The 10 players featured in Cal's Q&A so far in 2023

FROM Christian Petracca to Zak Butters to Darcy Parish, some of the game's best players have spoken to's Callum Twomey one-on-one in the first half of 2023.

Cal has caught up with several of the League's stars in a series which launched at the start of the season.

Catch up on every edition of Cal's Q&A below.

'I just want to be authentic': Top Roo on captaincy, expectations and Clarko

Luke McDonald is interviewed by Callum Twomey in 'Cal's Q&A'. Picture: AFL Media

LUKE McDonald enters the next phase of North Melbourne as its new co-captain alongside Jy Simpkin. But it wasn't always heading that way for the lifelong Kangaroo.

You've had a big summer – gotten married and made co-captain of the club you have supported your whole life. Let's start with the captaincy. What type of skipper do you want to be at North?
I just want to be authentic. I don't want to change who I am because I feel like my personality has gotten me into the role. I want to be a players' captain – very approachable and do absolutely anything for anyone. I've always tried to drive the standards and make sure we're as tight as we can be. We've had some tough years but we've been able to stay really close throughout that.

For the full interview with the Kangaroos co-captain, click here.

Smooth operator: Lions' piano man on flag hopes and the farm

Hugh McCluggage celebrates a goal for Brisbane against Essendon in 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

HUGH McCluggage's place among the AFL's best is assured but Brisbane's new vice-captain is only looking to get better.

You start this year in a different position as well as vice-captain at the Lions. Had a leadership role always been on your radar?
When I first got to the club it was a long way off. As you probably know, I was a quiet kid and I just liked to get stuck into things and let my actions do the talking. The thing that I'm most proud of is I haven't had to change who I am to get to this position. I've just gone about my business and tried to be a good person first and foremost. I probably didn't think I'd be vice-captain by the time I was 24/25 but I'm super proud of it.

For the full interview with the Lions gun, click here.

'It's a big decision': Parish on free agency, Brad's 'fizz' and Bombers journey

Essendon midfielder Darcy Parish. Picture: AFL Photos

ESSENDON's star midfielder sat down with Cal to discuss his future, the Bombers under Brad Scott, his rise at the club and whether he's still much help on his family's farm.

I'm sure you were on Brad's list of coffee catch-ups when he was first appointed coach. What has he wanted from you and vice versa? 
I caught up with him a couple of weeks after he signed and he sat down with most of the senior guys at the club getting a feel for what the last couple of years have been like. The thing with Scotty is he just wants us to play to our strengths and to get the best out of each of us on the list. As a player, that's all you want to hear from your coach and he's fully in, he values everyone and wants to get the absolute best out of them. He told me I could be one of the top-five mids in the comp and to keep striving and setting the example at training and that's doing my job for the team. He's had our full respect and trust. He fizzes us up before games which is great.

For the full interview with the Bombers midfielder, click here.

'I was going to find a way': Port gun on his size, cheekiness and scariest injury

Zak Butters celebrates a goal for Port Adelaide. Picture: AFL Photos

ZAK Butters has been a star on the rise in Port Adelaide's line-up since he arrived at the club as an early pick in 2018. 

There's been a lot of focus on how exciting Port's midfield can be with yourself, Connor Rozee, Ollie Wines and the addition of Jason Horne-Francis. What are you guys doing to build that chemistry up?
Tuesdays and Thursdays are our main days so it's about working with the rucks. We have a few young ruckmen as well so getting to know each other's strengths. We all complement each other in different areas – Ollie is a bull and we want him in there crashing and bashing, hopefully me and 'Roze' can do a bit of both when we need to and 'Horney' has been a good addition – he brings a bit of everything we didn't have. He's really explosive, powerful, a gamechanger so I think if we keep building we all have different strengths and can complement each other. 

For the full interview with the Power star, click here.

'I'm wired pretty differently': Petracca on success, regrets and not slowing down

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.

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.

For the full interview with the Demons star, click here.

'I'm waiting until a crazy goal': Rachele on Crows' rise, Rankine and backflip plans

Josh Rachele in action during the Showdown in round three, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

HE HAS the Rocky tune and the rock star moves and Josh Rachele has plenty more up his sleeve.

