‘Gave me an ill feeling’: Mason Cox exorcises the demons of 2018

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In 2018, Mason Cox was standing the mark when Dom Sheed kicked the goal that won the grand final for West Coast.

It’s a moment he has been trying to flush out of his mind ever since. He has now exorcised those demons.

Sinking feeling: Magpies Taylor Adams and Mason Cox react after Luke Sheed kicks the winning goal for West Coast in the grand final in 2018.Credit: Wayne Ludbey

The beanpole from America who arrived in Australia with no idea of the game, the culture or any friends has now achieved the childhood dream of many people in his adopted home.

Few stories in this game are as rich as that of Cox, the foreigner turned Australian whose career has entered the folklore of this sport.

“2018, it gave me an ill feeling whenever people brought it up, it was always something you’d be frustrated about,” Cox said.

“One kick, you think ‘I could have done this, someone could have done that, or we could have done this as a team’, one little thing might have changed that whole situation.”

Cox (left) celebrates with the 2023 AFL premiership trophy.Credit: Eddie Jim

When his head hits the pillow in the days, weeks and months to come, he will no longer have those “what if” moments replaying in his mind. Now there are happy memories, of the day the Magpies defied their history of losing grand finals by winning an epic – and his role in it.

He may have been one of the millions around the country watching the game on TV if not for coach Craig McRae, whom he credits for saving his career. The two go way back, to the start of Cox’s Australian story. McRae was the coach who taught him how to kick.

So ingrained are his lessons that Cox’s first thought after missing a shot at goal in the first quarter were the words of “Fly” buzzing through his mind.

“He’s telling me ‘you should have done this, you needed to kick through it’. As soon as I missed it I’ve got Fly in my head,” Cox said.

“He’s been incredible for me. It’s well-documented how much he means to me, he’s family to me over here now.

“When he came to the club my footy career wasn’t going well, he showed faith in me, and to be a crucial player with him, it’s pretty special.

“I know in season 2021 or whenever it was my contract was up, I wasn’t sure what would happen. When Craig came into the club he was probably thee only person who wanted to keep me at the Collingwood Football Club.”

Cox’s football story is rich fodder for a movie. The piece American 60 Minutes ran during the year on the naturalised Australian gave the sport exposure in the US that millions of marketing dollars would have struggled to deliver.

“You think it’s all a fairytale and you don’t believe half of it,” Cox said. “To experience both sides, I was saying to my family, it’s almost like you’ve ticked every box in AFL.

“You came to a country not knowing anything, you’ve reached the pinnacle. It’s incredible to think how far I’ve come in a short period of time.

“I look back at those early years, I didn’t know a single person here, living on my own, the club is my family. I wish it could be perfect but nothing’s perfect. To be able to experience everything this amazing sport has to offer, it’s pretty incredible.”

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