By Nicholas Galea
23 year old Josh Guthrie grew up in Sunbury in a household that could be simply described as a football family.
One of four brothers each who are making their mark in the AFL on and off the field, Josh is the third oldest with older brother Ben (29) being a journalist with the first with the AFL and now the AFL Players Association. Josh’s two other brothers Cameron (26) and Zach (20) represent Geelong in the Australian Football League.
‘There’s a lot of footy obviously, it’s kind of normal for me but it is good because we can all get to bond over it I guess,’ Guthrie said.
‘Growing up we have always been really close with each other and our sports, we were into our footy, basketball and cricket.’
‘We’d always be in the backyard, always practicing our technique and playing with or against each other it was always been pretty competitive.’
‘It has kept us close which is obviously good, having two of us play at a pretty high level is very good and to be able to follow, it sets a good role model for me as well.’
Even though Guthrie has made football his eventual calling, it was with a cricket ball where he started making a name for himself representing the Central Highlands at the state championships.
‘I represented Victoria in Under 13s and played state championships for six years as well. We were state champions in my Under 18s year and played that on the MCG which was fun.’
‘I batted ok but being a leg spinner was my go to skill in making any of the teams I did and I enjoyed it a lot.’
Guthrie played his junior football with the Sunbury Lions Football club from Under 10s to the Under 18s winning two premierships in his bottom-age Under 14s and Under 16s seasons. From there his journey took him to the Calder Cannons but unfortunately he did not make their bottom-age list. With that Guthrie chose to take a year off football focusing on basketball and gym instead.
After a year later Guthrie tried his luck once again at the Cannons, going one better but he wasn’t able to establish himself in the line-up regularly instead finding himself once again playing football at Sunbury. Despite this, Guthrie is adamant that his time at Calder paid dividends for the years ahead.
‘It was a few years ago now, I was in a very good team that year and I think we had nine or 10 guys drafted that year,’ Guthrie said.
‘We had a lot of good players which made it difficult for me to play. I also had an injury the second half of the year at Sunbury in my first senior match which put me out of action.
‘I played one game at Calder but the big thing was being able to continue developing my football.’
After his time with the Cannons, Guthrie’s football pathway took him down the Princes Freeway where he spent three seasons (2015-17) with the Geelong VFL team in a bid to continue his AFL ambitions but being a reserves team for the AFL club made it tough to nail down a spot in the line-up.
‘I went to Geelong VFL and spent three years there, two on the development list before playing nine games in my third year,’ Guthrie said.
‘They didn’t have a development side, development league was for stand-alone clubs so they didn’t have any of that at the time either so I played a fair bit at Sunbury those two or three years as well.’
‘I was able to play well enough at Sunbury and keep developing my game there.’
After a patient few years developing and biding his time in Geelong’s VFL system, Guthrie made the decision to try his luck at Coburg seeking greater opportunities. The move so far is paying off as he has played 26 games for the Club since 2018.
‘At the time I was very focused on making the Geelong VFL list but throughout February I had a think about it,’ Guthrie said.
‘I played nine games at Geelong the year before but I was reliant on AFL injuries happening which wasn’t a great way to play footy.’
‘I came to Coburg seeking more opportunities to play VFL footy because at the time it was the next step for my game. I trained a lot over the past three or four years and the next step was to actually play and get out there.’
‘It’s fast tracked me the past couple of years and I feel like I’m a much better player now then where I was even two years ago so that has been good.’
Playing a new role this season as a defender compared to last year on the wing, Guthrie has put together a consistent season in the VFL but is confident his best football lay ahead after returning from groin soreness against Sandringham in round nine.
‘It was one of those things that would’ve been hard to get through an entire year with and taking those two weeks off (and having the bye) got me on the front foot to help me move a little bit better and feel fresher from it.’
‘At this stage I’m really confident I’ll be able to get through the year with it and I’m feeling better every week ….. I am feeling confident in my body when I step out to play on the weekend.’
‘Having another preseason under the belt and getting bigger, stronger, fitter and more skilled has allowed me to press forward and has me probably having a better year this year than last season.’
Having that second preseason has also helped Guthrie not only better his football but it has also strengthened his bond with his teammates.
