ANTHONY Foubister always did things his way - on and off the field.
Whether it be sailing up the east coast of Australia or doing Tai Chi before matches, the former Wangaratta Rovers, Albury and Myrtleford player was his own man.
He spoke to The Border Mail's BRETT KOHLHAGEN this week about his journey.
BRETT KOHLHAGEN: You were never an orthodox footballer. How would you describe your game?
ANTHONY FOUBISTER: I could do two things really well. I could jump and my other great skill was when I got the ball I didn't know what I was going to do with it and neither did the opposition. I would look at them bewildered and they would look at me bewildered. Even 'Pagey' (Glenn Page) and 'Spargs' (Paul Spargo) would start barracking for the opposition to tackle me so it would break the deadlock and we could get on with the game.
BK: You've always liked to do things differently. I understand you did Tai Chi before matches late in your career?
AF: In that respect I was ahead of my time. There is great value in combat sports and Tai Chi is a really good focus exercise and static stretch. Lord knows I needed a bit of focus. I was probably 25 when I learnt it.
BK: What did your teammates think?
AF: The blokes at Myrtleford used to shake their heads and laugh at me. I had to go off behind the scoreboard up there so everyone else could concentrate on what they were doing. At Albury I just did it wherever and they just looked at me. Nobody ever challenged me about it though.
BK: How many flags did you play in?
AF: Three at Albury and one at Greta. I missed out on one at Wangaratta Rovers as well.
BK: What happened there?
AF: I did my knee on the Saturday before the grand final. I'd injured it earlier in the year and it was reputedly a snow skiing injury. It wasn't though, snow skiing just made it worse.
BK: That would have been disappointing?
AF: Not really, it was a windy day so I didn't really mind (laughs). Wang Rovers won by eight or 11 goals so they didn't miss me too much.
BK: You played your junior footy for Benalla. Where did you go from there?
AF: After that I went to boarding school. When I finished I was going to become a ski bumand just ski. A great mate Greg O'Brien then dragged me down to the Greta Football Club and I just thought it was the most wonderful place. I was six foot one, weighed about 62kg and had only just reached puberty, I was 18. I didn't know communities like that existed. I just felt so good to be a part of the club. I met blokes like Paul Hogan, Rod Canny, Duane Kerwin, Peter Mulrooney, all the Northey boys, Rodney Woodward, James Corker, Vinny Mills, John McCarthy and Kevin Naish and it was just the most wonderful community. I've never forgotten it. It was warm and friendly and honest and I was heavily disciplined by some of the older blokes like Rod Canny. For whatever reason at that time, I just felt I needed that in my life. It's because of that club I played footy until I was 40. We won the flag in 1993 and then I went to Rovers for a year.
BK: How do you look back on your time at Rovers?
AF: They were a wonderful club as well. They had all grown up playing footy together and, if I had grown up playing with them, I would never have left there either.
BK: Then Richmond showed some interest didn't they?
AF: Through the Naishes who were at Greta I was invited by John Northey to come down for a pre-season. I was invited to stay on the supp list but I knew there were 10 per cent of footballers who just shouldn't be there and I was in that 10 per cent. I knew I was going to sacrifice my working career for the chance of taking maybe one speccy which I was almost prepared to do, but deep down I knew 1000 footballers would have done a better job than me.
BK: Then Albury gave you a call?
AF: Andrew Harrison kept talking about Albury. Another lunatic Darren Holmes was helping Spargo recruit as well and he sounded like so much fun I couldn't wait to get to Albury. I felt bad about leaving Rovers but I didn't think they would miss me because they were so good.
BK: It didn't take you long to feel at home I'm told?
AF: A got there late pre-season and didn't know everyone. There was all this talk about Dean Lupson who played for North Albury. Everyone was saying watch out for him and how fearsome he was. Three minutes into the game 'Micki' was sitting on his chest over the near pool laying into him and that's when I knew this was the club for me.
BK: Take us back to the 1997 grand final against Wodonga Raiders. Ken Howe did his Achilles at the first bounce and they needed a replacement in the ruck
AF: The truth is I was getting played out of position at Albury for three years. Spargo and 'Micki' couldn't pick up on it but Kenny gave me my chance. I didn't know he had even gone down, I mustn't have done my Tai Chi that day. We kicked a goal and there was a ball up and 'Turns' (Mark Turner) sent a message out asking me to ruck. He said he couldn't ask 'Fowls' (Matt Fowler) because the big fella would sook up (laughs). I've called myself a premiership ruckman ever since.
BK: And you played well against John House and Stephen Clarke
BK: What was your relationship like with Paul Spargo like?
