• MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Orazio Fantasia of the Bombers grabs his jumper as he celebrates a goal. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images) (Getty Images AsiaPac)
Essendon forward Orazio Fantasia grew up idolising Adelaide Crows champion Andrew McLeod, but it’s another Indigenous star who he says everyone wants to be like.
By
Will Davies

4 May 2017 - 11:14 AM  UPDATED 4 May 2017 - 11:14 AM

Essendon young gun Orazio Fantasia is already carving an impressive path through the forward 50 of AFL grounds around Australia.

But the fourth-year Bomber says Aboriginal star Eddie Betts is the player other small forwards are trying to emulate.

“Eddie’s on fire and he’s the guy that everyone wants to be like, I guess. But no one can be anywhere near as good as him,” Fantasia told NITV ahead of his appearance on The Marngrook Footy Show on Thursday.

“He’s just sort of got that natural ability where he just makes things happen out of nothing. So that’s natural for him.”

Having grown up in Adelaide idolising former AFL and Crows champion Andrew McLeod, Fantasia is no stranger to the great feats performed on the football field by Indigenous Australians.

And the 21-year-old wears number 13 on the back of his Essendon jumper, a number worn previously at the Bombers by another AFL Hall of Fame and Indigenous Team of the Century member - Michael Long.

“Guys like that (McLeod and Long) who used to just make things happen – they were magic. So if I can be something like that, I’ll be wrapped,” Fantasia said.

A big fan of the game, Fantasia says other players he enjoys watching who are currently in the AFL include Chad Wingard from Port Adelaide, Toby Greene from GWS and West Coast Eagles forward Mark LeCras.

“But I think ideally for me if I could sort of be similar to, well I’m obviously striving to be half as good as Eddie Betts, the way he plays up forward. But how he can just go into the midfield, similar to Chad Wingard and those guys, how they just go into the midfield for four or five minutes."

But Fantasia, a two-time Rising Star nominee and one of the key components of Essendon’s successful start to 2017, is well and truly making his own mark on the competition.

He’s kicked 16 goals, the equal-10th most in the competition, through the first six rounds of 2017 and in 2016 he was awarded the Bruce Heymanson Best Team Player award at Essendon.

It came after a move from playing more in the midfield up into the forward line last year, which is a progression in keeping with how Fantasia sees himself developing into the player he wants to be.

“I sort of played a little bit on the wing early last year and then went forward and liked that role as well,” he said.

“But I think ideally for me if I could sort of be similar to, well I’m obviously striving to be half as good as Eddie Betts, the way he plays up forward. But how he can just go into the midfield, similar to Chad Wingard and those guys, how they just go into the midfield for four or five minutes.

“Chad at the moment is now playing more as a mid but sort of emulate those guys and play a sort of mid-forward role, I guess that’s the role that might best suit me.”

Fantasia is of Italian heritage, with both sets of grandparents from the European nation.

Having never visited Italy, he says it is high on the list of priorities.

“I want to go there this year and hopefully bring the parents there with me as well, which would be nice,” he said.

“Sort of see where their folks grew up and the villages that they lived in and just sort of get that vibe from them and see what they had to deal with.

“It’s pretty big for me. I think my dad’s father, who passed away just before I was born, was actually named Orazio.

“I try to do everything I guess for him and I love my family and hopefully I want to see where he grew up and things like that. I’ve got a pretty strong connection there for me.

“I love the fact that I’m Italian. I get to go home and get those home-cooked meals and things like that. I love all of the things that comes with it.

“Hopefully I can just experience the culture and make that sort of love for my culture grow stronger.”

But in the immediate future, his focus is on performing well with Essendon as part of a forward line that has him excited about what the club can produce.

“I think we’re going to test a lot teams out with our speed and then the two talls - they’re probably one of the best two marks in the comp.”

“Our forward structure at the moment now is starting to take shape like a genuine strong forward line,” he said.

“We’ve got Joseph Daniher and Cale Hooker up there and then we’ve got Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Josh Green, Travis Colyer and myself so we’ve got some speed and then we’ve got some potent big talls, so it’s starting to really take shape and it’s exciting.

“I think we’re going to test a lot teams out with our speed and then the two talls - they’re probably one of the best two marks in the comp.”

Hear more from Orazio Fantasia on The Marngrook Footy Show, tonight @ 7.30pm live on NITV Ch. 34

Read These Too
Lindsay Thomas reflects on journey to AFL, in Marngrook Footy Show debut
Making his Marngrook Footy Show debut, North Melbourne star Lindsay Thomas has reflected upon his journey to AFL football, as well as his omission from the Kangaroos this week
Double Debut Season for Gangulu woman, AFLW’s Ally Anderson
Gangulu woman and AFLW star Ally Anderson has made her respective Australian rules commentary debut in NITV’s coverage of the NEAFL.
Is Betts the best in the AFL?
Former Collingwood star Peter Daicos says Eddie Betts is clearly the best forward in the AFL at the moment. But Doug Hawkins wanted to go even further on this week’s The Marngrook Footy Show.