Remembering Geelong’s quiet superstar

Corey played 276-games, winning three premierships with the Cats.

I once asked Western Bulldogs Club Doctor Gary Zimmerman, as part of a magazine interview, who was his favourite sports star. Dr Zimmerman took a while to come up with a response, and fair enough too, it’s a loaded question with so many options.

Before answering, he asked me the same question, who was my favourite sports star? I said Joel Corey.

It was easy to forget, in the bevy of superstars which made up the glorious era of 2007-2011, the tall and athletic midfielder from East Perth, in the number 11. For a start, Corey shared midfield time with Gary Ablett, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Selwood, Cameron Ling, Paul Chapman, Steve Johnson, etc. etc. It’s unfair to leave any names out, but you get the idea.

On-field he didn’t really wow you with the utter brilliance of Ablett, the big moment timing of Bartel, the unrelenting courage of Selwood or the mercurialness of Johnson. He was just always there, a clearance machine, running all day, the ability to hit any target no mater what side of the body he used. He may not have appeared on every highlight reel, but via the stat sheet and more importantly, the eye test, you’d notice his impact, even if the wider football community may not have.

Aside from his on-field exploits, the true reason Corey got lost in the shuffle of Geelong’s supreme midfield was his off-field demeanour. Corey may have been the most unassuming three-time premiership and two-time best and fairest winning footballer to have ever played the game.

He wouldn’t appear on any pre-game radio broadcast, you wouldn’t see him on Open Mike and he certainly wouldn’t be found as a panellist on the Footy Show. In fact, the only piece of media I can remember Corey ever doing was the wonderfully produced 2007 Grand Final reflection.

Long after the crowd had gone home and thousands of delirious Cats fans were back celebrating across all corners of Australia, Corey led the team back onto the MCG for a quiet moment or two left to ponder what they had just accomplished.

Not only does the video focus on Corey, he also narrates it, which for many fans of the league and maybe even some Cats fans, may have been the first time you had ever heard his voice. It is fitting that the one-time Corey chose to take a small step into the limelight, it was in front of an empty stadium, with only his teammates by his side.

Thankfully, his brilliance was never lost on Geelong. He is one of only 24-players to have won multiple Carji Greeves Medals. The first coming in 2005 and the second coming in 2008. Frustratingly and by coincidence, both of Corey’s best and fairest winning years ended in utter despair for the Cats.

And maybe by fate, Corey’s career would end on a brutal night for the Geelong Football Club as well. A preliminary final loss to arch rivals Hawthorn proved to be his final game and of course, with little fanfare, he announced his retirement a few weeks later.

If there was one way to describe the impact of Corey on Geelong and the AFL, aside from his three premiership medallions, two All Australians and prominent facial hair, Corey was one of the first truly athletic, oversized midfielders. It has become the blueprint for a prototypical midfielder in 2017. Corey was that player drafted 17-years earlier. It’s little wonder Marcus Bontempelli has turned into a star of the competition, he has the original as his midfield coach.

It’s still a little distressing seeing him in Bulldogs colours on gameday, one would have thought with such little fame off the field, Corey would have retired and wandered off from the game. Alas he continues at Whitten Oval where he was no doubt an unheralded piece of their premiership win.

I hope and I’m sure many other Geelong fans also wish to see Corey back in Geelong colours in some capacity. He did make one trip down the highway as a guest of the club, in a motorcade as they honoured the 2007 premiership team prior to the Round 10 clash against Port Adelaide.

Although with so many club legends there that night, you may have missed Joel Corey and that was no doubt fine with him.