‘Last year it took me a bit of time getting to know the guys and learning their differences and making them automatic for me. It took me a little bit as I had been used to the structures at Geelong,’ he said.
‘This year I think I’m pretty much all over what the structure is and the way we want to play. It has probably just allowed me to focus on my football a bit more and build on field relationships with teammates as well which has been a good thing.’
Growing up in a family where his three brothers have a similar passion for football, Guthrie believes that having different perspectives on things is important and that this can only be beneficial for himself and his brothers alike.
‘We talk about footy a lot, if I have any questions like how to position myself or something I’ve been working so to get their opinion is really good,’ Guthrie said.
‘I think we think about the game in a similar way, I play at the moment a similar role to Zach so we talk a lot about that. Cameron’s always been there to help me as well, footy goes a fair way in our family.’
‘Mum and Dad really enjoy it as well, they always come down to watch our games and that could be up to four different games every week, so they try and get to as many as they can.’
Although playing the sport for a large chunk of his life, Guthrie understands that having a combination of family, university and his girlfriend Jess are important factors that keep him calm and relaxed.
‘While I want to put as much time and effort into my footy as I can, there is definitely room for having a good balance between other priorities, socially as well and general friendships.’
‘I think it is always important no matter where you are or what job you’re doing that you take some time to find that balance and do things that you enjoy. For me I like playing golf or hanging out and spending time with family and my partner.’
‘I think it is important to always have time to do things that help you relax and enjoy.’
Outside of football Guthrie attends La Trobe University in Bundoora and is undertaking a Masters in Podiatric Practice.
‘I’m enjoying the course at the moment and am in my last year of it,’ Guthrie said.
‘I’m pretty keen to get through the year and get it done and see where it takes me.’
‘I’m not too sure what I’ll be doing next year at the moment, I haven’t looked too far ahead but I am just focusing on getting through the course.’
Unlike many of his teammates, Guthrie has never really followed any particular AFL club or purely watched the game as a spectator as he instead took the path of becoming something of a student of the game.
‘We weren’t hugely die-hard about any team, when I was young it was Essendon but all of us became general followers of the game,’ he said.
‘I think we liked more our favourite players than a favourite team. Dad had always been quite good at analysing football and we have always been taught to take the emotion out of it, watch football and learn from it.’
‘You don’t want it to be all business where you don’t enjoy watching it but I naturally do that now when I’m watching a game of footy and pick up things like the way teams move the ball or what players like to do and why they do it.’
‘I’ve watched a lot of my brother Cameron; we do have similar attributes and probably play a similar way in some sense,’ he said.
‘I watched him so much over the years through the Under 18s and his nine years at Geelong I can’t help but subconsciously learn from what he does.’
Alongside his brother Cameron, there are other players in the AFL who have also caught Guthrie’s eye.
‘When I was younger I really enjoyed watching Chris Judd but now I watch a bit of everyone. I probably watch mostly Geelong games every week but I enjoy watching most players like Nathan Fyfe, Josh Kelly or Lachie Whitfield.’
‘I just enjoy watching good athletes on display.’
Guthrie doesn’t travel too often or too far generally but when he has had the opportunity to do so, he has made the most of it as his family made the trip to the United States during the spring of 2017.
‘We went over as a family to America during October and November in 2017, we’re all into our American sports like basketball and NFL so we watched a lot of games over there,’ he said.
‘Travel is probably not necessarily something I always thought I would do a lot of but I really enjoyed that and haven’t done too much since then. We go up to Queensland over Christmas every year as a family which is really nice.’
‘I’d be pretty happy to go back to America and have that as my next big travel but I’m not too sure when that will happen yet.’
There have been challenges for Guthrie to get to where he is now but there have been many fond memories along the way like his brothers finding their way into the AFL.
‘Winning those two junior premierships for me or finally making a VFL list was quite a big moment for me but when two of my brothers got drafted into the AFL it was a big moment for the family.
‘I enjoy watching them live; you get used to it but at first it was pretty crazy watching your brothers play AFL.’
‘They are some of my favourite memories.’
Guthrie describes himself as someone who is measured and calm in tricky situations and a happy and fun person hang around with.
‘I’d like to think I am pretty hard working, focused, professional and competitive. I try to be a kind person and someone who people want to be around.’