Jack's Moment of Truth
CHANNEL Ten’s Anthony Hudson summed up Jack Anthony’s moment of truth in the 2009 semi-final clash between Collingwood and Adelaide at the MCG when he suggested the quirky but talented Collingwood footballer had “hope in his heart; dreams in his hands.”
The 21-year-old also had the fate of a final in his grasp.
With time almost exhausted, and with the Magpies training narrowly, a goal for Anthony would almost certainly advance Collingwood to the third week of the finals. A miss would end their season.
The stakes were exceedingly high.
Having seemingly been blown away with a one-goal-to-six first term, and after trailing by 32 points at the main change, Collingwood had turned this knockout final on its ear.
The Crows clung to a one-point lead in the dying moments when a hurried clearance kick from Nick Maxwell pushed forward late in the game. Then came an audible groan over the roar of the Magpie-strong crowd when Crow defender Andy Otten took what looked like a game-saving mark.
It was only when the players stopped, having heard a whistle blown, that they knew something was up. Ben Rutten had been penalised for holding onto Anthony’s arm, and the Magpie youngster – in only his 35th game – would have the chance to put his team in front at the right time.
Pressure does strange things to people. Some melt under the strain of it. Some shy away from it, and look to immediately give the ball off. Others thrive on the moment.
Most of those in the crowd of 62,184 were unsure with how Anthony would handle it. Those who knew him better were certain that he would.
A few months earlier, Collingwood’s high performance manager and psychologist Simon Lloyd had given fans a hint of Anthony’s coolness under pressure in a newspaper interview, and predicted he would relish the big moment if, and when, it came.
“A lot of players go to water on the big stage, but Jack loves it; he absolutely thrives on it,” Lloyd said of kid from Diamond Creek, via the Northern Knights. “Particularly having a shot on goal; he has a great ability psychologically to just narrow his focus and, even if he is just playing pool or something, put out any distractions.”
That chance came on Saturday night, September 12, 2009.
His coach Mick Malthouse was certain Anthony would kick the goal, even though he had only had three kicks prior to the moment, for two behinds.
“I’m normally the pessimist but I thought ‘Jack’ could knock it over,” Malthouse said. “I was comfortable Jack had it and I was comfortable, barring a total kick into the man . . . I was hoping he would take another 15 seconds, to take as much off the clock as possible.”
Anthony was 30m out almost directly in front, as Dane Swan gave him some advice as he went back to take his kick.
His kick, which came as the time ticked over 30 minutes on the clock, sailed through for the most important of his 80 goals in black and white. Teammates, including a youthful Tyson Goldsack and Alan Toovey, immediate rushed to him to celebrate.
“Forget all those goals he has ever kicked before, he would trade them all for that,” Hudson said as the ball went back to the middle and the Channel Ten cameras panned to president Eddie McGuire out of his seat and pumping his fist, with his two sons, Joseph and Alexander, watching on expectantly.
The difference was five points in Collingwood’s favour. No one knew how long was left, neither those watching from the ground or on television where the red ‘Five Minute Warning’ was into overdrive.
There was a mad scramble in the centre on the resumption of play before Patrick Dangerfield broke clear of a stoppage, shooting out a handball at half-forward before the final siren sounded. The Magpies had won and the cameras were fixed on Anthony, with his arms raised triumphantly in the air.
The Collingwood players celebrated wildly, knowing they were through to a preliminary final; the Adelaide players were dejected, with some crashing to the turf, knowing their season was done.
Almost as memorable as the kick was Anthony’s post-game interview. He wiped tears from his eyes as he tried to remain composed in a situation well beyond calmness.
“It was a good win,” he said in the understatement of the season. “I contributed a little small bit and that’s all that matters. I was obviously very nervous. I kicked it straight and hoped to God it would go through, and it did.”
The Magpies lost the preliminary final to Geelong the following week, with Anthony – who kicked 50 goals for the season and won the club goalkicking – being held without a goal for the game.
More than half of that Collingwood 2009 finals team were back 12 months later as part of the club’s 2010 premiership side. But Anthony wasn’t among them. He was still at the club at that stage, but could register only seven games that year for five goals before moving to Fremantle in 2011.
In all, he played 43 games in black and white – plus eight more with the Dockers – and his AFL career was only a fleeting one. But what he did that September night etched him into Collingwood finals folklore forever.