You've always been a big celebrator, it's not new just because you're in the AFL. Do you think we're seeing more of players showing their personalities?
It's definitely a trend. In sports like basketball and NFL they're really big celebrators, but I don't think it's ever been a big thing in footy until the past five or 10 years. Before then it was always about getting back to the person who gave you the ball and 'Tex' (Taylor Walker) is always reminding me to do that. [But] if I was Darcy Fogarty on the weekend I reckon I'd be turning straight to the crowd! I feel like a lot of us young boys are embracing it and it's not just a thing to have all eyes on you, it gets everyone else up and going. It's similar to what Tom Papley does when he kicks his goal and he has his arm going around in the air, it creates excitement in your team.

For the full interview with the Crows livewire, click here.

'Straight away, I was all-in': Kelly on captaincy, the future and his Giant decision

GWS star Josh Kelly ahead of the Giants' round three clash with Carlton. Picture: AFL Photos

LIFE at the Giants has changed this season for Josh Kelly. He has a new coach in Adam Kingsley and different responsibilities after being the club's co-captain in 2022 for the season.

How different has this year felt for you? New coach, a new-look midfield, new faces.  
It's very different. I had the same head coach all the way through with Leon (Cameron) but also a lot of familiar faces all the way through as well. We had a lot of fun over the years and although not the ultimate success, we had a lot of success in that time as well, but the fresh start, new faces, new ideas and philosophies, have been really exciting for a whole bunch of us. What 'Kingers' (Kingsley) has brought in with his ideas culturally but also the game plan we're trying to play has been an exciting one. It's not going to be perfect overnight, but we'll keep working on those areas and hopefully keep getting better so our footy for our fans and the general public is an exciting brand to watch.

For the full interview with the Giants midfielder, click here.

'I'm not near the best that I can get to': Why Day stayed, his 'oxygen mask' mentality

Will Day celebrates a goal during Hawthorn's clash with the Western Bulldogs in round seven, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

WILL Day is emerging as a star of the AFL in front of our eyes. The 21-year-old is on a sharp rise this year as one of the most exciting midfielders in the game and will be a key part of Hawthorn's build under Sam Mitchell. 

Whose idea was the move into the midfield – you or Sam?
It was pretty conversational. Early in my career when we both knew that half-back was the better spot to begin with there was a few comments here and there [about playing midfield]. He came to me and had a bit of a chat to get in there last year and I played one or two games there. In my exit meeting last year we had a good chat and we said I'd do my pre-season there and if it goes alright I'll stay there but if not I knew I could go back to half-back.

For the full interview with the emerging Hawk, click here.

'I'm in a good space now': Gun Dog on life in the spotlight, art and flag dreams

Bailey Smith after the Western Bulldogs' win over GWS in round eight, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

BAILEY Smith quickly became one of footy's most recognisable faces at the start of his career as a young star on the rise for the Western Bulldogs.

Evaluating your own career must be an evolving process. How have you looked to grow your game? 
It's about building that more outward look to my teammates and not just focusing on my own game. The more you play the more doing the right things becomes second nature so I've tried to help the younger boys and their journeys. That's made me more invested to come in each day to help the new draftees doing touch or taking them for edits downstairs. That's made me more invested day to day. I sat on the bench and helped out when I was injured down at Port Melbourne and that stuff I probably wouldn't have considered in my first few years because you're so stressed about getting a game. I've been able to spread my wings, help others and I want to lead by example to help create our culture as well. We always strive for more and I want to be a pioneer in that. 

For the full interview with the Dogs star, click here.

'I'm not a very patient person': Docker on pressure, passion and push to be great

Caleb Serong ahead of Fremantle's clash with Hawthorn in round eight, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

AS FREMANTLE'S co-vice-captain this season, Caleb Serong is in a new role. But the gun midfielder and Rising Star winner has also taken a new mindset into his fourth AFL season.

Your end to last season was phenomenal, particularly that final against the Western Bulldogs. How do you try to approach big games?
The beauty about the finals games I played in was the focus on the contest in tight and there are probably more contests in finals. It was almost a simplified version of footy with that tough, hard brand. I'd like to think I can succeed in those games so I didn't really approach it too differently. I get really excited by the opportunity we have in front of big crowds, great opposition and the challenge. I love the individual and team battles and as a midfield group we love testing ourselves against the best. 

For the full interview with the Dockers midfielder, click here.