Anthony Rock could’ve been rolled

Anthony Rock is lucky to be alive.  It was cautious anticipation that saved him.  It was timing and speed.  Rock was barely a teenager.  Everything he achieved in football and life might never have happened.

In 1984, Rock was meters away from being run over on Chapman Avenue in Glenroy.  My mum, Patsy was driving.

Rock lived next door to my mate Shane in Sim Crescent.  I grew up on Jacaranda Street.  Shane was 12 houses away.  We met in grade five and were best mates through grade six.  He supported Essendon but didn’t mind coming to North games with me.

Rock went to a different primary school.  Shane said it was Hadfield.  He said they hung out occasionally.  I spent a lot of time at Shane’s house during the week and on holidays and I only met Rock once, one afternoon in the street.

Hadfield Primary School was much further away than Oak Park.  I’m not sure why Rock went to Hadfield.  I never saw him during the holidays or week nights.  He was probably training or playing footy.

Shane called him Rocky.

One afternoon I met an older kid, big enough to ride a racer.  Shane said he was Rock’s older brother.  I can’t remember his name.  His racer didn’t have brakes, which I thought was dangerous.  I asked him how he stopped.

‘How do you reckon?’ he said.  ‘With my feet.’

I was embarrassed.  That’s how I would’ve stopped if my bike didn’t have brakes.  That’s how I stopped plenty of times as I got older.  Shane and I spent a lot of time on our bikes.

Chapman Avenue is a long, gentle slope.  It runs parallel to Pascoe Vale Road.  Shane and I loved it.  We used to race each other, side by side, on the way down.  We did silly things on our bikes.  I had plenty of accidents.

Anthony Rock loved Chapman Avenue too.

It was a grey Melbourne afternoon when Patsy turned onto Chapman Avenue.  She was driving a red Mini Moke.  All her kids were in that car.

Rock was in his school uniform with his bag on his back.  He was about 100 metres ahead, speeding down Chapman Avenue on his BMX.  He was lairising, in and out of driveways, using the gutter as jumps.

When Patsy saw him she slowed down.  Rock made another jump then flicked his back wheel to the right.  He was good on the bike.

He looked around and saw us coming when we were about thirty metres away.  Patsy slowed further.  Instead of ignoring the next driveway and letting us pass, Rock went for the jump.

He mucked it up.  The front wheel came down first and buckled beneath him.  Rock hit the asphalt with his chest and rolled to his left before ending up spread across the road, legs across his bike which lay in the gutter.  He looked up in fear as the Moke crawled up on him.

Patsy stopped.  She didn’t have to slam on the brakes or swerve.  Rock was two metres away from being run over.  The Moke was low to the ground with fat wheels.  It had a bullbar.   He would’ve been hit around the chest and head.  His injuries would’ve been serious or fatal.

Rock held his hands in front of his face.  He expected to be run over.  Suddenly he wasn’t.  He pushed himself up, eyes panicked and face red.  Adjusting his bag, he picked up the BMX.  Patsy drove past.  No one spoke to him.  We didn’t need to.

‘That is Anthony Rock,’ I said.  ‘He lives next door to Shane.’

‘If I didn’t slow down when I saw him he’d be dead,’ Patsy said.

It is a lesson I have never forgotten.  Slow down when you see kids on bikes.  I figured out why most people slowed down as they drove past me when I was riding.  Kids on bikes are unpredictable.  Anything can happen.

When Rock was drafted by North Melbourne I was living in Brisbane.  I wondered if he ever thought about that afternoon on Chapman Avenue.  I wondered if he still lived next door to Shane.

I hadn’t seen Shane for years.  We went to different high schools and lost contact quickly after primary school.  He was just 12 but he’d already planned his life.  He wanted to join the army.  I heard he did.

Rock wanted to play football.  I watched his career with fatalistic interest.  He wasn’t a star.  He was good enough to play in a premiership in 1996, a solid rover, a tough nut in a great side.  He played 178 games with North.  His best year was 1996, 527 possessions in 25 games and 25 possessions and a goal in the grand final.

Two years later, after the 1998 grand final, Russ and I went to the post match function.  What should’ve been a celebration was a morgue.  I was shattered.

Sometime during the night I asked Rock for his autograph.  He wasn’t having a good time.  Denis Pagan had started him on the bench.  Rock didn’t come on until late in the third quarter.  He had three possessions and no impact on the match.

Pagan might’ve named his dog Rocky in honour of his rover but Rocky was out of form.  In seven of his previous ten games, Rock had less than 10 possessions.  He had five kicks in the qualifying final and four in the preliminary final.  He hadn’t kicked a goal for a month.

‘You used to live next door to my mate, Shane on Sim Crescent,’ I said.

‘Oh yeah, I remember Shane.’

‘Can you remember the day my mum nearly ran over you on Chapman Avenue?  You were doing jumps off the gutter.  We were in a red Mini Moke.’

‘I wish she fucking ran over me,’ Rock said.  He smiled ruefully and signed his autograph.  I shook his hand.  He sighed and walked off.  I looked at his signature and shook my head.  Rock had played in a losing grand final.  He was out of favour with his coach and I reminded of the day he could’ve been killed.

I felt bad for him.  I felt silly, like the time I asked his brother how he stopped on his bike without brakes.

No time is a good time to remind a man of his stupidity.

Six weeks after North lost the premiership, Rock was traded to Hawthorn.  North didn’t miss him.  Rock played 44 games for the Hawks in three seasons.  His best season at Hawthorn was 2000, when he played every game, including two finals.

He might’ve been handy at North that year.

In 2001, his last season, he played five games.  When he retired, I called Patsy and told her he played 222 games and kicked 155 goals.

‘And if I didn’t slow down he’d be dead,’ she said.  ‘There’d be no premiership.’

I slow down whenever I drive past kids on bikes.  Anthony Rock is the reason.  Patsy is the reason.  People tell me I drive like an old man.

I drive like Patsy did the day she saved Anthony Rock’s life.

When you see a kid riding a bike on the road, slow down like Patsy did.  That kid might be unpredictable.  That kid might play in a premiership.  That kid could be anything.

 

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…

Comments

  1. Ahh, good on you Ironmike20.
    And well done, Patsy.
    You just never know.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    A story which makes you think and ponder in a few different ways ( I fancy Rock would have shown more gratitude if you had met him at a different situation )
    Thanks Mike a good and valuable read

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