Going shoulder-to-shoulder with former AFL star Anthony Rocca is one game Violet Town's Hayden Floate won't forget in a hurry.OLIVER CAFFREY May 13, 2014 3:05am
Violet Town’s Hayden Floate will never forget the day he played on Anthony Rocca.
Floate kept the former Collingwood and Sydney power forward to three goals in Saturday’s Kyabram District Football League clash between Violet Town and Tallygaroopna.
The Towners lost by 25 points, but Floate more than held his own against the towering 242-game AFL veteran.
Floate, 23, was told only hours before the game he would be given the gigantic task, but rather than being daunted by the challenge, he jumped at the opportunity.
Only a thirds premiership in 2007 and winning the league goal-kicking have come close to matching it for career highlights.
‘‘I’ve always wanted to play on an ex-AFL forward, so I was doing anything I could to soak it all up,’’ Floate said.
‘‘I watched him a lot growing up, along with (Essendon champion) Matty Lloyd, they were the gun goal-kickers in the AFL during those times, so I always imagined at some point going head-to-head with one of those guys.’’
A life-long Essendon supporter, Floate regularly witnessed Rocca causing havoc against his beloved Bombers.
But after spending two hours by his side, Floate said he was amazed by how humble the 36-year-old was.
‘‘He pretty much stayed in the forward line most of the day, so we got the chance to have a few quick chats when the ball wasn’t near us,’’ Floate said.
‘‘We spoke about mainly footy and I asked him a few things about what he’s doing with his life after retiring; he’s a really down-to-earth sort of guy, so I gained a lot of respect for him just being able to spend a bit of time with him.’’
Rocca kicked six goals in his first appearance for the Redlegs against Stanhope last year.
Floate said he was pleased to play his role and limit Rocca’s influence on the contest.
‘‘I got named among the best, so I must’ve done something right,’’ Floate said.
‘‘I was pretty rapt about it, he really only kicked two goals on me, with the third, there was nothing I could really do about it as he got it out the back.
‘‘He’s just such a big, strong boy, so his size makes it hard to work against him, but also his knowledge of the game is so good after playing AFL, he just knows where to position himself and get into the right spot every time.’’
With Rocca’s former teammates and current Collingwood stars Steele Sidebottom and Dayne Beams watching from the outer, the occasion carried extra significance.
‘‘Getting to rub shoulders with an ex-AFL champion and then having two AFL guys watching, I sort of had to pinch myself to believe it was happening at times,’’ Floate said.
‘‘By the third quarter, it started to just become a normal game and you forget who you’re playing on, but there were still times when it was a bit surreal.’’
Playing his first game in almost a year, Rocca was feeling it in the rooms after the game.
Rocca said it was most likely his final game of football at any level, but did not completely rule out a return to Tallygaroopna.
‘‘It’s a beautiful club out here at Tally, it’s a really tight, family-orientated club and they enjoy having me just as much as I enjoy coming here,’’ Rocca said.
‘‘Out of all the clubs I’ve played at, apart from Collingwood, I just jumped at the opportunity because everyone out here is so welcoming and great to be around.’’
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