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Anthony Minichiello – The Roosters Is Where My Heart Is

By Dan Hutton on March 28, 2012 in People

Photo: Andrew Goldie

During the month The Beast caught up with long-serving Sydney Roosters fullback Anthony ‘The Count’ Minichiello…

Where are you originally from?

I grew up in Casula for a few years, just outside Liverpool, then moved to Prestons, which is about five minutes down the road, and grew up on five acres there and had a great childhood. We had paddock bashers, motorbikes, slug guns, the works.

When did you first move to the Eastern Suburbs?

I signed with the Sydney Roosters when I was 16 and I had my ‘L’ plates so my parents would jump in the car and I would drive in from Preston to get my driving practice up. Then I moved into the Eastern Suburbs when I was 19 to get closer to the action.

Did you move into a house with a few of your teammates?

No, I was just staying with friends and then back with my parents. I was half and half for a while and then I moved in with (fellow Rooster) Luke Ricketson, which was fun. He showed me the ropes of the Eastern Suburbs. And then a couple of years after that I decided to get a big house in North Bondi with myself, Brett Finch, Michael Crocker, Todd Payten and Chris Walker. We had a year there that I don’t think any of us will forget.

What do you love about living in the Eastern Suburbs?

It’s just got a great atmosphere about it and the beaches are great. It’s just good fun to be around and there’s always something happening.

And you’re still in Bondi these days?

Still in Bondi, yeah. I’ve been at North Bondi now for six years in the pad there.

Do you have any favourite local haunts around the Bondi area?

We’re always down at Skinny Dip Café. Ruben is a champion and he looks after us well. North Bondi Italian is a favourite, and obviously Icebergs. The Bucket List has just opened down on the beach, which has a great vibe as well. Otherwise we’re just on the couch relaxing.

Is there anything you don’t like about living in the Eastern Suburbs?

On a really hot summer’s day Bondi does get a little bit of traffic through it. When you’re in a rush to go somewhere or get to footy training it’s quite congested. I don’t like traffic at the best of times but that’s probably the only thing that I can think of.

Roosters legend Arthur Beetson passed away last year; what did he mean to you?

Mate, I think he’s a legend in everyone’s books but he’s the guy that discovered me as a young Rooster. He watched some tapes of myself and invited me into a training camp and then signed me to the Roosters and really gave me my shot here. I suppose I owe my career to Artie for having a look at those tapes and signing me at that young age. I had a lot to do with Artie through the years and he’s a great man and a guy that I respect immensely.

And over a decade later you’re still with the Roosters. Do you see yourself as a one-team player?

The Roosters is where my heart is. You have to look after yourself and your family as you get older but there’s no doubt that the Sydney Roosters is my team.

How long do you reckon you’ve got left in you, because you’ve had plenty of injuries over the years? Or do you think that time spent out of the game might have bought you a couple of extra years?

Mate, one hundred percent. For the first six years of my career I didn’t get injured at all so I was playing a lot of footy and accumulating a lot of games. Obviously the body can’t take that much of a beating every week so I got a few injuries and that’s part and parcel of any guy playing footy or any professional sport. I played a limited amount of games for a few years there and I think the hits that I didn’t cop every week have benefited me now in the back end of my career. I’ve got my body right, it feels great and I suppose I can add that time now on to my 30s.

You had a back injury that ruled for the best part of a few seasons; do you worry about it at all these days? Do you think about it before you go into a game?

I’ve just got to manage it properly. I do a lot of work with my recovery, within my body and obviously with nutrition. I did go through a tough period there a few years ago but I had great support. Terry was my number one supporter and if I didn’t have her beside me it would have been tough. She got me through those tough times. I rebuilt my body from the ground up. It took me probably two years to get my back right and now I’m in a full routine and I just stick to it religiously. I know my body inside and out.

Do you have a career highlight thus far?

I think I’ve got a few career highlights. I think the first one that comes to memory at a young age was obviously the grand final win in 2002 against the Warriors. I’ve got very fond memories of that. We still get together with the boys who played in that team and we always tell stories of how we got there and won it and what happened after and stuff. There have been so many highlights and I hope that there are many more to come. Another one that sticks in my mind is probably the second game of State of Origin last year, getting back into the Origin arena again and scoring the winning try. It was just a great feeling to be a part of again.

