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King Koutoufides

Wednesday, 8th August, 2012

By Ben Sheffield

With the Olympic Games in full swing, it has been revealed that Anthony Koutoufides could have made it as a gold medal-winning track
and field athlete rather than a champion AFL player with Carlton.

Koutoufides was a decorated player with the Blues who won many accolades including All-Australian selection, Carlton's Best and Fairest, the AFL Players Association Most Valuable Player award, as well as AFL and Carlton Life Membership.

Visiting over the weekend for South's Old Timers weekend, Koutoufides highlighted the community feel of football in Broken Hill.

"This is what I love about footy in towns like here. I can't believe the amount of work and helpers that you guys put into this club, giving
up your own time.

"That doesn't happen in Melbourne, I can assure you of that. Everyone's straight out having coffees but it's a different culture here," he
said.

Growing up, Koutoufides was enjoying success in athletics and seemed destined for greatness in that sport.

"I had a love and passion for athletics and footy at the same time.

"I probably could have been an Olympian in track and field. I was quite a natural at it and winning quite a few events.

"By the time I was in grade five I was the state high jump champion."

Koutoufides ended up being the Australian champion in both high jump and hurdles, holding an Australian record for some years in the latter.

Where he grew up, Koutoufides was living in the Carlton recruiting zone and through his love of team sports, the Blues managed to
convince him to drop athletics and take up football full time, leading him to eventually make his senior debut with the club in 1992.

Koutoufides grew up as a supporter of Carlton's archenemy, Collingwood.

"I was a Collingwood supporter but at 19 I grew a brain," he joked.

Koutoufides said that his teammate, Ang Christou, also a Magpies fan growing up, used to wear a Collingwood guernsey under his Carlton gear during his early days at the club.

While he says winning the Premiership in 1995 was the ultimate moment of his career, he also holds two individual moments in high
esteem.

"In 2004 I was lucky enough to be announced captain of the Carlton Football Club.

"I walked into the clubas a 14-year-old and I was 30 or 31 at that stage; it was a great honour and experience," he said.

The other notable moment for him was being named the AFL Players Association Most Valuable Player in 2000.

"That's where you get voted in by your opponents. It's an unbelievable award to win.

"It's probably not as prestigious as the Brownlow medal, but it's probably a bigger honour."

He says that the low pointof his career came when his father was diagnosed with cancer.

"I tell you now, I was 24, maybe 25 and footy became insignificant to me.

"I was turning up to pre season training and not even wanting to train. All I could do was focus on my father.

"I loved him dearly and I never wanted to lose him and as a young kid I always thought he'd be there forever for me. Honestly, no matter
how sick he was, I thought he'd pull through.

"Three months later, I was training and I got the call saying 'Kouta, you'd better go' and I knew the day had come."

After his father passed away, Koutoufides says he lost focus on football.

But Koutoufides took notice and found some career best form when then Carlton assistant coach, Barry Mitchell, said the way he was going his career would be over before he realised it.

"I knew my dad would want me to play good footy because my dad used to go around telling everyone he was my dad, just in case they
didn't know.

"If my kids love me 10 per cent of how I loved my father, then I've done my job."

Koutoufides also offered some strident criticism of former Carlton President, Ian Collins, in relation to the club's move away from its spiritual home, Princess Park.

Collins was the CEO of Telstra Dome, now known as Etihad Stadium, as well as Carlton President in 2004 when Carlton's stadium negotiations for the following 10 years were taking place.

Despite the fact Collins removed himself from negotiations at the Carlton end, Koutoufides believes that Collins was compromised and potentially stood to gain from any move by the Blues to play home games at Docklands.

The end result of the negotiations was a split of Carlton's 11 home games, with six being played at Etihad Stadium and five at the MCG each year.

"Carlton has the worst contract at that stadium of any club; they are unable to get out of it.

"How he can get away with it I don't know," Koutoufides said.

He described the club's final match at Princes Park against Melbourne in 2005 as a touching game.

"It was a very emotional day for us. All the old players came down to say goodbye to the ground.

"When there was 20,000 fans there there was a better atmosphere than having 80,000 at the MCG. It was incredible."

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