Saverio Rocca

Magpie Legends: Saverio Rocca

By Johnon#26

Number: 36
Born: 20/11/73
Height: 195cm
Weight: 106kg
Previous Club: North Reservoir Lakeside
Debut: 1992
Games: 156
Goals: 514
Awards: Copeland Trophy 1995, Leading goalscorer: 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99.
Saverio Rocca is possibly one of the most scrutinised, and most enigmatic footballer to play for Collingwood. On his day, Rocca could take towering marks, score bundles of goals and take the game by the scruff of neck. However,
he could also drop simple chest marks and miss the easiest of goals.

He won Collingwood’s goalscoring award on seven occasions, and the clubs Best and Fairest once. Nevertheless, after two disappointing seasons, Rocca was controversially delisted at the end of 2000 and was selected by the Kangaroos in the draft.

In his teens, Sav’s first love was athletics, where he was the Australian discus champion at under-19 level. He was spotted by Keith Burns – a famous footballing recruiter – when playing for North Reservoir Lakeside – Tony Shaw’s old club as a 17 year old. Rocca showed that he had great pace off the mark and strength, but he had a low level of endurance. Rocca made his senior debut aged 18 year old.

In his first season, he lacked confidence, despite Leigh Matthews telling him that he was a special talent. In his debut season, he played ten games for a return of 29 goals – a solid return. He played at full forward alongside Magpie greats Gavin Brown and Pater Daicos. He also had an occasional run on the ball.

Season 1993 was when big Sav showed the football world that he was something special. In round one against Footscray, Rocca played alongside full forward Brown and booted five great goals. He played the role of spearhead in round two, only to be moved out of the limelight by Daicos, who scored eight miracle goals to see the Pies to victory over a Gary Ablett led Geelong.

The next week against Essendon, with Daicos injured, Rocca a match winning haul of five goals to sink the Dons. Two weeks later he faced off with the full back of the century – Steven Silvangi and scored a bag of six goals to see the Pies to a win. However, Rocca’s good form slowed after the blazing start, but returned to the good books when he scored eight goals in two weeks.

He then met Richmond at the MCG, where he booted four goals in the opening term and ending with ten for the day. Two weeks later he again registered double digits to annihilate the Bulldogs, where by half time he had seven goals. From there, Sav faded out as did the side – to miss out on the final six for the 2nd time since the 1990 flag win.

Rocca began 1994 slowly in scoring two goals in the opening round clash with Fitzroy, before scoring a nice bag of five against arch rival Carlton. Following on from that, the next week he slotted six to down Footscray by a kick. He then tore Essendon apart with seven goals, in a best on ground display. Rocca now had 20 goals in four matches, and was on track for his first Coleman Medal.

Sav was quiet the next week against Melbourne in scoring only one behind for the day. Rocca then went through a flat patch, until round nine, where he booted five goals against Hawthorn in a big win. Rocca’s dry spell continued and he took a back seat to fellow youngster Andrew Tranquilli in the round 12 contest with the Eagles. Tranquilli scored six for the day, while Sav could only manage two. He returned to form the next week in scoring four goals in the loss to the Bears before scoring three against the Swans.

In the return game with Fitzroy he snagged four in a comfortable win. He didn’t score a goal the next week but returned to some form against the Dogs with three goals in a heavy loss. The next week against the Bombers, Rocca injured his hamstring which sidelined him for three weeks. He returned to face the Roos in round 22, without scoring a goal. In the Qualifying Final in Perth, he failed to impress scoring one behind in the two point loss.

1995 was the season that Sav came of age. He scored 93 goals for the season, as well as winning the converted Copeland Trophy. Despite the Magpies not winning until round seven, Rocca did not stop scoring goals. Rocca missed the first game of the season due to injury but was back in round two against West Coast, where he scored two goals. Moreover, Dermott Brereton had been recruited from Sydney for one final fling at AFL and made his Collingwood debut in round three against Geelong. Rocca was helped by Brereton’s experience, and netted six goals in heir first outing together.

On ANZAC Day, Rocca – and Brereton – faced off with the Bombers and Dustin Fletcher in front of a packed house. Sav scored nine goals and Brereton one as the Pies tied with the Dons, in what was to be a famous game. The next week against the Hawks, Rocca didn’t score as the Pies lost again. However, round six saw Sav snag six, in a tight encounter with the Tigers.

When the Pies finally broke through for a win against Sydney, Rocca was in the thick of the action scoring four. The next week against Fremantle, Rocca again dominated with six as the Pies strung two wins together. Then, in a disappointing loss to the Demons, Rocca was one Pie to keep his head, in scoring five majors. Despite a quiet week against the Fitzroy Lions, he hit back against the Saints with three, showing he wouldn’t taper off. Next, then Pies met Footscray, where Sav kicked four goals in the Pies second drawn match of the year.

