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2017 Hall of Fame: Anthony Stevens - hard-nosed heart of the Kangaroos

Hall of Fame: Anthony Stevens Midfielder was heart and soul of Kangaroos' dominant team

IT WAS Wayne Carey who provided the star factor of the great North Melbourne sides of the 1990s and Glenn Archer the grunt and the hardness.

Anthony Stevens? Well, he sat in the middle of that pair in stature and style, but was no less important. Hence his induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame this year.

Stevens was the star of the midfield. While primarily a hard-nosed, shut-down midfielder, he could use the ball well when he had it. And he was tough, as witnessed in 1999 when he overcame a three-week ankle injury in five days to play in the Grand Final.

He was the heart and soul of a team that was moulded by Denis Pagan, first in the North Melbourne under-19s and then from 1993 at senior level. The group won two Grand Finals, lost another and probably should have played off in a couple more.

"That was the dream come true from when I was a little boy," Stevens told the AFL Record.

"I wanted to be the best I could with the ability I had, get the best out of myself I could and hopefully that would filter to the other players and be the best role model I could."

That he did. Stevens twice won North's best and fairest and was runner-up four times in his 16-year career.

"I wasn't the most gifted player going around but I guess one of my strengths was understanding what I was as a footballer," he said. "I suppose I wanted to leave footy having given 100 per cent and playing to my potential."

For that, he thanked Pagan.

"He was a hard, but fair coach. It was very evident at our 20-year premiership reunion last year the regard that that those who played under Denis had for him.

"He could push the buttons for all of them to get the best out of them and he was certainly able to do that with me.

"I would get frustrated and annoyed with some of the challenges he would put in front of me but, after a day or two of thinking about it, he was right about 99 per cent of the time and he was the guy who helped me be the player I was."

The beauty of those North Melbourne teams was their culture and spirit. The Kangas barely had any money and their facilities were comfortably the most primative in the competition, but as Stevens said, it didn't matter.

"We were renowned for the close-knit bond and mateship," he said.

"In those days, you would have a good time, go out after a game for a few beers and that closeness brought us together, but we had this culture that come Monday everyone had to be on the training track with no excuses and we would challenge each other to push each other to the limit with every training session.

"We didn't have anything, we didn't want anything, but we knew the team we had would make us stronger. It was us against them and we treated it that way week in and week out."

Stevens was humbled to the point of embarrassment when he was elevated to legend status in North Melbourne's Hall of Fame last year and he feels the same about this honour.

"Why am I different to the other guys and why am I receiving this accolade?" he asked while reciting the names of others who he said were critical to the success of the team such as Mick Martyn, Craig Sholl, John Blakey, Wayne Schwass and Corey McKernan, among others.

"I'm not sure why it's meant to be me standing up there when you look at the great players at North Melbourne who haven't been recognised yet."

Club North Melbourne
Born July 2, 1971
Recruited from Shepparton
Playing career 1989-2004
Games 292
Goals 127
Player honours Best & fairest 1997, 1999; 2nd best & fairest 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998; 3rd best & fairest 2002; All-Australian 1998; premiership team 1996, 1999; captain 2002-03; Victorian representative (4 games); International Rules representative (2 games); NM Team of the Century; NM Hall of Fame

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