The West's chief football writer Mark Duffield goes head-to-head with Fremantle's Jack Anthony.
It has been a rough 18 months for you. How are you feeling about it?
There’s mixed emotions. At the end of the day you make your own path. Since I have been here I have always given it my best and a few things have gone my way and a few things haven’t. It is a matter of working through the bad times and eventually being rewarded with good times.
You had a really good game as a defender for Subiaco at the weekend. Do you feel like you have turned the corner?
I was drafted as a defender. I spent a couple of years at Collingwood – the first years as a defender until I got the opportunity to go forward. I think going back as a defender has given me a new sense of belonging. It allows me to be more accountable and to get my hands on the ball a bit more and get involved a bit more which I am really excited about.
Did you go through a crisis of confidence? Was it that severe?
I don’t think anyone likes to admit they are down in confidence. A combination of a few things. I would be silly to say that it didn’t affect me at stages. You work through those things and you come out of it a better person.
It is little things that add up some times isn’t it? You had contributed well in the St Kilda game, then in the Carlton game one decision to play on at the wrong time and the whole thing turned?
Absolutely. I tell the young guys that come into the system that it is amazing when you do make a mistake you pay the ultimate price. It usually results in a goal for the opposition. It was one of those things where I had a bit of a brain fade and made a mistake. Then it was a combination of a few things after that which didn’t work out for me.
Do you ever hark back to possibly your best moment in footy – kicking that late goal in the final against Adelaide in 2009 and use that as a reference point and remind yourself what you are capable of better?
I have always thought I am capable. It is not a confidence thing where I don’t believe that I belong in the AFL. But when I refer back to things in the past. Yeah I know I have kicked goals in the past and I have played good games in the past but you play in the present. Change of teams, change of atmosphere, the game is changing all of the time. You have just got to roll with the punches and continually play well. There have just been a couple of situations where I haven’t played well and here I am now.
How tough was it to change clubs at the start of last year?
At first it was tough because I left Melbourne where I had always lived. I left all my friends and a belonging that I had sort of built over five years. It is amazing how quickly things in football can change. I do love it over here. The boys have been fantastic and have always been welcoming. But football it drives your emotions. When football is not working out things can feel like they are worse than they probably are. It is only a matter of time before they start to look up again.
Can you do a Chris Tarrant? He came as a forward and went back as an accomplished power defender?
I certainly see that as a possibility. Where I am fortunate is that I was drafted as a defender so it is just a matter of time before that clicks completely with me again to really build that confidence like I have been over the last three weeks in the WAFL. Tarrant got close to being All-Australian as a defender. He did a really good job in turning his career around and I certainly want to follow in that path.
You mentioned the game changing. It has changed a little away from your strength as a forward hasn’t it with zone defences. You were a lead, mark and straight kick sort of forward?
Absolutely. I was just talking to a couple of mates outside of football about the way the game has changed in the last few years since I debuted in late 2008. Zoning – Hawthorn did it in 2008 and then obviously Collingwood in 2010. The way the ball is moving – it is not the easiest thing for forwards and it has probably almost gone back to one on one football with Pav and the way that Mayney has been playing lately. Because I wasn’t a natural forward at the start perhaps that didn’t work in my favour. Going back into defence and finding some touch is starting to build my confidence. Wherever I end up at Fremantle –in the team, in the seniors, I will do my best.
What did Ross say to you when he first arrived?
He was really good. He didn’t say this is your position this is where I think you can play. He actually said do the hard work and if you deserve a game you will play. I did the hard work and I still am. Guys (in the team) are playing some really good football and are certainly in front of me. You have got to take your opportunity when you get it and if you don’t you can find yourself out of the team and then it is a matter of working through your stuff at WAFL level and working your way back. Ross has been fantastic to me and Suma has as well.
Going back to play at Subiaco. How have you found that?
I think I got really lucky and this is nothing against the other WAFL sides because I don’t know them but Subiaco have been absolutely fantastic to me. The guys down there are welcoming. When I get down there I feel I am part of a great culture. They are a great club which they showed last year, wining the last seven games to make the grand final. I want to be part of Fremantle’s success but at Subiaco it is a great feeling there as well.
What do you like abut playing in defence?
The game is very defensive now. Defenders are allowed to be involved more than they used to be and you are able to be accountable as well. I know what it is like to kick a winning goal for the team after all the hard work the defenders have done to get it there. To be the start of the chain actually gives you great satisfaction. Being part of something down in defence in a close knit group like we are at Freo would be great if I eventually slotted in down there.
We always talk abut players being in form or out of form but earlier in the year it looked as if you could have just kicked a couple of goals you weren’t far away from good form?
The NAB Cup and the pre-season worked out really well for me. I played every game and felt
good and I went into the season with a lot of confidence. Unfortunately I did a calf ahead of round one and it was a bit like last year. It set me back for round one and I was a bit down from that. I came in for round two but that was a different sort of game. It was a matter of working out how the forward line was going to operate. We had an abundance of talls, obviously with myself, Kepler, Zac, Pav aand Mayney. They have worked it out or they are still working it out. From the start I gave it my best. I had a great pre-season, a few things fell my way and a few things didn’t
In some ways Fremantle is a good place to be for a young key position player right now with the age of a couple of the others?
