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Where are they now? Greg Anderson

Katrina Gill  August 13, 2015 9:00 AM

AFL 1993 1st Elimination Final - Hawthorn v Adelaide

Greg Anderson of the Crows in action during the 1993 AFL 1st Elimination Final between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Adelaide Crows at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

On the night of my 30th Birthday, Rod Jameson, David Pittman, Andrew Jarman, Benny Hart and Tony Hall all held me down and cut my hair off.

In this instalment of ‘Where are they now?’ we catch up with the man with the long blonde mullet and distinctive kicking action, Greg Anderson.

Anderson started his AFL career with Essendon, but returned to South Australia to play 59 games for the Crows in the 1990s. Anderson’s former team exacted its revenge, inflicting Adelaide’s heartbreaking Preliminary Final defeat in his first season at West Lakes …

Anderson started playing football in Grade Four at St Michael’s College, where he continued to play until he was invited to train with the Port Magpies Under-15s squad. He made his SANFL debut as a 17-year-old and won the Magarey Medal as the best and fairest player of the competition in 1986, but was in no hurry to pursue a career in Victoria …

“I was first approached by South Melbourne. Back in 1981, we played a schoolboys carnival in Brisbane. The recruiting officer from South Melbourne spoke to my family and a few months later the club actually drafted me as a 15-year-old. I had no intentions of going to the VFL at that stage, or at all really. I always just wanted to play in the SANFL for the Magpies because that’s all we really knew in those days.”

After another year in the SANFL, in which he earned All Australian selection, Anderson received another approach from a VFL Club, this time Essendon. He eventually decided to follow in the footsteps of a number of other top South Australian players and made the move to Victoria for the 1988 season …

“A lot of players were starting to leave the SANFL to test themselves in the VFL. In the year before I left, Stephen Kernahan, John Platten, Peter Motley and Craig Bradley all went across the border. It didn’t look like Adelaide was going to field a side in the (national) competition anytime soon, so I decided to go. I was keen to see if I could match it with the best players in the country, and find out about this big world called the VFL.

The wingman, renowned for his raking left-foot kick and unmistakable follow-through action, quickly established himself at Windy Hill. He played in a Preliminary Final with the Bombers in 1989 and was part of the team that lost to Collingwood in the 1990 Grand Final …

“The 1990 Grand Final loss was tough. We (Essendon) were the favourites and had a few injuries on the day that certainly upset the balance of our side. Playing in a Grand Final for a Melbourne-based team against another big Melbourne-based team was quite incredible. I think there were close to 99,000 people there watching at the MCG that day. The lead-up to the game was surreal."

After four seasons and 103 games at Essendon, Anderson returned to South Australia to join the Crows as one of the Club’s last ‘uncontracted player’ signings. His decision to leave the Bombers didn’t please the club at the time …

“It probably wasn’t received that well! I had many meetings with (Essendon coach) Kevin Sheedy at the Hilton. I absolutely loved my time at the Bombers and it was a great experience playing footy in Victoria. They were a great club and a very powerful club in Melbourne.

“When (interstate) players went to Melbourne to play in those days, you still had State Football. It was always fantastic to come back home once or twice a year to play State of Origin. Then, I had the opportunity to represent my state week-in and week-out with the Crows. I’ve always been a very proud South Australian and had probably been waiting 10 years for a team from Adelaide to enter the national competition. You wonder what would’ve happened if the Crows had been introduced in the mid-1980s. I don’t think any South Australian players would’ve wanted to leave the state.

“I grew up in West Lakes. I actually saw the water being rushed into the lake in 1974 when the development was taking place. Before our house was built, we used to be able to walk across it! So the chance to come home and play footy without worrying about being away from family and friends was just too good to pass up.”

Anderson had an excellent first year with the Crows, playing 22 of a possible 24 games. Ironically, it was his former team, the Bombers, who put an end to Adelaide’s 1993 season with a come-from-behind win in the Preliminary Final. Essendon went on to win the premiership a week later …

“It was a great year of footy. We had such a strong side and led by 42 points in the Prelim. At half-time, I’m sure some Crows supporters went out to buy their Grand Final tickets. Unfortunately, in the second half it was like we changed guernseys with the Bombers and we had to walk off with our tails between our legs that day.

“It was very disappointing. I thought we should’ve beaten Carlton the week before to go straight through to the Grand Final anyway, but we lost that by a few points. We had a golden ticket, with two chances to qualify for the Grand Final and we blew both of them. I don’t think the Essendon players or fans were too worried about giving it (criticism) to me that day. They were just happy to be going into a Grand Final."

The following season, the 188cm, 92kg, Anderson had one of the most challenging and unlikely match-ups of his career. The Crows suffered a few injuries to key-position personnel, forcing the ‘next-tallest player’ to stand North Melbourne champion Wayne Carey during the Round 12 match at Optus Oval …

“I think we had nearly half a side out that game and got a couple of injuries. I ended up being one of the taller players in the team, which was crazy because I was 6’2”. Going from the wing to centre half-back was a big enough ask in itself but then I had to go and stand Wayne Carey! There was a statistic that said North played 70 per cent of the game in their forward line and there I was on the great man in his prime! It was unfortunate that we just had no height in the team to help relieve the pressure on me. It was like there was no one else there! We got belted by 13 goals that day. I said to Wayne after the game, ‘Well, you only kicked three goals on me!’ I think he kicked four behinds, but still only three goals (on me for a total of four). I think that was a game that we all wanted to forget.”

