ANZAC Day was like a Top Deck tour.
There were 40-odd Aussies and one American, but invariably the American was the centre of attention.
While the ensuing Stateside media acknowledgment of Mason Cox’s Austrian rugby debut were flattering, foreigners taking up our game has been going on for decades.
Here are 15 trail-blazers who didn’t let being born in a non-Aussie Rules country* get in the way of their sporting dreams.
*Every country but Australia and Sao Tome & Principe. And we know there’s more than 7. We just like this particular 7.
JOSE ROMERO – Chile
Pictured holding my childhood, Romero’s childhood was spent growing numb to “no way Jose” jokes.
Moving to Melbourne as a 7-year-old, Romero reportedly said his new home was a little chilly. Get it? Yeah it’s shit. Let’s move on.
Romero finished his career in 2001 after 211 games with North Melbourne and Footscray.
KRIS MASSIE – Sweden
Nothing says early-noughties like floppy hair, pastel shirts and Krista Vendy.
Massie (left) was born in Sweden as Kristiaan Martinger. When his Australian mother and Swedish father Sven (seriously) separated, two-year-old Kris moved with his mum to Melbourne and adopted her maiden name.
Despite his heritage, Massie didn’t fully appreciate the concept of Stockholm Syndrome until he was drafted by Carlton in 1997.
SEAN WIGHT- Scotland
Pictured with little-known Irishman Jim Stynes, Sean Wight was considered one of the first successful Irish experiments – despite being born in Scotland.
Wight played 150 games for Melbourne as a full-back, standing superstars like Gary Ablett, Tony Lockett and Jason Dunstall.
Known as a dour defender, Wight was unique for his ability to rock a moustache above both his top lip AND his eyes.
CLIVE WATERHOUSE – England
Rumour has it Clive was too beautiful for England.
Moving to Australia as a child, Clive took up footy at a late age before being drafted by Fremantle as the No.1 overall pick in the 1995 draft.
Likely blinded by his beauty, the Dockers overlooked the likes of Barry Hall and Brent Harvey because they so desperately wanted a slice of Clive.
Clive finished his career in 2004 with 106 games and 178 goals.
ALEX JESAULENKO – Austria
“Jesaulenko, du Schönheit!”
Born in Salzburg to a Ukrainian father and a Russian mother, the Esaulenko family emigrated to Australia in 1949.
And that’s not a typo. As is the way with bureaucracy, they decided they knew better than ‘dem there foreigners’ and decided to spell the name with a ‘J’.
Despite being welcomed to the country by inattentive fuckwits, little Jezza and his family embraced the Australian culture, and young Alex started playing footy for his junior club at Eastlake.
He would finish his career with 279 games, 444 goals, four premierships, and one of the most recognisable surnames in VFL/AFL history.
HERITIER LUMUMBA – Brazil
The artist formerly known as Harry O’Brien moved to Perth from Rio de Janeiro as a three-year-old.
With his mum, of course. It wasn’t like “Home Alone 7: I Need Some Space”.
Raised by his step-father, Heritier changed his name to Harry O’Brien at nine-years-old, before changing it again in 2013 to honour his biological Congolese father.
CHARLIE MOORE – Fiji
The first Fijian-born man to play in the VFL, Moore debuted for Essendon in 1897.
Although short (169 cm), Moore played at full-forward and was the leading goalkicker in 1898 with 20 goals.
Moore went on to fight in the Anglo-Boer War, where he was killed after having his horse shot out from under him and copping a bullet wound to the waist.
He was the first Aussie Rules player to die at war.