or 20. I just didn't really have that. It probably wasn't until my 2019 year. We were second last on the ladder but I was playing some good footy. I was consistent with my preparation, my routine, I got on top of my diet, I understood what I needed to do as a footballer, I became a lot more confident in myself and that came from the training and putting purpose into each week. That's the bit of advice I give to young players – don't wait like I waited. Start your career as soon as you can. I'm already 10 years in and it goes so quick.

Cal Twomey and Christian Petracca in 2014 during the filming of's Going Places series. Picture: AFL Photos

You were a part of our first Going Places series in 2014, where we tracked yourself, Paddy McCartin, Lachie Weller and Jarrod Pickett through your 2014 draft year. What do you remember about that?

I remember going to the basketball court at Prahran and we were shooting some hoops and talking about my journey. We spoke a little bit about the pick one and two stuff through the year and how the pressure was on that. There was a bit about my family background and where I'm from and the impact they've had on me. And I also remember we were out at Eastern Ranges one night being mic'd up at training which is pretty funny.

You were honest about how early you wanted to be drafted when others were a bit shy about saying it. I've always felt you helped changed the way draftees spoke about their ambitions and dreams and since then pretty much all of the guns have said they wanted to go No.1. Have you noticed that shift?

The culture in Australia probably has shifted a little bit with that. It's OK to set goals and set achievements in your life. For me, I wanted to go No.1. I think that was great recognition for the footy I was playing that year and was I disappointed when I heard I wasn't going No.1? A little bit, but I think that's OK. It doesn't mean I wasn't excited to be pick No.2, I was. Social media and the culture of American sports has probably changed a little bit of the AFL dynamic and Australian sports. I wouldn't say I'm the main catalyst for that but I do think there's been a cultural shift to see guys more confident to be themselves.


The focus on Harley Reid is on another level. You've spoken to him?

I haven't chatted to him much. It was funny, I followed him back on Instagram and he's with Connors Sports Management. I saw his whole team at the airport and I just messaged him after and said 'Sorry I didn't grab you at the airport' and wished him all the best for the season. He sent me a photo of him with me at his under-12s Victorian presentation night when he was a young kid and I was handing out the jerseys. I said 'That'll look great when you win a Brownlow when you're older'. That's the only chat we've had.

Rewind to 2021. Do you remember when it hit you during that season that you thought a premiership was realistic?

It was after this game two years ago – we knocked off Richmond in the Anzac game, the reigning premiers, and we thought 'We're a crack here'. We had a few games that we were expected to win but for us to go in and beat the Tigers and leave that game 6-0 was huge. A lot of our mindsets shifted after that to thinking we could win it.

A young Harley Reid (left) with Christian Petracca in 2017. Picture: Supplied

The third quarter of the Grand Final has gone into footy folklore as the moment the Dees snapped a 57-year premiership drought. How many times have you watched it?

I've watched it a fair few times, I'm not going to lie. I've never watched the whole game but I've watched the third quarter a fair bit.

What stands out to you?

The fact we were 19 points down. That's pretty scary. The way that (Marcus) Bontempelli was playing, he was dominating. And just the momentum shift. It changed the game. The margin at the end was 74 points but it was an absolute game for three and a half quarters.


I voted on the Norm Smith Medal that game. Late in the last quarter I was pretty set on my votes but I'm not sure what I would have done if Bayley Fritsch had kicked a couple more goals. How many do you think he would have had to kick to grab it off you?

He kicked six…. I reckon seven or eight is rare air for a Grand Final. That's a lot of goals.

Thirty-nine disposals, two goals and nine clearances is rare air too. How much pride do you take from winning the Norm Smith?

It is a really special feeling, but you don't go into the Grand Final wanting to win the Norm Smith. I want to win the premiership. That was the one thing I said before the draft – I said it to you – that I felt I was a clutch player and that I'd always loved playing in big games whether it's basketball or football and I feel like I rise to the occasion. I'm really proud of our footy club and proud of myself. After the game I got told I was the first Melbourne player to win a Norm Smith Medal so that was special.


Athletes always look forwards but do you ever find yourself reflecting on what you've already done?

I don't do it as often as I should to be honest. All athletes who are competitive in what they do are always wanting more: wanting to achieve more, never in the present and never looking back. That's something I need to do more often, to be more grateful for what I have and what I've achieved so far.

