AFL 9 months ago

Cox aims to build on crazy AFL debut

  • Cox aims to build on crazy AFL debut

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 05: Mason Cox of the Magpies (R) celebrates a goal wih Jarryd Blair during the round 20 AFL match between the Richmond Tigers and the Collingwood Magpies at Melbourne Cricket Ground on August 5, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Mason Cox is the extraordinary AFL recruit with a very straightforward plan for 2017.

Collingwood's 211cm Texan ruckman harbours the same ambition as every other second-year player - get as many senior games as possible.

That normality would be novel for the affable 25-year-old engineer and his AFL career.

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Just three years ago, Cox was a successful college basketballer who was about to start a dream job with ExxonMobil. He had never heard of Australian Rules.

Then he was persuaded to attend an AFL talent camp and everything changed.

Cox made his AFL debut last season. On Anzac Day. At a packed MCG.

And the first kick of his improbable AFL career was the opening goal of the match.

"It was a bit of a whirlwind - it was a crazy, crazy experience, last year," he told AAP.

"But this year, probably just to get my feet set and be a staple in the team, just try to be in the best 22 every week.

"Just get a full year into me, understand what a full season of AFL is going to do to your body, how to recover, and get that experience under your belt."

Cox's ambition goes a long way to explain why several clubs wanted to sign him.

He was determined that his time in the AFL would not be what he calls "one and done". Equally, now he wants to be more than a novelty.

Cox is called the "American Pie" in the 2017 AFL media guide.

He has heard about that and finds it funny - Cox laughs readily - but the big Texan is on a mission.

"If I have a novelty tag to me or not, that's really up to opinion really," he said.

"I guess you try to shake the stigma, but you'll always be the American - it's something that makes you who you are.

"You have to be proud of it, but at the same time you're hopeful that doesn't make you seem like you're ignorant of things that are going on."

And to that end, Cox knows the fastest way to learn is to play as often as possible.

After just 24 games at lower levels, the ruck-forward played 11 AFL matches last season and impressed with 17 goals.

"You get those games under your belt ... it's not until you're in that game situation in the fourth quarter, you're absolutely stuffed, you can't breathe and you have to go make that effort to save a goal or create a goal," he said.

"You keep doing what you're doing and hopefully it's enough to keep the coach happy."

Coach Nathan Buckley was very happy with him after last weekend's narrow loss to Fremantle and Collingwood need Cox to keep improving, particularly as part of their developing attack.

"It's a challenge, but I think we (Collingwood's forwards) are up for it - I've always been up for a challenge myself," he said.

Cox pauses, laughs self-consciously and adds: "obviously".

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