Collingwood's Mason Cox is one of the AFL's great international success stories. Picture: AFL Photos

NO FOOTBALLER has had an AFL experience quite like Collingwood's American Pie.

Mason Cox's unlikely journey from end-of-the-rotation college basketballer to playing on Australian Football's biggest stages has won him fame he never thought possible.

Remember, this is a guy who'd never heard of the AFL and travelled to Australia to meet five clubs, unsure whether the competition was "like an eastern European basketball league that could fall over after a year".


Few football fans will forget Cox's performance from the 2018 preliminary final, where he became the Richmond slayer with a match-winning four-goal effort.

The 29-year-old is still yet to watch a full replay of his greatest game, on the basis he is always hunting for his next unforgettable experience.

What's abundantly clear is Cox's AFL ride is already chock-a-block full of mostly good moments but at least one pretty bad one. Today, 'Coxzilla' details seven of them to


Deciding to play AFL football in 2014

"I came to Australia for the first time with my brother (Nolan) for a try-out. I'd gone to see five different clubs but it was more about getting my head wrapped around how big AFL was in Melbourne. The first day we landed, we went to AFL House and did an interview – and it was on the back page of the newspapers. We swiped about 10 of those from the 7-Eleven downstairs, because we couldn't believe we'd made it into the newspaper.

"We were just kids who went to college and were fortunate enough to play a bit of basketball here and there, and had our jobs that were going to be 9-5. So we were going down the Yellow Brick Road of graduating from college and working for 30 years, then retiring. This was such a left-field thing. We were just like, 'This is ridiculous, man'.

"Something I'll never forget is a chat I had with my brother on the beach in St Kilda, overlooking the bay. He gave me advice that a degree doesn't expire but opportunities like this do. In my mind, I probably made the decision then to take a completely different path in life. That was a massive moment in my life."

Mason Cox playing basketball for the Oklahoma State Cowboys against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in 2014 at Viejas Arena in California. Picture: Getty Images

 Choosing Collingwood in 2014

"At that point, we hadn't gone to Adelaide yet to talk to Port Adelaide but we'd gone through the different Melbourne clubs – Richmond, North Melbourne and Collingwood – and then had a meeting with Fremantle. The whole point of coming over was, 'Is this legitimate?'.

"I realised it was when I watched my first game, between Geelong and North Melbourne. Seeing there were a legitimate number of people coming to games; I knew there would have to be an amount of money in it. One of the biggest things was learning it'd been around for 130 or 140 years.

"All the contract offers were the same, monetary wise, and they said, 'Choose the place you think you're going to fit in best and which coaches you get along best with'. I chose Collingwood because of that. Port Adelaide didn't offer me a contract, and I said no to Fremantle, because I wanted to stay in Melbourne and be at the epicentre of where everything happens. Richmond had (Mark) 'Choco' Williams there as a development coach. He's a very lovely guy, but very blunt at the same time, and I don't think I was ready for that, given the fact I was so s**thouse."


Anzac Day debut in 2016

"Bucks comes walking up and you always get this, 'Oh s**t moment' when he walks over. He just came out and said, 'I wanted to let you know you're going to play this week, on Anzac Day'. It meant a lot, in my eyes, to have someone kind of back you in for that to be your debut day.

"My mum and dad had their flights booked, they came over, and my brothers surprised me and came over, too. We all surprised my mum and dad in their hotel room, and they couldn't believe it. They were like, 'Holy shit, everyone's here at the same time'.

Mason Cox with his family after his 2016 Anzac Day debut. Picture: AFL Photos

"Anzac Day itself was pure insanity. Darcy Moore was recruited the same year as me … and I became friends with him and his family. I was fortunate enough to have him present my jumper to me, which was really cool and kind of intertwined us, to make it full circle. My first goal on Anzac Day was assisted by Darcy Moore, so it was a very weird universe coming together of events.

"I'd been to one Anzac Day before, so I kind of understood it but didn't really. I remember standing there and everyone was all stern faced, staring Essendon down, and I'm nervous as hell. The Australian national anthem comes on and I kind of looked left and looked right and I go, 'Everyone's singing and I don't know a word to this thing'. The camera comes by you and you're just mouth shut, trying not to be disrespectful."