Do you look ahead and think about what you'd like your career to look like at the end of it?

Of course. I wouldn't be human if I wasn't thinking about winning more premierships, more awards, that's just the nature of a competitor. I want to win more premierships. It's the one thing I am obsessed with. I want to be at a club with sustained success.

Christian Petracca evades Darcy Gardiner during the 2013 TAC Cup preliminary final between Eastern Ranges and Geelong Falcons on September 14, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

You've really invested in your mindfulness. How has that helped you?

It's evolved each year. I wasn't really into it early in my career. As you know, I get pretty distracted quite easily and I've got a lot of energy. When someone told me mindfulness is meditation (while) sitting still, I looked at them like, 'This is ridiculous, why would I want to sit still?' It was when I first met (fiancée) Bella and we were living together in the hub and every morning Belle would go for a run on the beach at 6.30am and I'd go with her. She'd run and I'd stay on the beach by myself and listen to the waves and go for a swim or put some music on. I still find myself in ruts every now and then but mindfulness has really slowed my thinking down, especially during the game. If you're having a bad quarter or you make a mistake, just going back to your breathing and taking your time helps.

How else do you slow down?

It's hard. I feel like I need to be busy. I'm not someone who likes to sit on the couch. I'm always doing something. If I'm on the couch I'm stretching or have the Theragun out, I'm on the roller, I've got my compression pants on. I feel like I have to do something. I can't be sitting still. I love being around nature because I feel like it makes me really present and really relaxed.


I want to ask you about some of the key people at the Demons. What has Simon Goodwin done for you?

He's been absolutely incredible for me. Early on in my career he tried to develop those habits I was speaking about in not waiting and having purpose in your training and everything you do. He's one of the main catalysts for the player I am today and he had so much belief and faith in me. Our relationship is awesome.

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Clayton Oliver and yourself are the ultimate midfield combination. How are you different and similar?

We're completely different! He doesn't think at all and I'm a massive overthinker. We do balance each other out. We get told at the club we're a bit yin and yang which is very funny. The career he's had is just amazing. I think that's the best thing about our relationship – the fact we're able to achieve what we are without having any jealousy and actually wanting to see each other succeed. It's a competitive relationship but it's also really healthy.

Clayton Oliver (left) and Christian Petracca celebrate the Dees' premiership win. Picture: AFL Photos

Kysaiah Pickett lived with you when he started at the Demons. Tell me about your relationship with Kozzy.

He's a ripper, he's like my little brother. He lived with me for a year and a half at my house and we got to know each other better through that and then I went and visited where his dad's from at an Indigenous mission two hours out of Adelaide and that was incredible. To be able to do that with him and to see where he and his family's from was great.

Have you been in his ear about re-signing?

Nah, I haven't to be honest. I've kept it pretty low-key. I'm confident he's going to sign. I have no issue at all that he's going to sign.

Christian Petracca and Kysaiah Pickett celebrate a win during round 22, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

You're the player representative at Melbourne for Indigenous Reconciliation Action Plan. What drew you to being a part of that?

I've always loved the Indigenous culture, I love hearing Kozzy's stories about where he's from, Steven May's story in Darwin. I really, really love it and I love what the Indigenous players bring to the game. For me to be a part of the RAP at Melbourne is really, really special.

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Your leadership's grown and grown. Do you want to be the next captain at Melbourne?

Yeah I'd love to be. I reckon being a captain of a footy club would be absolutely incredible. It's something I've definitely improved as I've gotten older with that ability to lead and develop habits. I struggled with it early on because I hadn't got my own backyard in order but once I did that I feel like I was able to lead.

Christian Petracca (left) and Simon Goodwin share a laugh during round three, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Anyone who knows you would know your generosity. You're great with kids, you sign a million autographs, you don't miss a jumper presentation at your old club Beverley Hills. I've even got a pair of your shoes. Where does that side of you come from?

I've grown up in a great family with two older brothers and my parents and a very loving family. I feel like it's always been me, I've always loved giving my time to people. I love being around young kids. I feel like I am a big kid to be honest so for me I actually kind of understand what they're talking about. I'm a pretty humble person and I like being myself. I like the life I live, I'm very privileged to do what I do.

Final one. You've just come from some time at your Nonna's place… what's on the menu? 

We made homemade pasta, a nice tagliatelle with some sauce which was divine and she made some chicken parmas as well which was awesome. I loved it.