One Hit Wonders: Jack Anthony
By Glenn McFarlane, of the Herald Sun
IT might seem a little unusual to list as a one-hit wonder a player who kicked 80 goals across 43 games and who won a club goalkicking award in a season in which the team made the preliminary finals.
But when it concerns Jack Anthony, it is fair to say that convention rarely came into play.
He was a different, unique character from the moment he walked into Victoria Park from Diamond Creek (the home of the Coventry brothers) and the Northern Knights via the 2005 national draft. Not much changed on that front during his relatively short time in black and white – from his first game in 2008 to his final one with the club in Round 21, 2010, before being traded to Fremantle at the end of that season.
A forthright, emotional person, Anthony once approached Lance Franklin in a nightclub to tell him he hoped to one day cut it with the then Hawk forward on the field. On another occasion, he attended Paul Licuria’s church wedding service to wish his teammate all the best, even though he wasn’t invited to the reception.
Yet for all his personality quirks, he was a fine footballer when playing at his best, and is best remembered for one magic moment – kicking the winning goal with 30 seconds remaining in the 2009 semi-final win over Adelaide.
Anthony had suffered a blood clot on his spinal cord in the preseason of 2007 after an accidental clash with Marty Clarke, and he was told to take the year off. He played his first AFL game in 2008, and kicked at least one goal in each of his first 25 games – a fair feat in itself for a player originally picked up as a defender.
In many ways, it was almost as if he was born for the big occasion. In a Herald Sun feature on the forward months before his match-winning goal, the club’s then high performance manager and psychologist Simon Lloyd predicted Anthony would relish being in a clutch moment: “A lot of players go to water on the big stage, but Jack loves it, he absolutely thrives on it.”
Lloyd went onto say: “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 moment came on September 9, 2009.
It was the 21-year-old’s 35th AFL game. It had been a particularly quiet match to that stage. He had had only three kicks deep into the last quarter for two behinds, as the Crows held on tightly to a one-point lead with the dying seconds ticking away.
Adelaide had led by 29 points at quarter-time after a six-goal-to-one first term, and by 32 points just before half-time. Slowly, and steadily, the Magpies wore the lead down and threatened to steal the game late.
A quick clearance kick from Nick Maxwell went forward for Collingwood in the 30th minute of the last term. Andy Otten looked to have taken a crucial mark for the Crows before an umpire’s whistle changed all that. A free kick was paid to Anthony after Ben Rutten held his arm.
The Magpie forward, lining up for his 50th goal of the season, had the biggest kick of his life, well within range, but with the weight of his team’s season resting on the outcome.
Channel Ten’s Anthony Hudson summed up the feelings of those at the MCG, saying: “hope (is) in his heart; dreams (are) in his hands.” Through all the pressure, as Lloyd had earlier predicted, Anthony held his nerve and seamlessly slotted through the goal to put Collingwood back in front. Teammates ran to him excitedly as he began to realise the enormity of what had happened.
Less than half a minute remained, as the Magpies desperately held onto their lead, and the siren sounded just as Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield was moving the ball forward. Collingwood was through to a preliminary final, and it had Jack Anthony to thank for it.
Coach Mick Malthouse had always backed his young forward to kick that goal. The only criticism he had of Anthony was that he hadn’t burnt a few extra seconds off the clock when lining up.
“I’m normally the pessimist but I thought `Jack’ could knock it over,” Malthouse said after the game.
“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.”
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 a massive understatement. “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 held without a goal.
But more than half of Collingwood’s 2009 finals team were back 12 months later as part of the club’s 2010 premiership side. Anthony wasn’t among them. He was at the club, but managed only seven games that year for five goals. He watched from the stands, his career in black and white all over as a trade to the Dockers loomed.
Across the next two seasons, he played only eight games for Fremantle for three goals. He still had a year to run on a contract, but conceded his time in the AFL was up and walked away from league football content to be out of the AFL bubble at last.
His career came and went so soon. But even if it never reached the heights it once promised to, Jack Anthony won’t be forgotten in a hurry – for his chirpy personality, his quirks and, most importantly, for that clutch goal that brought so much joy to the Magpie army.