On a cold night in Adelaide, Rocca got the Pies on fire with ten goals in a 96 point drubbing over the Crows. Next, the Pies went on to lose to the Roos, but Rocca was able to save face with five big goals. Sav got six in the Pies big win over the Bears in a sunny and hot Queensland, before scoring only one goal for the day against Carlton the next week.

In a heavy loss to the Eagles in Perth, Rocca was able to score six goals on Glenn Jacovich – showing he would, or could become a real AFL force. He then faced Geelong in tight win, scoring four goals alongside Brereton, who scored five. The Pies then faced Essendon, and Sav scored eight goals to keep his goal of 100 goals for the season alive. Round 20 saw Collingwood squeeze in against Hawthorn where Sav got four before the final game of the year – where the Pies had to win to make the eight. Sadly, they lost, once again missing out on September action. Sav finished off the year with two goals.

Season 1996 did not reach the heights expected for Sav or for Collingwood. Although, he did score 66 goals for the season in just 18 games. Collingwood finished 11th in a disappointing season. Rocca also finished equal 8th in the Copeland Trophy, reflecting an indifferent season. A shoulder injury against Geelong saw him sidelined for four games, in which he could have lifted the Pies into the eight and beyond.

Sav hit back strongly in 1997, scoring 76 goals to finish second in the Coleman Medal, to Adelaide forward Tony Modra. He began the season well against Port Adelaide, scoring six goals alongside his younger brother Anthony, who had moved from the Sydney Swans. He was in even better for the next week against the lowly Demons, scoring ten goals in a best on ground display. He then scored three in the loss to the Saints before snagging four against the Blues.

However, he only scored four goals for the next two weeks, before kicking four against the reigning premiers, the Kangaroos. He was on fire again with five goals the next week against the Dogs, before crashing to earth with a thud against Sydney and Hawthorn – where he only scored one goal in the two games. He got four against the Tigers, before a poor game against the West Coast where he didn’t score a goal. This meant he was sentenced to the reserves for a week, while the side lost to Brisbane.

Rocca earnt a reprieve against Geelong but didn’t take his opportunities and didn’t score a goal in a disappointing display. He was again dropped for the round 15 clash with Freo, only to earn a late reprieve to the seniors, where he broke through with nine goals in a 100 point win – Nathan Buckley’s 100th game. He was quiet with two the next week, before scoring six against Melbourne. He booted two in the loss to the Saints, before getting four against the Blues. He then kicked another four against Essendon before the final game against North, where he got four goals. It was a solid season, but one that he may look back on with regret, as he missed out on the ton and his team again missed the finals.

The 1998 season was another solid season for Sav, who managed 68 goals from all 22 games. His best haul came in round 11 against Freo, where he scored 11. He started the season well against the Hawks, with four goals, before a bag of four against the Tigers three weeks later. He again tormented Essendon (a thing which had become the norm for Sav) in the round five Anzac Day clash, with a big bag of seven on 3rd gamer Matthew Banks. Following on from this, he continued his good form with eight goals in three weeks, before his bag of 11 to sink Freo.

Rocca scored 12 goals, in five weeks, before another nice bag of five at Waverly against the Hawks, where the Pies managed to win by 86 points. He then finished the season off with a small group of bags of ones and twos, with a haul of four against Essendon in round 20. It was an average season by his lofty standards, as the Pies missed the finals once again. They hadn’t made it since 1994 – four seasons ago.

Season 1999 was an unsuccessful season for both Collingwood and Sav, where the Magpies finished last with the wooden spoon, and Sav could only manage 33 goals. He was dogged by injury for most of the season, as he was hampered by groin and knee injuries – which forced him out of the last few games. There were some bright moments, such as the wins over Hawthorn and the Saints, where Sav played a big hand in the victories. It was to be Tony Shaw’s final season as coach, and Sav tried to lift his side for his coach. They failed, as did Shaw, as Collingwood languished at the foot of the ladder. Sav spent some time in the ruck during year, but couldn’t have the influence he would have liked.

The season of 2000, was Sav’s final year at Collingwood. He started in fine form under new coach Mick Malthouse, where he scored five to beat the Crows in round two, while in round three he scored six as the Pies thrashed the Blues by 73 points. But as the season wore on, he tapered off severely, with injuries taking their toll.

It seemed Rocca did not suit the coaching style of Malthouse, and he was unceremoniously dumped at the seasons end. Kangaroos coach Dennis Pagan picked him up in the second round of the national draft, and since then he has worked well for the Roos, and in 2004 after only 13 games had scored 44 goals. He decided to go on for another season, with Pies fans left wondering what might have been…

- Johnson#26