“You invest so much emotionally and physically and for it to get that close and then fall short and do it all again, it is hard.”
The fact that it is hard, however, won’t deter the tough Irishman who was selected in the All-Stars squad this week from devoting himself to the task of putting the Cats into a spot where they can have another crack at a premiership.
I just have to get one before I finish. But they don’t hand them out.
In fact, he’s more inclined than ever to knuckle down with one eye on the elusive prize.
“Over the past two or three years that [winning the flag] has become all encompassing in my mind in terms of football and the professional part of my life. I just have to get one before I finish,” Tuohy said.
“But they don’t hand them out.”
The 30-year-old hits the starting line in much better shape this season than he was in 2019 when he had two knee operations during the pre-season and was sidelined until round six. Although he played well in patches Tuohy wasn’t the same force he had been in the 138 consecutive-game streak he started in 2013 while wearing a Carlton jumper.
This year he is fit and strong and ready.
“There were just those ebbs that were a little too severe for my liking. I don’t see any reason they will be in my game this year but footy is hard so maybe they will be,” Tuohy said.
At times he was frustrated as he missed kicks that he would normally make with his eyes shut and football didn’t flow quite like it had in previous seasons, shaking the pride of the competitive lad from Laois.
“You sometimes wonder if people think players don’t care. Trust me you don’t need to be told on Twitter that you are not playing well, you know it better than anyone else,” Tuohy said.
“Your confidence can take a bit of a hit but fortunately for me the culture and the environment we have down here is so unique so it didn’t affect me too much.”
Tuohy’s humour, grit and resilience has helped define the Cats’ culture in the three seasons he has played, mostly in defence, part of a stingy back line that proudly calls themselves “the misfits”.
He expects to be back there again in 2020 after spending some time forward at the end of last season when the Cats tinkered with their model as it spluttered a little, his season tally of 3.10 showing his booming boot was just a little off in 2019.
Tuohy jokes, however, that he was a natural inside 50 saying it was a misconception that he was there to shut down an opposition defender. His compact description of how he played the role is classic Tuohy.
“Same as down back … just run off them,” Tuohy said.
“I must admit I felt really comfortable up there with the exception of the odd mistimed leading pattern. I would be more than happy to play up there again this year. I genuinely found it fun.”
It was the first and only time Tuohy had been given the chance to play forward during his 186-game career and he described the experience as a circuit breaker, a chance to free his mind of the responsibility that comes with worrying about how many goals your opponent kicks each week.
He agrees that playing as a high half-forward is tough in a physical sense but he found it easier mentally than other roles he has played.
“It is a lot of unrewarded running but it is bloody nice being the one being chased for once,” Tuohy said.
But Tuohy is ready to chase that premiership hard once again from behind the ball and despite the odd niggle to key players, he believes the Cats are in good shape with 41 players on the track this week ahead of their opening Marsh Community Series match against Gold Coast on Saturday night.
He says the sky is the limit for some of their young developing players while Josh Jenkins and Jack Steven will add experience and class to the line-up. As will Tuohy when he returns to his consistent best this season.
“There is no guarantee we are going to finish really high. There is no guarantee about anything in this game,” Tuohy said.
“We have to go out and do it.”
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.