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Mason Cox had not heard of Australian Rules Football just two years ago. Today, he debuted for arguably the biggest team in the AFL – Collingwood – in front of more than 85,000 fans on a day that holds huge importance on the Australian and New Zealand calendar: ANZAC Day (the equivalent of Memorial Day).Mason Cox goes for the ball. Photo by Kim Densham for AFANA.

Cox, who once dreamed of becoming a Dallas Maverick basketball star, could have been forgiven for being nervous as he shared the field with his teammates and opponents on one of the biggest days on the AFL calendar. If he was nervous, he certainly didn’t show it as he found himself in the thick of the action just two minutes into the contest. The 6'11" forward led out and marked (a catch) as the crowd roared their approval, giving him the chance to score the game’s first goal with his first kick in AFL competition. His teammates would not have been surprised when the big Oklahoma State University alum kicked truly, sending the Collingwood faithful into a frenzy.

From that moment, Collingwood proved much too strong for their Essendon opponents, banging on eight first quarter goals as midfielders Steele Sidebottom and Scott Pendlebury seemingly did as they pleased. Essendon looked lost as the Magpies dominated all facets of the game to lead by 45 points at the first break.

The second quarter was more of the same, with Alex Fasolo joining the party kicking the first of his four goals for the day while gun recruit Adam Treloar was racking up plenty of damaging possessions. Essendon on the other hand looked awestruck, struggling to hit their targets and failing to win any worthwhile amount of contested ball. At half time the margin had blown out to a whopping 76 points in Collingwood’s favor, the game effectively over as a contest with the Magpies looking somewhere near the 2015 form that had apparently deserted them in the season’s first four rounds.

To Essendon’s credit they worked hard to limit the damage in the second half, youngsters Darcy Parish and Orazio Fantasia leading the way and giving their supporters some hope as their club continues to rebuild for the future. In the end though, it was Collingwood’s day. Players such as Jarryd Blair, Darcy Moore and Jordan DeGoey gave glimpses of the Magpie’s solid core of youngsters that will serve them for many seasons to come.

While the ANZAC day contest was hardly a blockbuster, the 69-point margin in favor of the Magpies won’t be the lasting memory of this day. The debut of an American at Australia’s biggest AFL arena in front of a huge crowd was something to savor. Mason Cox kicked just the one goal, but he competed, he marked, he kicked well, he had a couple of assists and most importantly – he looked like he belonged. His final stat line was: 6 kicks, 4 handballs, 3 marks, 11 hitouts, 3 tackles, 1 goal, one behind.

Next week Nathan Buckley's Collingwood will look to maintain momentum as they fly west to take on the West Coast Eagles in Perth. John Worsfold's Essendon will lick their wounds and confront a Carlton team fresh off their first win for the season.

Collingwood  8.4 14.6 19.8 22.10 (142)                  
Essendon     1.1  2.2  7.4 11.7   (73)           

Best Players:
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Pendlebury, Treloar, Fasolo
Essendon: Kelly, Fantasia, Hartley, Zaharakis

Article last changed on Monday, April 25, 2016 - 4:18 PM EDT

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