By Ken Casellas
Friendships cemented eight years ago with Nick Winmar, Hayden Busher and Ryan Neates, together with encouragement from TFS Corp MD Frank Wilson (Claremont’s Major Sponsor), played a major role in Anthony Morabito’s decision to join Claremont this year as he prepares to enjoy the next phase of his tumultuous football career blighted by injury.
“I’ve always been an admirer of Claremont from a distance and I’m looking forward to getting involved in a club environment, getting my body up and being able to contribute on the field,” the talented 25-year-old utility player said.
“I feel like that I’ve got enough knowledge and I’d love to pass that on. Obviously Harro (coach Darren Harris) is receptive to that, which is really good. There are plenty of positives and it is exciting joining Claremont.
“Back in 2009 I went through the State 18s where I had a good group of mates, including Nick, Hayden and Ryan, and I’m looking forward to playing with them again this year.”
As the major sponsor of Claremont Football Club for the second consecutive year, TFS has a vested interest in the performance of the team, and together with coaching staff and players, was instrumental in securing the former Fremantle Dockers midfielder.
Frank Wilson, who is also a personal friend to Morabito said, “I have no doubt that Anthony Morabito’s well-rounded character, skills and talent, will have a significant impact on the strength and growth of the club.
“Anthony has a highly anticipated WAFL career and has never looked more promising despite having several injury set-backs over the years,” he said.
Winmar (25) is back at Claremont after playing for Sydney University in the past few years. He was a star with the Tigers colts in 2009 and he had three seasons on St Kilda’s AFL list before returning to WA where he made 22 league appearances for the Tigers in 2013. And then he joined Sydney University.
Busher has played in 33 league matches for the Tigers in the past two seasons after being recruited from Perth. And Neates has been an outstanding performer for Claremont since he made his league debut in 2010.
Morabito chosen by Fremantle in the 2009 AFL draft has experienced a roller coaster road in football. He played in 23 AFL matches for the Dockers in 2010, including the winning elimination final against Hawthorn at Subiaco Oval and the losing second semi-final against Geelong at the MCG.
But then injuries cut short a most promising career which saw him manage only another three matches for the Dockers (in 2014) before being delisted late last year.
He has survived three reconstructions to his left knee and has overcome hamstring and ankle injuries during his career. He managed a full pre-season preparation 12 months ago, but was unable to force his way into the Dockers side. Instead, he made 13 league appearances with Peel Thunder, the club he joined as a junior, after starting his football in Harvey.
Bad luck again struck Morabito when he received a serious injury to his right quadriceps in the WAFL elimination final against East Perth last September. This forced him to miss the semi-final against West Perth, the preliminary final victory over South Fremantle and the grand final triumph over Subiaco.
He underwent surgery in Melbourne where the tendon which had been torn from the bone in the right thigh was stitched back in place.
“It was pretty unfortunate,” Morabito said. “It happened when I was pushed when kicking the ball. All the reports from the surgeon after the operation have been most positive.
“I played a lot of footy last year and really enjoyed it. And then it was obviously a tough period when I was delisted by the Dockers. At the end of the day it was the club’s decision and I’m more than comfortable with the way things were done and with my time at Fremantle.
“Simply, things just didn’t work out and it’s now time for something new. I’d be telling a lie if I said it was an easy or pleasant experience. But I can look back on my career fondly. To achieve a childhood dream and to play in an AFL final at the MCG is something I will always cherish.”
Morabito is a fast, strong and versatile footballer who has been used in a variety of roles --- on a wing, as an inside midfielder, a forward flanker and a defender.
“I enjoy most roles, particularly on a wing where it is a bit more free-running,” he said. “And I enjoyed my defensive role at Peel last year.”
Morabito has some fond memories of matches against Claremont. His sixth league match was against Claremont at Claremont Oval in round seven in 2009 when the Thunder prevailed by four points. He also played against the Tigers in round 16 that year when Peel were beaten by 22 points.
Morabito started his pre-season preparation this week at John XXIII playing fields when he was restricted to running drills. And he was delighted to renew acquaintances with star midfielder Tom Ledger.
“I remember playing for Peel against Claremont at the Showgrounds in 2014,” he said. “It was an extremely wet and muddy day and I was reported for cleaning up Tommy. His evidence helped me to get off at the tribunal, so I reckon I owe him a couple of beers.”
Morabito said that he was most impressed with Claremont’s ability to perform strongly after a poor start to last season and he paid tribute to midfielder Jye Bolton’s outstanding season in which he won the E. B. Cook as Claremont’s fairest-and-best player, the Simpson Medal and the Sandover Medal.
“Looking on from the outside it was also heartening to see the way the club’s colts and reserves performed, with each grade winning the flag,” he said. “And that’s a good sign for the future.”
Posed the question of when he expected to recover fully from his recent surgery and when he expected to resume playing, Morabito replied: “That’s a good question. I’m working with the physios and coaches. It was quite a significant operation, so we’re looking at building slowly.
“Hopefully, playing in round four or five is the aim we’re looking at. But in saying that it’s all about getting up and going, and there will be no pressure or push. I’ve been in this position a few times and it is better to be fully prepared than under-prepared.
“I’d rather be digging in for the long term than pushing too hastily. I want to get myself up and going for the next few years.”
Morabito again stressed that he had enjoyed his time as a member of the Dockers list and said that being drafted again was something that had not crossed his mind.
“I’m focusing on enjoying life a little bit and enjoying my football,” he said. “It’s taken a while to land back on my feet. Now I’ve got about six months to finish my commerce degree at Curtin University and I’ve got some part-time work involving finance with one of the companies which is involved with the Claremont Football Club.”