Orazio Fantasia – speedy Bomber, bright spark, dedicated dog-sitter

downloadOrazio Fantasia needed a new place to live. Jobe Watson had a spare room at his house..

There was an obvious question to ask, but that didn’t make it an easy one. “I was nervous, trust me!” smiled the young Essendon forward, who went ahead and asked anyway. Having lived for a while with David Zaharakis, he wanted to see how another one of the team’s better players lived life. “Jobe had told me once before to come down, but I didn’t take him up on it right away, so one day I just said, ‘Is that offer still on the table?’ He said of course it was, so I moved in. He’s been really good to me.” A bright spark in a tough season: Essendon player Orazio Fantasia. Photo: Michael Dodge The favour has since been returned. Fantasia has sought out more responsibility this year, giving his team speed, spark and a reason to believe good things could be coming. He’s also taken on another, possibly more important job – helping Watson’s other housemate take care of the captain’s dog, a bulldog named Benson, while he’s away on his overseas holiday. “That dog’s going to drive me insane!” Fantasia said during the week. “He’s cute, but he’s stubborn. He’s not a massive walker, he just likes to plonk himself down and make you drag him out. Once we get him outside, he’s good to go and he’s got some friends at the park, but unless you’re giving him treats, there’s no way he’s moving.”Fantasia has his fingers crossed that the second this season ends, the currently suspended Watson will be much, much more than his housemate again. “I’ve got everything crossed!” he said. “I think he’ll be back. I know he will. He has to come back.” He also hopes that when Watson does return, he won’t feel like he has to pick up exactly where he left off, that he will see how much his young teammates have grown, developed and taken on while he has spent the season away from them. Orazio Fantasia celebrates a goal. Photo: Quinn Rooney That’s been his and their plan, from the start. “It’s been a good year for us, as a young group. It’s been a positive year,” he said. “We want it to keep going like that. We want to make it so that when the boys come back, we can say, ‘We did our best to keep things moving forward, and this is how we go about things now’. We can’t just stop when they come back. We have to keep doing what we have been doing.”For Fantasia, the season started with simpler ambitions: to get into the team, to stay there and to play as many games as he could. He had finished 2015 in the senior team and played two games the year before, starting out as a 60-kilogram teenager still working out when, what and how often he needed to eat in order to put on some muscle … even though he had just played in a premiership team for South Australian club Norwood
Being small never worried him – he found ways around players, and past them. Hurting an ankle in the last home-and-away game of his draft year did – he couldn’t imagine the coaches ever changing a winning line-up – but he did all his rehab, stopped by the club every day after school, spent lots of time with the physios and was told a few days before the game that he had been picked to play.It was a bittersweet moment, because one of Fantasia’s close friends found out in the same meeting that he wouldn’t be in the team. He has wondered a few times since how much it really meant to be picked, and to get to play in that game. “It was a good thing, a happy moment, but it was sad because of my mate. It was hard to know how to take it, but I was happy they were happy to go with me,” he said. He had about 10 kicks in the match, booted two points and put two more shots out on the full. “It wasn’t my greatest game, but I’m not sure I would have got drafted if I didn’t get to play that day,” he said. “I hadn’t had the best year. I don’t think I really stood out. I was still just a skinny little kid.”Fantasia’s first few AFL games made him realise how much stronger he needed to get, and how he tended to play too “safe” at times. He played four in a row late last season, moving to the half-back line and working out when, where and how quickly he could run. He was the last player nominated for the Rising Star award and turned up for the function two days later knowing he had absolutely no chance of winning. “It was pretty much turn up, meet a few new people and get to eat a free lunch,” he said. “That was it, really!”Still, he knew things he hadn’t known: when to defend, when to take players on, when to be anything but too safe. “Those games just gave me confidence that I could play at that level,” he said. “I felt like I could get the footy in my hands and that I could take the game on. That was the main thing.”He hung onto that feeling, right throughout the pre-season. He got to the end of it weighing around 15 kilograms more than he had when he got to the club, and that gave him confidence too, “like you can actually use your body and push off guys and wrestle a little bit more, nudge someone and run back and get the ball rather than just being pushed in the side and falling over”.Fantasia figured he would be spending another season running off half-back, or up on a wing. He started there, but at half-time on Anzac Day was sent into the forward line and told to chase, tackle and try to kick some goals. In the weeks since, he has scored 21 of them, in imaginativ…