Jumping at the chances life has given him
Growing up as a sporty young lad in the northern NSW town of Tenterfield, in the heart of rugby league country, Anthony Petrie was destined to be a footy player.
It was his father Peter who set him on a different path, introducing him and his older brothers to basketball when he was eight years old.
“Dad was a really handy player in the bush back in those days, and he said to me and my brothers, ‘Why don’t you give basketball a go?’”
The Petrie brothers were multi-sport kids, with cricket, rugby league and athletics all in the repertoire.
But they weren’t too keen on the idea of adding basketball to the list. “It just wasn’t on our radar,” says Petrie, now 36.
One Saturday afternoon, after they played their weekly footy match with the Tenterfield Tigers, their old man finally convinced them to shoot some hoops.
“I can still remember making my first bucket,” Petrie recalls. “I was obsessed after that. I fell in love with it instantly.”
A basketball ring was installed in the barn on the family farm, and the rest is history.
Anthony went on to play for five National Basketball League clubs including the high-performing Adelaide 36ers. He represented his country in 2013, debuting for the Boomers in the same year that he was named as an NBL all-star.
But the choice between basketball, rugby league or a completely different career path was touch and go.
As a sprightly 18-year-old, Anthony headed to university to pursue a Bachelor of Education at ACU’s Canberra Campus, a big leap for a self-described farm boy from a town of 3,000 people.
Three years later, having completed his degree, he was still deciding whether to pursue professional sport.
“Dad got me on the farm one day and said, ‘Listen son, you always wanted to be a professional sportsman as a kid, and you’ve just finished your degree. What do you honestly believe would be your best avenue?’”
Deep down, Petrie knew the answer. “It was obviously basketball, so from that moment on, I just decided to chase that dream and do everything I could to make it happen.”
The big league
Petrie spent three years as a full-time teacher while playing for the Canberra Gunners in the semi-professional ABA competition, until he finally cracked the NBL with the West Sydney Razorbacks in 2007.
“I’d been playing in a team environment for years, but in all honesty, it was a shock to swap my teaching clothes for a singlet and shorts every day,” he says.
Affectionately known to basketball fans as “Peach”, the power-forward earned a reputation as a tough-but-fair competitor who was both skillful and humble.
Petrie moved to Wollongong and played a season with the Hawks before joining the Gold Coast Blaze in 2008-09, earning the NBL’s most improved player award. He played a leading role in the Adelaide 36ers reaching the grand final in the 2013-14 season, and finished off his decade-long career with the Brisbane Bullets in 2018.
He considers playing for Australia as his career highlight.
“To stand there in the green and gold alongside so many top players, it meant a lot to me, especially with my family there to see it,” says Petrie, a father of four. “To see the pride in their eyes, that was a really special moment.”
Back to school
Retiring from professional sport suddenly gave Anthony Petrie the freedom to settle down with his family — and to turn his attention back to his teaching craft.
Anthony Petrie with his father Peter and son.
As with his sporting pursuits, his father’s influence played a big role in nurturing this passion.
“When I look back to when I was a kid, my father was always a really great teacher,” Petrie says.
“It wasn’t his job, but it just came naturally to him … always trying to help us get better at sport, or at school, or whatever it was we were focused on.
“Even back then, I realised how powerful that was, so when I was finishing high school, it felt right to me to pursue teaching as a career path.”
After signing off from his basketball career, Petrie landed a teaching role at The Southport School, a renowned school for boys on Queensland’s Gold Coast, where he now teaches Year 7 as well as being the head basketball coach.
“One of the things that drew me back to teaching was the potential to have a positive influence on the lives of young men, because I think it’s incredibly important that all kids have positive role models,” he says, pointing to his family as his main childhood influences.
“My older brothers were a massive influence in terms of sport, and my mum and dad are two incredibly hardworking, selfless people, and I feel pretty lucky to have had their guidance all through life.”
They taught him to strive for his best, and — perhaps even more importantly — to be “a good bloke”.
“They showed me that helping other people to achieve their goals is a worthy thing to strive for,” Petrie says.
“And what I’ve found, as a sport person, a teacher and also as a parent, is that if you impact one person, they might impact another person in a positive way, and the effect keeps growing …
“If you can do that just one time, and have a positive influence on somebody’s life, then all power to you.”
Keen to explore a future in education? Explore the options at ACU.