A TICK over a year ago, Collingwood's Mason Cox was weighing up whether the Magpies were for him.

The American import was out of contract and being courted by clubs. He had other issues to work through, such as how a change of work place could impact his Australian visa, and a big decision to make.

But big decisions aren't foreign to the game's foreigner: he left a soccer career in the United States to pursue an opportunity in the AFL with Collingwood. He stuck with the Magpies on a three-year deal and three rounds into this year knew it was the right call.

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"After the first round where I played the terrible game against Hawthorn and got suspended for the second game, I came back in the third round and was put straight into the team. It was massive for my confidence and the club's confidence in me to show me they're going to play me every week, especially from the coaching staff," Cox said on Monday.

"That was massive for me. I made the right decision to stay and I've got some amazing people around me who I consider family who have helped me throughout the years. I'm excited for where we're at and what we're doing."

Twelve months on and Cox is an important part of Collingwood's surge and surprise premiership tilt.

Cox was quiet in the Magpies' qualifying final loss to West Coast, gathering just five disposals and two marks.

He again didn't kick a goal in his second AFL final – last week's win over Greater Western Sydney – but Cox was more influential with 11 disposals, three grabs and a couple of important early touches to help the Pies get off to a good start.

The 27-year-old is newer to the game than his teammates but understood he needed to lift his output.

"The first [final] wasn't so great. I'll own up to that. I think we got beat aerially and that's something I take pride in, so it probably wasn't my best game in Perth," he said.

"But I took it upon myself to do better in the GWS game. Aerially we held up in the front half and didn't allow as many marks as what West Coast took. It allowed the smalls to get to work and kick some goals."

Cox has enjoyed the best season of his career in the AFL, playing 22 games and booting 20 goals as the focal point of the Magpies' largely fleet-footed forward line.

As the AFL's tallest ever player, Cox's size makes him impossible to miss. He's a talking point if he plays well, and a discussion when he doesn't. Cox isn't bothered if he divides opinion with his on-field exploits or off-field commentary on the game. 

"I don't really care, to be honest. Everyone's going to have a say and that's what makes the sport interesting, the passion behind it. To me it's all a bit funny. I didn't know the sport four years ago so if you're going to hate me, hate me," he said.

"It's a cool story and unique story, and I'm proud of my journey and where I'm at now. If you don't like me, you don't like me but if you want to hear more you can hear more.

"I've got the stigma of being an arrogant American and that's alright. I'm cool with it. Criticism comes with the job and that's the way it is."

Cox is taking inspiration from another international product, with the Collingwood ruck/forward reading Jim Stynes' autobiography.

The Melbourne great played 264 games for the Demons between 1987-98 after moving from Ireland, and claimed the 1991 Brownlow Medal. Tragically he lost his battle with cancer in 2012, but Stynes is continuing to spur Cox to take on the challenges of adapting to a new sport in a new land. 

"It's a humbling story that's similar to mine in certain ways. He's a legend of the game and it's unfortunate what happened to him. It's one of the best stories I've ever heard when it comes to the AFL and hopefully I can take a few things out of his book about being humble about where you can go and not putting as ceiling on what you can do," Cox said.

Cox faces a huge task on Friday night as Collingwood's main forward marking target against a Richmond backline determined to shut him down.

He wouldn't be drawn on whether he feels he is not getting the free kicks he deserves for marking infringements, a point alluded to by his coach Nathan Buckley earlier this season. Cox has kicked two goals in each of his games against the Tigers this season. 

"There's always going to be stuff to learn. Every time you play someone who's a good defender you pick little things up and get to use things for later in your career," he said. 

"It's helped my game playing on the No.1 or No.2 defenders week-in week-out."