In the aftermath of the 2017 decider, accolades have come thick and fast for the superstars of this champion Melbourne team. With Cameron Smith’s Dally M win, Billy Slater’s Clive Churchill triumph, and speculation over Cooper Cronk’s playing career, the focus has deservedly been on the Storm’s undisputed ‘Big Three.’
But arguably the most impressive individual performance of the year has been that of Melbourne’s forgotten man; Josh Addo-Carr. The Fox, as he is affectionately known, has enjoyed a breakout 2017 in the top grade. At just 22 years of age, he has already achieved what few players accomplish in their entire career. What’s more remarkable is the fact these achievements have come in the face of adversity few would ever experience.
Breaking the cycle
For a man who claims to play his best footy when in a stable home environment, it hasn’t been the easiest of ascensions for Addo-Carr. Raised in Redfern, Addo-Carr spent much of his youth moving from house to house, lodging with family members as he struggled through train and trial contracts. Few know the importance of family more than Addo-Carr. Many of the family members who supported him during his youth have since found themselves in prison – a fact Addo-Carr doesn’t shy away from.
His trademark celebration while at West Tigers – masking his face with his hand – was a nod to the five family members spending time behind bars. When arriving at the Storm he was cautioned against flashy try celebrations, sat down by Craig Bellamy to explain that wasn’t how things were done in Melbourne. Even though his celebrations are now more subdued, Addo-Carr knows full well that his career could have panned out much differently.
A La Perouse junior, the Fox played his junior league with fellow NRL speedsters Alex Johnston and James Roberts. While those two were making a name for themselves scoring sensational solo tries, Addo-Carr languished in park footy. After spending two seasons in the Cronulla under 20’s system, Addo-Carr was picked up by the Tigers but struggled for consistent game time under coach Jason Taylor. Managing only nine starts in Season 2016, it seemed unlikely that Addo-Carr’s career would kick on, let alone reach the heights it has in Melbourne. Few could have predicted the feats this speedster would accomplish with his wing partner – Suliasi Vunivalu. Between the two of them, they have scored a whopping third of Melbourne’s tries this season.
A glimpse of what was to come
Remarkably, Addo-Carr and Vunivalu debuted in the same game, albeit for different clubs. Round seven of the 2016 season saw Addo-Carr line up for the Tigers against his soon to be wing partner at the Storm. That game would ultimately end in heartbreak for Addo-Carr as a Cronk field goal capped off a remarkable 19-18 Storm comeback.
Providing a glimpse of what the following season would deliver, Addo-Carr nabbed a try in that game, with Vunivalu grabbing two for good measure.
The Fantastic Mr Fox
The powers to be at Melbourne knew of Addo-Carr’s potential, signing him to a three-year deal days before he had made his Tigers debut. Despite their belief, they could not have known how instrumental he would be in their run to an impressive third Premiership.
Statistically, he has been Melbourne’s best all year. Having played every game this season, he tops the entire Storm playing roster for run metres (3805m), line breaks (26) and tackle busts (104).
The next closest?… You guessed it. His right-wing partner in Vunivalu.
Addo-Carr’s 23 tries for the season, capped off by a remarkable two in the decider, have him alongside Vunivalu as the NRL’s top try scorer. A remarkable stat for a player with only 35 NRL appearances to his name. His blistering speed and elusiveness have positioned the aptly named Fox as one of the toughest wingers to handle in the comp. Addo-Carr has a big future ahead and the Storm know full well, having recently extended his contract until the end of the 2021 season. Surely, further honours can’t be far away. Don’t be surprised to see his name floated for a vacant Blues jersey come next year.
In a season of records for Melbourne, the exploits of Addo-Carr have been overshadowed by those around him. Given that he has done it tougher than most, that won’t worry him one bit. For Addo-Carr, this season’s greatest reward was saved for the decider. Running out on Sunday with his grandparents, father, and young daughter in the stands, The Fox went a long way towards repaying those who had sacrificed so much to see him achieve great things. Undoubtedly, that was the true measure of success for Melbourne’s Fantastic Mr Fox.
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