Were you surprised to get that call up to the NSW side?

I was a little surprised but I thought I worked hard all year and there were a couple of injuries. I was excited when I got the call from Ricky Stuart and I was confident that I could do a good job. It was great seeing my wife, Terry, who hasn’t seen me play in an Origin game, get to come out and experience the Origin arena and the elation of winning a match like that.

You only got married recently; how was it?

Fantastic. It was the best day of my life. It was the best week of my life actually because we had a few lead up events. It just turned out perfect. It was a little bit rainy in the morning and then the weather just came good. Terry looked amazing and her dress was just phenomenal. We sat under the stars all night and it was just a dream.

How did you and Terry meet?

It was just one Sunday afternoon down at the Golden Sheaf in Double Bay of all places.

Where many a relationship has been forged…

That’s it, that’s it. I walked in with a few of my mates and she was looking unbelievable. I couldn’t leave until I had a chat so a few drinks later I tried to squeeze over there.

Did she know who you were? Was she a footy fan at all?

No, she wasn’t a footy fan. She’s obviously a shoe designer so she’s into fashion and she didn’t follow too many sports growing up. I just worked her with my charm, I think.

Are there going to be little Minichiellos running around any time soon?

We’re definitely going to have a family but Terry and I want to enjoy our marriage together first and do a bit of travelling. But kids are definitely on the cards; we both love kids and I think Terry will be a fantastic mother.

How did you go transitioning from being a ‘westie’ to being the ritzy Eastern Suburbs guy you are these days?

I probably put it down to Luke Ricketson, that year that I lived at his house. He was an Eastern Suburbs playboy at that stage, so I got taught the ropes by Ricko.

Did you get any grief from the Eastern Suburbs boys when you first came out to the Roosters from the west?

Yeah, I did a bit because I had a bit of long hair going on. There was some banter when I was a kid but it was all good fun.

Do you still have family out west?

Yeah, my parents still live out at the family home in Prestons.

Your brother Mark plays up on the Gold Cost for the Titans, do you get extra pumped for the games when you’re up against him?

Yeah, obviously you get pumped. The first time we played was a bit weird but now we’ve played each other so many times it’s like any other game. That said, bragging rights do get laid out on the table beforehand.

How are the Roosters looking for 2012?

We’re looking pretty good. We had a really good preseason. It’s been well documented that we’ve got one of the younger sides in the NRL but I think that could be an advantage for us because there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the group. It’s important you get off to a good start in the first five rounds to give the young kids confidence and belief that they can do it week in, week out. But we believe in ourselves that we can go pretty well in this competition.

Who are some of the young guns that we should be keeping an eye out for?

Boyd Cordner is an up and coming superstar who definitely will be a representative player of the future. And we’ve got a young centre who hasn’t even played a first grade game yet but he’s a freak of a player, Tautau Moga. We’ve got a lot of young kids in the team and in the Under 20 squad that no doubt will get a shot this year or next.

Who’s the best coach that you’ve played under and why?

That is a tough question. I’ve been fortunate enough to be coached by a lot of coaches in the NRL. Phil Gould, Ricky Stuart, Wayne Bennett, Brian Smith, Graham Murray, Brad Fittler, all those coaches added something to my game throughout my career so I couldn’t really pick one in particular that I feel is the best coach.

Can you briefly describe Brian Smith?

He’s a very smart coach. He’s very good at what he does.

Anything else?

It’s a tough job to be the head coach of a footy team, to keep everyone happy and moving in the one direction, and Smithy does a really good job of that.

When you do eventually hang up the boots what do you think you will do yourself?

I just started a business called Minifit. We do health and fitness programs for primary school kids, Kindergarten to Year 6. A lot of schools, public schools mainly, don’t hire PE teachers anymore. They outsource all their physical activity. Minifit can come in and run sport, exercise and health sessions for the kids. I’m building the business slowly and it’s going really well. It’s really exciting actually because we’re just starting to get a bit of interest now. Building something of my own is quite exciting for me.

Back in the day did you have a back-up plan if footy didn’t work out?

