Zahn Anthony - the Cross Coder
“At this point in women’s sport there’s no harm in giving everything a go until you find something you just can’t let go of. In a few years’ time there won’t be cross-code athletes like myself and girls will have grown up on footy but for now why not have a real crack at all the opportunities that are coming for us.”
In a sport that involves such a diverse range of skills; it isn’t a surprise that many sporting converts can turn their previous skillsets into a major strength.
More often than not, soccer players bring their impressive stamina, volleyballers bring their strong marking ability and of course, rugby players bring their tremendous tackling ability.
And as you’re about to find out, cross coder Zahn Anthony has certainly brought something to her beloved Eagles.
Despite only playing rugby for the last three years, she grew up playing touch football. However, once she had a taste of rugby, she had to keep playing because “once you start tackling, you can’t stop”.
But there are still several accolades that came from Zahn’s days of touch football; the most notable being the fact that from 2005 to 2016, she played in state representative touch football. Beginning with the U12s, then on to U15s, U18s, and finally the Open Women’s.
Then in 2016, Zahn made the decision to switch to football and she joined Adelaide University. However, she would go on to have “two interrupted seasons due to the rugby 7s program in 2017-18”.
So, what was it that motivated Zahn to make the switch?
“I was at the end of my touch career and had always wanted to try but never had the opportunity. A friend asked me to come out to an Adelaide Uni training and the rest is history.”
And it would also be at Adelaide University where she would not only win a Div.1 Premiership in 2019; but it would also prove to be a springboard to the second highest tier of women’s football in the country.
But with most, if not all of her sporting life up until this point being touch football; how did she cope with learning Australia’s game?
“I picked up the contact and running off the ball quite naturally but struggled to have a consistent kick and handball until I really put in a conscious effort to work on them in the preseason for the 2019 SANFLW season.”
But the next few years would prove to be busy to say the least for Zahn, as she not only spent the next few years playing football, but also rugby.
This is because in 2017, she joined the Adelaide Uni Roma’s where she continued to play up until last year, when she took a well-deserved break from playing two sports.
But like her touch football career, Zahn made the most of it and found some success over her three years of rugby.
Representing South Australia in rugby 7s in 2017 and playing in South Australia’s XVs rugby team in 2019.
At the beginning of this article we mentioned how rugby players bring their strong tackling ability into the world of football; however, Zahn also brought a very strong sense of leadership.
And the first glimpse of this came during her time with the Roma’s.
“I was the first co-captain for the University of Adelaide Roma’s in the Aon Uni 7s competition, so the inaugural co-captain of an inaugural team in an inaugural series.”
But it also seems that Zahn likes to be somewhat of a trendsetter, as the Roma’s would not be the only inaugural team that she would be a part of.
And this is because in 2018, her considerably new but talented set of football skills were recognised and rewarded with a spot-on South Adelaide’s inaugural SANFLW list.
And then the following season in 2019, Zahn donned the blue, green and gold of Woodville-West Torrens inaugural SANFLW side.
“After a tough first season I think it would have been easy to take a step back but the tireless work of a few individuals at the club definitely reignited a passion to push for more inclusion for the women across the SANFL platform with facilities, scheduling and media coverage.”
“I would rather spend my time helping establish a team culture and professional framework for the brilliant girls coming through our junior programs than fitting into someone else’s at this stage.”
And it is this very same attitude and passion to help build a new team culture, that saw her get rewarded with a leadership group at the Eagles.
“I was honoured to be voted into the leadership group at the Eagles and I hope to be a long-standing member of the club and get involved in some of the junior programs in the future too.”
“Being able to mentor a younger player especially has given me another motivator to making sure these girls have a career as an athlete ahead of them if they want it and by modelling those professional behaviours rather than dictating that.”
And as for the people who have helped her along her promising career, well “there are so many from growing up with touch, to rugby girls who now play for the Aussie 7s team, to footy role models and friends that it would be a disservice to start naming them”.
But lucky for us, Zahn is willing to provide some advice to any other rugby players that might want to make the switch to football.
“I would encourage them to give it a crack; some skills like 2v1 drawing and passing and dominance in contact translates well as long as they’re willing to really work on technical skills like kicking.”
So, what is next for this talented cross coder?
“For this season, I just want to play as consistently as I can from week to week.”
But as always, we cannot say for certain what will happen down the track; but we are pretty confident that with her passion and dedication, Zahn will continue to be a very valuable part of the Eagles and the larger footballing community for years to come.
Photographs by A J Walwyn Photography
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