AFL world rallies around Anthony Rocca after Collingwood great goes public with awful news

Fans and fellow greats are sending their well-wishes after the horrible development.

The AFL community is sending messages of support to Anthony Rocca after the Collingwood champion revealed over the weekend that he's battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The 46-year-old told the Herald Sun he'd been experiencing sharp pains in his back for several weeks, so he decided to get checked out.

Currently working as the coach of the Northern Knights in the Coates Talent League in Melbourne, Rocca approached Collingwood doctor Ruben Branson for advice. After a series of tests he was diagnosed with the cancer.

“I’ll beat this,” Rocca said. “No one likes the dreaded ‘c’ word, it is even hard for me to say it now. No one likes to be told you have got that sort of illness. But I am the sort of person who deals with what is front of me. When I found out, I was like ‘How do we treat it?’ ‘How do we deal with it?’ ‘When can we get started on treatment? And what’s the plan?’”

Anthony Rocca, pictured here with his wife and children.
Anthony Rocca with his wife and children. Image: Getty/Collingwood

Rocca, who played 220 games for Collingwood and kicked 415 goals across an illustrious career, is standing down from his coaching role with the Knights. He is set to undergo six months of chemotherapy with the support of wife Enza and children Mia (18) and Max (14).

“They’ve been awesome,” he said. “ (Enza) has been so strong and supportive. She’s been the rock of the family. It’s very important for me to stay positive for her and the kids.”

Anthony Rocca, pictured here in action for Collingwood in 2004.
Anthony Rocca in action for Collingwood in 2004. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Rocca said he's been assured the condition is very treatable. “I’ve been told it is quite a common lymphoma, it is Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma … it is very treatable,” he said.

“I will hopefully get into chemo in the coming weeks, which will be a six-month situation. The statistics tell us that it is very treatable. I’m feeling OK at the moment.”

Nathan Buckley and Anthony Rocca at Collingwood in 2017.
Nathan Buckley with Collingwood forwards coach Anthony Rocca in 2017. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

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Fans and figures from around the AFL world have sent their well-wishes to Rocca. Former Collingwood player and coach Tony Shaw wrote on social media: “Horrible news about Anthony Roccas diagnosis. What a beautiful man. We are in this fight with you mate. I know the club will have your back and anything I can do to help I’m there. To the extended Rocco family we are only a call away for help.”

Journalist and TV presenter Stephen Quartermain wrote: “Crap news. Best of luck Anthony. You’ll smash it! God speed.”

Rocca played 22 games for the Sydney Swans before moving to Collingwood and becoming one of the biggest names in the AFL. He won the Gordon Coventry Trophy (for Collingwood's leading goal-kicker) in 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2007, and the Darren Millane Trophy for Best Clubman in 2002.