After plying his trade in the VAFA and VFL, Anthony Scott’s AFL dream was finally realised when he signed with the Western Bulldogs via the Supplementary Selection Period in March. The 25-year-old made his long-awaited AFL debut against Collingwood on Friday night and spoke to aflplayers.com.au about what the opportunity finally means.
Congratulations on making your debut on Friday night, Anthony. What were the emotions like?
It was pretty surreal.
I have worked for so long to even get an opportunity on an AFL list and then to find out that I was playing in Round 1 was pretty unbelievable. Everything has happened so quickly over the last couple of months, but it felt like a nice reward for years and years of hard work. When ‘Bevo’ (Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge) said I was playing it was a pretty special feeling.
Like you said, it’s all happened very quickly since signing with the Dogs as an SSP player. Did you place any expectations on yourself to be playing in Round 1?
I thought I had been training well throughout the pre-season and then considering my age that I was ready to go. It wasn’t a huge surprise (to debut) in that I had the self-belief that I was going well enough to play. Come Round 1 everyone wants a game so you’re competing against a lot of hungry players, but in terms of how I was feeling internally I felt like I had put the work in and that if I got the call up, which I was fortunate enough to, that it wouldn’t come across as a huge surprise for me.
What has the pre-season journey been like for you?
It’s been interesting. I didn’t train at all last year because the VFL season was called off quite early with COVID and then going into this pre-season there were still a lot of unknowns. I tried to do as much work as I could throughout 2020 just down at the local park. I was curious to see how I’d go, but after a few weeks back I got into the rhythm of things and felt really comfortable. I always felt that with the VFL training we did, it sets you up really well for training loads with an AFL group and so after a few weeks I started to feel more settled. My body was feeling really good and I was able to keep up with the boys in terms of running and training.
You briefly mentioned last year, which was a significant challenge for everyone, particularly that stage four lockdown. What did your training regime look like during that period?
I was fortunate last year to still be working and I was doing that from home. Because I was working from home it meant I was able to utilise my lunchtime to get out and go for a run. I had a program that I was following that I had extrapolated from our VFL program for the off-season. Two or three days a week I was going for a run and living with some school mates who would join me and having a kick of the footy too, which was helpful. It was a combination of wanting to stay fit because you never knew what was going to happen at the end of the year with the Draft, but also about staying sane because we were stuck inside for 90 per cent of our day so being able to utilise that time outside was so important.
The Bulldogs have quite a few players on their list who have come through the Footscray VFL program. What’s it like being able to play alongside them now at AFL level?
It was really handy when I started. It was almost like starting at a new school and knowing a few people there on day one; so it’s always less daunting. They’re a really good bunch of people at the club and even the guys who I hadn’t played VFL with, but had seen around the facilities, were really welcoming. As a group they have so much time for the VFL-listed players and so it was easy to settle in. It certainly held me in good stead and I had a good base to keep building those relationships on.
“If we were having this conversation a year ago in the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown and footy being cancelled, I would never have thought I’d be playing AFL in 12 months time.” – Anthony scott
Who are some of the players that you’ve been able to use as a sounding board since starting at the Dogs?
I’ve been working closely with Caleb Daniel because we play a similar role so he’s been good to bounce ideas off. He’s one of the best players in the competition at the moment so being able to learn from him is invaluable.
In terms of the whole experience, I’m pretty close with Ryan Gardner, who also spent time with Footscray’s VFL program. He’s had a similar journey to me so being able to see the work they’ve done and then be able to work closely with them has been great.
As a backline group we’re quite close and there’s super experienced guys like Taylor Duryea who have won multiple premierships and that’s experience you can’t pass up on.
Talking about the game itself on Friday night, what was it like to run out onto the MCG in front of a crowd that, although was only at 50 per cent capacity, felt like so much more?
The boys were so excited before the game, especially considering they hadn’t played in front of a home crowd in over a year. There was a lot of hype around it.
For me, that crowd would’ve been at least 50 times bigger than the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of so turning up to the game there were definitely a fair few nerves but I was really just trying to forget about that and focus on the footy.
It doesn’t really get any bigger than playing against Collingwood in your debut game, but being alongside guys like Adam (Treloar), Stef (Martin) and Lachie McNeil who were making their club debuts as well took the pressure off me a little bit. There were certainly a few nerves when I ran out, but once I had that first touch they dissipated pretty quickly and I was able to focus on the footy. I tried to think of it like a normal game but the cheering’s a little louder when you kick a goal (laughs).
What was it like to be able to celebrate such a great win with your family and partner after the game?
As a club we haven’t been overly successful in recent Round 1 matches so to get a win in the opening game was great, and we spoke about that and trying to make the most of the opportunity. We’d felt pretty good in our pre-season games, so we wanted to bring that into the match against Collingwood. The post-game celebrations were awesome and I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate that with family. Unfortunately there were so many players who didn’t have that chance last year due to COVID-19 and so I was grateful to have that opportunity. I was pretty sticky from the Gatorade shower so there were some reluctant hugs given, but I was grateful to be able to celebrate with them.
What does it finally mean now that not only are you on an AFL list, but you’ve also been able to play your first senior game?
It’s all pretty surreal. Like I said earlier, it’s been such a long journey and then so much has happened in such a short space of time this year so to be able to play that first game is pretty unbelievable. If we were having this conversation a year ago in the midst of the Coronavirus lockdown and footy being cancelled, I would never have thought I’d be playing AFL in 12 months time. It’s just amazing and it makes me hungry for more. I had such a great experience and I am incredibly grateful for have played one game but I want to keep adding to that tally.