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Unreal, crazy, amazing: Mason Cox’s debut for Collingwood

Cox rides in to make it ANZUS dayNo quarter given as Pies thrash DonsBuckley happy with improvementWorsfold: starts are a major problem
Nanjing Night Net

Mason Cox wasn’t really sure he wanted to go to the Los Angeles combine, two and a bit years ago.

He had never heard of Australian Rules football when he was asked to go along. He had a good job lined up, he had packed up after college and he was ready to move to Houston and become an engineer, like almost everyone else in his family.

And when he looked up the game online, the first thing he saw was a clip of its biggest hits.

“There was a bunch of guys getting their heads taken off,” he said. “I was a bit worried at that time.”

Then he made the decision that has led him a long way: to Australia, to Collingwood, to the senior list and the MCG on Anzac Day, where his first kick was the game’s first goal.

“They offered for me to stay an extra day after the combine, to go and see some friends and stuff,” Cox said. “So for me it was like, cool, I’ll try out.

“I already had a job in Houston, so it couldn’t hurt. Before I left, it felt like a vacation. Obviously, things kind of took off. It was a bit wilder than I thought.”

Cox was taken briefly aside by Nathan Buckley after the Last Post was played on Monday. The coach told him to make sure he enjoyed the game, though he already knew he would.

“Mase is like most Americans,” Buckley said. “They don’t mind the big stage. He was looking forward to it.”

Cox was, and felt ready for it. He had been working hard, and he had been waiting. When he first came to Australia, and was deciding which club to sign on with, Collingwood list manager Derek Hine took him straight out onto the MCG.

It has stuck with him. “He said, this could be your office,” Cox said. “After that, it’s always been a goal of mine to be able to play here.

“To go out and do something like that in the first game was a hell of an experience and a hell of a way to start your career.”

He had other words for it too: unreal, crazy, amazing. And of course he was nervous: “It’s only 85,000 people!”

So was his father, Phil, who jumped on a plane in Dallas a few days ago with Mason’s mother, Jeanette, and brothers Nolan and Austin. But that feeling very quickly gave way to other emotions.

It wasn’t the family’s first Anzac Day experience — they were in town for a few weeks this time last year and stayed for the game — but it was something else entirely to see their son play in it. And kick the first goal. And take three big marks. And get the ball 10 times.

They had some concerns when he told them he wanted to try this new game out, injuries, mostly. But they knew his unexpected chance was one he had to take and they have followed his progress in every way possible since.

“We follow it on television. We’re on Twitter, we’re on live chat, we’re on Collingwood radio,” said Phil, laughing.

“It’s just incredible, fantastic. There were people sending me messages from back home in the States. We had a lot of folks watching, family and friends. It was a lot of fun. It was a thrill.”

It was the same for Mason, who knew his big day was about more than the game he still wants to get much, much better at: at goal-kicking, at decision-making, at quick hands, at everything.

“To be able to honour the Anzacs, it may not be my home country but it’s the same feeling as our Memorial Day,” he said.

“It’s one thing to be able to play in front of these people and just entertain them, but to go out there and fight for your country, it’s the most unselfish act you could do for people you will never know.

“The last two years have been up and down. I’ve had some rough times and some good times but I don’t know, you ride the wave and wherever it lands, it lands.

“I’ve been fortunate to come to Collingwood. It’s amazing, what’s happened in my life in the last three or four years.

“It’s been a crazy rollercoaster, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.