We have got a really young side with a couple of guys in the twilight of their careers. Matthew Pavlich is playing some great footy and Luke McPharlin is too so they have got a fair bit of footy in them. If you are a key position player – as long as you are doing the right thing you will be considered part of the team and considered for selection most weeks. We are certainly on the right path.
Tell us a bit about your childhood?
I had a great upbringing. Three sisters, mum and my stepdad. I lived mostly near the city. I played my local footy at Diamond Creek which is out in the country a bit. I moved into a first year house at Collingwood and that was great for my development with Scot Pendlebury and Danny Stanley. It is amazing how your paths take you down different tracks. I can’t fault my upbringing. It was fantastic.
Who did you play TAC Cup with and was that as a defender?
Northern Knights. I was originally a forward and within six months of joining the under 14s, before I got to under 16s and under 18s I found myself as a backman.
Did you play in the national 18s carnival?
No I didn’t. I came on late. I went to a state screening and did okay in the testing there and got picked up by Collingwood. Neil Balme made contact with my. My stepdad Michael Stewart knew a few of those guys from his early days in football and when he would come to my TAC games he would speak to the recruiters without them knowing he was my stepdad and ask who they were looking at and a couple said the skinny number nine kid playing full back so I knew a couple were looking. I didn’t hear anything until very late and Port Adelaide said they might take me and then Collingwood came out of nowhere three days before the draft and I found myself at Collingwood.
How big a blow was it to have established yourself in the team, kick 50 one season and find yourself outside of the team when they really pushed for the flag?
Out of everything in my career that was probably the hardest. I was always searching for answers. I was always wondering how I went from doing that one year to the next year barely getting a game and eventually been thrown back to the backline and then forward, back, I couldn’t work out where I was going to see my future at Collingwood. That probably hurt the most and it was probably a combination of still being a little bit immature in my football professionalism. I was still working hard but thinking it was just going to happen in 2010. I had a shoulder reconstruction and thinking I would come back from that fine. You miss the most of the pre-season and you find yourself behind because there are obviously guys trying to get that spot in front of you. Chris Dawes got his opportunity and was lucky enough to play in a premiership. You can’t fault the guy.
Was that a significant factor in coming to Fremantle or did you assess your career and decide it was a good move for you at that point?
I thought it was a good move for me to move on from Collingwood and hopefully find a path somewhere else. Fremantle showed the most promise. I was committed to Fremantle from the start. I don’t regret moving over here.
What were your first impressions of Perth and the club?
Love Perth, love the club. The weather is fantastic and the guys are great. They have always been welcoming. It is like any club, you come in and you try and find your spot within the place and the culture and you go from there. Over the 18 months I have had a few rough times and certainly tried to find my place. I’ll just keep my head down and keep working hard.
You said you had to mature as a footballer. What about as a person after the last 18 months?
Yeah. Most footballers would be. There wouldn’t be many guys who would come out of football not feeling like they have learned something and learned the hard way., I am probably grateful in a way despite what I have gone through in the last three years since 2009 that I have probably found it tough but I have been able to develop in other areas and develop a hard shell. It has been a big trip, satisfying and not satisfying at times.
You slimmed right down over summer and looked very lean coming into the season. You loom a bit bigger now. Have you put on some muscle?
Late last year, the way the year went, I had a great off-season. I tried to come back in the best condition that I could knowing that I wanted to have the best pre-season and year that I can. One thing I am grateful for is that despite the way the year has gone I have been able to stay dedicated to my football and every time I come to training or play I always switch off from anything outside of football. I make sure that what is in front of me I concentrate on and give it my best. I have been able to put on a little bit of size because I have used the gym as a driver for me allowing me to feel like I am preparing the best I can for the game when I am preparing during the week. For the first time I have broken the 93 to 94kg barrier. It is a different sort of weight and I feel like I am carrying it well. I am able to still run well. As a defender you don’t want to be a skinny kid going up against bigger guys. It is something that I am concentrating on. I enjoy doing the one on ones and always have. It is probably about two to three kilos.
Do you still feel like your best footy is in front of you?
It is the old cliché. Most people would say that their best footy is still in front of them but I really do feel that my best is in front of me. It is a matter of next time I get that opportunity taking that opportunity, stay in the team and contribute each week. Whether it is as a defender or a forward I am going to do my best, keep working hard and hopefully it will work out but I have absolute confidence that my best footy is in front of me. I am 24 years old. I am sort of a baby in the football world.
The game you played last weekend at Subi. Was that your best game for them in the WAFL?
Yeah it probably was as an all round game. I played on a guy that I used to play on when he was at the Eastern Ranges and that is amazing how after seven or eight years you meet paths again. I went in with great confidence that I had had a great preparation. Speaking with Ross Lyon, working on my game as much as I can. I thought it was a good all round game and probably my best at WAFL level so far.