The Queen's Birthday breakout game in 2018

"Queen's Birthday is massive. We met Neale Daniher, who came in and gave his spiel, which he does every year. Neale's so giving and caring and just a phenomenal human, given the circumstances he's been dealt. I love the fact everyone gets around Fight MND, too.

"Murray Swinton, the firefighter who had MND, and his family came in, too. He was someone who went along with our journey in 2018. He was a really nice guy and his family was beautiful and I still talk to them. Sometimes you get so caught up with the day-to-day regime of training and playing that you forget the reason people love this club and get so excited for games.

"I'd had a few good games here and there but hadn't really had a breakout game. I kicked five goals on the day – my first 'bag' of goals, whatever that means. It was my first statement game of, 'I'm here to stay, I'm here for a while, so get used to it'. To do it on a day like that and have my brothers and a friend from home there, and to win the Neale Daniher Trophy and to have him present it to me was definitely a memory I'll never forget."


That preliminary final in 2018

"The week before we played GWS, and I didn't have a great game. I actually got a really bad corkie from (ruck coach) Anthony Rocca in the warm-up and could barely run. Then going into that 2018 prelim; that was kind of a nice thing to take my mind off what the game was and Richmond being the powerhouse they were.

"We got off to a fast start, which definitely helped the confidence level, and I took a few contested grabs and just thought, 'F**k it, there's no better time than now to embarrass the s**t out of people'. I probably talked the most smack and drivel I've ever talked in a game that day, and it was good fun, man – I loved it. It was one of those moments where you kind of prove everyone wrong. I don't think there are many of those in your life.

"It was one of the team's best games since I've been here, and it seemed like nothing could go wrong. You just kind of felt in the zone the whole game. To have that happen in a prelim was pretty phenomenal.

"I know it's going to be a highlight of my career, and definitely a moment I'll never forget and a lot of people won't forget, but I'm always looking for the next experience."


A Grand Final for the ages in 2018

"It was a bit crazy, that whole week, with media and everything else. To experience the craziness of the Grand Final Parade, which makes no sense to me that you celebrate something before it actually happens. We have parades back home after you win the thing but not before. But it was cool to ride in the back of a truck and just say hi to people and have people chanting 'USA'.

Mason Cox goes for a low-five during the 2018 Grand Final parade. Picture: AFL Photos

"It was one of the best Grand Finals there will ever be – one of the most exciting ones, that's for sure. To be part of it was an awesome experience, and obviously it didn't go our way but it was just an all-round kind of life experience I'll never forget.

"The first half I played pretty s**thouse but in the second half I started playing a lot better and unfortunately we just couldn't stop them coming back at us. They steadied the ship and were able to come back at us and somewhat broke us with the Dom Sheed kick. I was the guy on the mark. I knew as soon as he kicked it [that] it was going through – just the way he didn't look down or anything like that."


The detached retina in 2019

"I think it happened in the second quarter (against Gold Coast in round 20), and I just kind of thought it was a poke in my left eye, my vision will come back, it's no big deal. But I started seeing dots everywhere. I played the rest of the half with one eye (open). I did that, then as I was walking off I tried to open the eye and look out but it was just all blurred, black dots going everywhere, and I thought, 'This is a bit more serious than I thought'.

"So I went in (to hospital) and they did all the tests … He came back to me and said, 'Look, you've definitely detached half your retina in your left eye … and he goes, 'I've actually got more news for you. Your other eye, your good eye, also has a detached retina'. I went in there with one bung eye and came out with two bung eyes.

Mason Cox and former Labor leader Bill Shorten in 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

"It was about three surgeries in a month almost … It was one of the hardest moments in my life, to be so far away from friends and family back home. The worst-case scenario goes through your head of, 'I'm blind now, I'm not going to be able to see again, I'll never play footy again and I'll never be able to live my life as it was again'.

"I always have to wear sunglasses to go outside now, and have to wear these (special) contacts, too. That's something I'll have to deal with for the rest of my life, and it's unfortunate but I've had the best care possible in Melbourne, with the doctor (Jonathan Yeoh) I've had."