AF: I respected him a lot so I pretended to listen to him. What sunk in was he felt so much passion and love for the club and players. I've never seen anything like it. That had such an influence on everyone and it showed in the results.
BK: And Michael Buchanan?
AF: They were similar in that the quality of effort was as high as it could be. 'Micki' freed everyone up a bit after a couple of years and 'Spargs' could see that was required. He was just fearless and, like 'Spargs', everyone played for him.
BK: Three premierships in a row was a mighty effort wasn't it?
AF: It was. We weren't that good of a side. We had two champions in 'Pagey' and 'Ashy' (Stephen Ash). They were our quality footballers but everyone else was just a goer. I didn't think we were the best side in any of those three years. Our effort was just higher. The side I played in at Rovers ability-wise in 1994 was way better. The thing that amazes me about Albury is blokes like Stuey Hodgson, Stuart Thompson, Dale Carroll, Marc Duryea, Brian Kelly, 'Jezza' (Jeremy Masterson), Kenny Howe and Tommy McGrath from the 1990s have stuck around as officials or coaches.
BK: What about a skateboard incident near a popular watering hole in central Albury after the 1997 premiership?
AF: I can't recall it (laughs).
BK: How do you explain turning up to a pre-season match at Mangoplah with half a dozen stubbies in a box with your boots, shorts and socks sitting on top?
AF: It was only a pre-season practice game wasn't it? That's alright.
BK: Legend has it that on a wet day at the sportsground, Spargo called in the group at one of the breaks and suggested everyone try and kick the ball in the belly to get some extra distance. You went out and, much to the amazement of your teammates, nailed it and potted a goal from long distance.
AF: It was just a coincidence because I wasn't listening to him. I miskicked the ball as I was trying to kick a drop punt. I kicked it twice as far as I could kick on a normal dry day. 'Spargs' was absolutely stoked with me as he thought I must have listened to every word he said.
BK: You finished your footy up at Myrtleford and Bright
AF: They were good clubs. I played against Mick Quirk and he always tried to hurt you so it was good to be on the same side. I kept meeting people up there and wasn't going to play at Bright but I got involved in the community and ended up spending eight years there.
BK: Off the field, you like a challenge. You sailed up and down the east coast of Australia with your partner, Lou, two daughters, Mani and Asha, and dog didn't you?
AF: I was looking for an adventure at the time. I'd been working in a family business, then moved into my own business and I thought I needed a break. I was about 41, my kids were six and eight and my dog was getting on a bit too as he was eight.
BK: So you took off in a 10-metre catamaran?
AF: We started in Melbourne and went to Cairns and back down to Sydney. It took about nine months and it was unreal.There is nothing wrong with sailing around tropical islands. Waking up in crystal clear waters with the kids bubbling around and then spending the whole day swimming and trying to catch a fish sounds alright doesn't it?
BK: So it was something you always wanted to do?
AF: I thought about doing it in a caravan to be honest. When I was playing at Albury I entered every caravan raffle Terry Duffy ever organised. Suddenly at a marina one day I realised I loved boats so I bought a catamaran. I just did a course and worked the rest out. It's not that hard. You can stuff things up here and get away with it.
BK: Any scary moments along the way?
AF: For a couple of weeks I didn't have the family on and I went through Bass Strait during a bit of a storm. That was pretty exciting. I sailed into Coffs Harbour and there was a huge sea and it was breaking which put the boat to tipping point. My first two weeks were without the family but when they got on board I was really uptight. A bit like Spargo before a game.
BK: What's your next adventure?
AF: I'd like to sail around the world one day. Once you are out there you can go and visit so many cultures and see the history of the world. It's really humbling.
BK: Your partner's brother is Olympic diver Dean Pullar who won a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics. You never considered taking up diving?
AF: He would have been much better at footy than I would have been at diving. He was a good footballer for Cobram.
BK: You've done some boxing though
AF: As a skinny kid playing at Greta, I didn't like feeling intimidated. I thought some skills would be useful. There were blokes half my height sticking up for me which wasn't a great look. It was good for confidence and good footy training as well.
BK: How many fights have you had?
AF: Just a handful. I was lucky enough to train with Graeme and Caine Melbourne. Getting in the ring with Caine let me know where I was at. I couldn't see his punches but I could hear them. They were very humble people and such gentleman.
BK: What about the 'Micki' fight for charity 12 months ago?
AF: I'd say that was more of a wrestle than a fight.
BK: You're based at Mansfield now and coaching your daughters' under-16 side at Benalla. How's that going?
AF: It's a great thing to do with your kids. They love their footy and horse riding. I love coaching junior footy but it can be a lonely place.
BK: What do you mean by that?
AF: I give them some of my best gags and get nothing back.