43 CFC Games Played
28 CFC Goals
When Collingwood supporters think of John Annear, it normally centres on his departure from the club as part of the bitter poaching wars with hostile neighbour Richmond.
But those who played with him at the Magpies think of him a little differently. They recall the strong ruck-rover with the powerful shoulders and the insatiable work ethic on and off the field. They think of the young ruck rover who pushed himself to the limit, and who never took a shortcut, even when such options stared him in the face.
Annear wasn’t blessed with enormous natural talent, but worked hard to be the best he could be. The frustration came that he was still not at his best when he left for Richmond as a 22-year-old at the end of the 1983 season, after only 43 games in the black and white. Ultimately, he would play for three VFL-AFL clubs, across 166 games, but the way he left Collingwood was something that still gnawed away at him years later.
Annear hailed from the rough-and-tumble goldfields of Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia. He moved to Perth, where he played three seasons for Claremont in the WAFL, playing 62 games and attracting the interest of Victorians clubs.
He developed a good relationship with Kevin Worthington when the defender had a season home at Claremont in 1980 after three years with Collingwood. So when Worthington returned to Victoria Park in 1981, Annear agreed to join him, having been impressed by his teammate’s positive view of the Magpies.
Annear managed only one senior game (for one possession) in his debut season of 1981, but took in the information and experiences on offer that would stay with him for the rest of his career. He modelled part of his game on teammate Stan Magro: “I idolised Stan more than any other player because of the things he did out on the ground. Stan was everything I wanted to be. If ever I wanted to be like another player it was Stan. He was desperate and played desperado stuff.”
One of the others at Collingwood to make an immediate impression on Annear was coach Tom Hafey, in particular his almost zealous pursuit of fitness and strength training, which provided Annear with a template for his own football future.
Annear spent plenty of time in the Victoria Park weights room – sometimes with Hafey – and his already well-rounded shoulders grew bigger, adding more strength to his 178cm frame.
He established himself as an important member of the Magpies’ team in what proved to be a difficult 1982 season, playing all 22 games. Annear wasn’t a particularly good user of the ball, and could sometimes frustrate fans with his capacity to turn the ball over. But no one doubted his commitment. Teammates loved the way he attack the contest, and never doubted his capacity to always put the team first.
Annear’s best season in black and white came in 1983. He played 20 of the club’s 22 games that year, and was a worthy winner of the Magpies’ most improved award. He had almost 450 disposals and even scored seven Brownlow Medal votes.
But just as he was hitting his peak with Collingwood, he and teammate Phil Walsh were caught up in the poaching war that erupted between the Tigers and Magpies. Annear opted to leave for Richmond when Collingwood was reluctant to offer him what he thought he was worth. He would later explain: “”Unfortunately, it got to the stage at Collingwood where the club wasn’t offering me a lot of choices and I had to look elsewhere. It was a strange time for me. I went to Richmond and the club had three coaches in my three years there.”
Annear had three seasons with Richmond, playing 65 games, with his best coming in 1984, when he was second in the club’s best and fairest. He returned home to Perth when West Coast were born in 1987, and he went on to play 58 games with the Eagles across four seasons.
A resilient footballer who had always followed Hafey’s mantra of weight training to prevent injuries, his example was important in those formative West Coast years. He helped to set training standards that impressed a young John Worsfold, who would recall: “I worked really hard alongside JA (Annear) because he was then rated as the fittest bloke in the AFL. He was 27, I was 18 and I was going to keep up with JA.”
One act in his first year with the Eagles summed up his competitive spirit. After a loss to Geelong at Kardinia Park in 1987, he boarded the plane “feeling pretty low” and dirty with himself for the attitude he’d taken into the game. When the plane landed in Perth, he pulled from his bag the shorts and socks that he had worn against the Cats, and ran home from the airport to his home in Claremont – 22km away.
Tommy Hafey would have loved that.
John Annear’s passion for hard work didn’t end with his football career, competing in a number of Ironman triathlons, including two world championship at the Hawaiian Ironman in 2009 and 2010. He studied throughout his league career, gaining degrees in radiography and physiotherapy. He worked with West Coast as a physio and conditioning coach, and later with Western Australian cycling and athletic squads.
Incredibly, the one-time Magpie also served as the personal physiotherapist for world renowned Italian operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti for two years from 2005 to 2007, before Pavarotti’s death. That is definitely something no other Magpie has ever been able to claim.
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