After a near injury-free career, Anderson was plagued by injuries in the next few years which contributed to him being in and out of the Crows team. He played 14 AFL games in 1995, but only eight the following season. The silver lining was he finally tasted premiership success, winning consecutive flags with the Port Magpies in 95-96 …

“I got a lot of injuries towards the end. The worst one was when I ruptured my calf tendon. It was a horrific injury and I still struggle with it today. I didn’t really ever recover from that. Every time I felt as though I had overcome it, I would reinjure it or get a related soft-tissue injury. It was a frustrating last couple of years.

“Prior to that, I basically never had an injury from the time I was 16-years-old. That’s footy. In the end, I played a lot of footy – 150 games at the Magpies (121 at league level), 103 with Essendon, 59 for the Crows and 12 or so State games. When you add it all up, it’s a lot of footy and my body had clearly just had enough by that stage.

“It was great to be able to play in two SANFL premierships at the end. I finished up where I started, at the Magpies. As a kid, I lived and breathed the Magpies. It was my whole life. The premiership in 1995 was great, but I wasn’t a big part of that one because I’d played a fair bit with the Crows that year. I just fell in, in terms of the number of games you had to play to qualify for finals. I played a lot more with the Magpies in 1996, so I felt more a part of that one. I felt like I hadn’t taken anyone’s spot that year.”

Anderson still sports the long-blonde locks he wore throughout his career – or most of it …

“It’s a little bit sad that I’ve still got the same haircut! On the night of my 30th Birthday, Rod Jameson, David Pittman, Andrew Jarman, Benny Hart and Tony Hall all held me down and cut my hair off. I played a few games with short hair and when people see the footy card no one knows who it is! People always said, ‘You look better with short hair’ and I probably did, but I’ve always liked it long. Even when I was a young kid playing at the Magpies.

“Until it starts falling out, which it sort of is now, I’ll hang onto it. Rod Jameson has been a friend forever and a day and is the Godfather of my daughter, but the only thing he’s ever got to say when he introduces me to anyone is, ‘Here’s Greg Anderson and, of course, he’s still got his long hair’. He’s just jealous, but he did have a good mullet in his day. It’s still a talking point and people say to me, ‘Oh, you’ve still got your hair!’ I’m sure it won’t be too much longer and I won’t have a choice about going short.”

The Fos Williams Medallist (1993) and two-time All Australian still holds the games record for the No.1 guernsey at the Adelaide Football Club. But he hopes he won’t have that title forever …

“In the early 1990s, Adelaide was a one-team town and the Crows were it. Having that No.1 guernsey and playing for the Club was a pretty special time for me. I take a huge interest in the Crows and, no question, who is wearing the No.1 jumper.

“It hasn’t had a good record at all! Sooner or later, we need a player to reach the 100-game mark at least, or the 200 club. It’s funny. It's nice to see Pods (James Podsiadly in it now). I think the old No.1 still holds a bit of weight because back in the day, the captain always wore No.1. I don’t know if that’s, maybe, why people shy away from it a bit now.”

After hanging up the boots at the end of 1996, Anderson moved into coaching. He was appointed as coach of SANFL club South Adelaide in 2000, a position he held for four seasons …

“When I finished playing, I was lucky enough to be part of the State League coaching panel. I really enjoyed it. From there, I got the opportunity at South Adelaide which I loved. I think coaching helps keep you young and involved in footy. I enjoy it.”

Anderson maintains a strong connection with the Crows through the Club’s past player initiative. His employer, ‘Aussiefast’ is the Major Partner of the Club’s Past Player program this year …

“Jamo (Rod Jameson) came to me and said, ‘We’re looking for a major sponsor’. My boss is a mad Crows supporter and was all over it and keen to be the inaugural major sponsor of the Past Players. We were so thrilled to get involved and it’s been great to see some of my old teammates, but also other ‘No.1s’ of the Club, and players who’ve been at the Club.

“You also catch up with people who used to run you drinks when you were out on the ground, or who strapped your ankles. Trainers and officials are wonderful and always give players a lot of confidence when their down, so it was wonderful to reminisce on those times at the past player and official function at the Hawthorn game recently. To be part of what Jamo and his team are trying to put in place, I’m really pleased that we were able to support it.”

A member of Adelaide’s team of the first decade, Anderson, now 49-years-old, is the father of four adult children …

“My kids are all grown up now. Dylan, Brittney, Jazzy and Ashleigh. It’s funny when you bump into an old teammate like Dave Pittman or Benny Hart, they ask ‘How’s little Dylan going?’ I reply, ‘Mate, he’s nearly 29!’ They remember him as the kid who used to run between their legs in the change rooms or hassle them at presentations. Time has flown, but it’s great.”