No back up plan at all. Before I got injured I’d be out having fun all weekend and then just rock up at training and life was great. We went through a great period where we made three grand finals in a row and footy was just a dream to play. And then I soon found out that there are some tougher years ahead and that’s when I started thinking about life after footy. I always loved working with the kids when we did school clinics with the Roosters and I suppose because I’m a big kid myself I just found it fun. I came up with the idea a few years ago and launched the business last year. You can find out what we’re up to at

Who is the best player you’ve ever played with or against?

People have asked me this question a lot and I say the same thing because I can’t split them. There are three players that just really stand out for me that I’ve played with and they had a great vision of the game, and that’s Andrew Johns, Darren Lockyer and Brad Fittler. Those three players always thought two plays ahead and it was just great to play with them and hang around them.

Did you ever take to the field with all three of them at the same time?

No, I didn’t actually. I did with Joey and Locky at the same time but not with Freddy.

Who is the most dangerous player in rugby league today?

Gee, that’s a hard question. I think there are so many players out there that have great talent. Obviously you’ve got to watch out for Benji Marshall and Billy Slater, but guys like Shaun Johnson at the Warriors and a lot of the young kids with so much speed and footwork can beat you at the drop of a hat. And the kids just get faster and stronger every year. It’s exciting to watch them.

You did the Sydney to Hobart this year and were part of the winning crew; can you tell us a bit about that?

Three years ago, Anthony Bell, who’s a good mate of mine, started this concept where he got a boat and a skipper and put together five Australian personalities and 15 professional crew to do the Sydney to Hobart and raise money for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation and all these other charities. He asked me to be a part of it at the time but I think I was coming back from an ankle injury so I let it pass. They came fourth in the first one and then they did it again the next year and they got a bit closer and then this year he put the question to me again. I always thought I wouldn’t mind having a crack at it so I okayed it with the Roosters and I was off and training. I didn’t do too many training sessions to be honest. I did about two or three on the boat and then I was on the way to Hobart. The start of the race was full of nervous excitement. It’s like before you run out of the tunnel at a footy game but for an extended period. It was just such a great experience.

Did you get sick at all?

I did, yes. I think most of the people on the boat got sick. Our first night the seas were pretty big. We had a five- to eight-metre swell and it was raining, it was wet, it was freezing. You get shifts and every six hours you have three hours sleep. The first night was probably the longest night of my life. Everyone was throwing up all over the boat. You wake up after three hours sleep and it’s daylight but it’s still happening. It was a full mental challenge, which was great to get over because once the seas calmed down, the next night was just clear skies. It was great fun going into Hobart because we had a duel going on with Wild Oats and we eventually claimed the victory by just over three minutes.

Who were the other ‘personalities’ doing the race with you?

We had Phil Waugh, Phil Kearns, Karl Stefanovic and Kurt Fearnley, the paralympian. He’s an absolute freak, a champion bloke. And Karl was the man who by the end of it was throwing up nothing. About twenty times he went in the first night. It was quite funny to see him that sick.

Do you support any charities?

I’m an ambassador for the Oncology Children’s Foundation. And everyone at the Roosters is involved in the Steggles Charity Nest. This year Save Our Sons is one of the charities involved and they’re a charity quite a few of us at the club have had an involvement with. The club has also had a fair bit to do with the Sydney Children’s Hospital and the Starlight Foundation over the years. I’ve got a little mate, Joel Kiddle, whose Starlight wish was come to a game and meet me and we’ve struck up a great friendship now. He comes down and watches games whenever he comes to Sydney and I go Ronald McDonald House and have dinner with him. He’s just a great kid.

Growing up who were the players that you aspired to be like?

I loved Laurie Daley as a kid. I followed the Tigers a bit and I enjoyed watching Benny Elias go around but Laurie Daley was one of my heroes growing up.

Do you have any advice for youngsters wanting to make a career out of footy?

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication but it’s all worth it. You meet so many fantastic people throughout the rugby league arena and sport gives you so much. I came to the Roosters as a boy, I’ve grown up here and I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at the one club. As you’re growing up, listen to your coaches and just grab advice whenever you can get it from anyone that is a student or teacher of the game.

In a perfect world what does the future hold for Anthony Minichiello?

Hopefully another premiership with the Roosters. I think planning a family is another exciting part of my future. Knowing that hopefully a family of little Minis will be running around soon is exciting.