Anton Tohill during a Collingwood Magpies training session.
Anton Tohill during a Collingwood Magpies training session.

Irish Pie inspired by chainsaw horror

Your father has sliced his face open in a backyard chainsaw accident and is bleeding profusely.

How would you react?

Maybe not as well as then 12-year-old Anton Tohill, the now Collingwood prospect who used the horrific childhood experience as motivation to study medicine.

"I did what I thought I was supposed to do," Tohill said.

"Gave him a hand and something to put on the wound and called the ambulance.

"(We) realised by the time the ambulance comes … it would just be quicker driving so my mum (Sinead) put him in the car and took him up the road (to the hospital)."

Tohill was in the backyard kicking a football as father Anthony, a former Melbourne Demons project turned Gaelic and International Rules star and coach, cranked up the chainsaw to cut firewood.

The chainsaw bounced on a piece of wood and flicked up and hit Tohill Sr, resulting in a deep cut from the brow down, including "a bit of the eye".

"His pupil isn't round anymore but he can still see out the eye, which is great," Tohill said.

"Being there and seeing what he was like from then to the results from being in surgery and being looked after by medical teams, it's a fantastic conclusion to the whole thing."

As horrific as it was to witness the incident, the surgery and the months of rehabilitation, the mishap inspired the Irish-born forward to hit the books.

"Medicine is what I want to do ultimately," Tohill said.

"It's where I see myself in 10-15 years, primarily because of the positive effect you can have on so many people."


Anton Tohill during a Collingwood training session.
Anton Tohill during a Collingwood training session.


Tohill fielded multiple offers from medical schools but deferred to sign at Collingwood - about 20 years after Melbourne took a punt on his father with pick 85 in the 1989 national draft.

"I chose to stay in Belfast (medical school) then the footy came… my place is still deferred, starting in September 2020, but I hope to maybe defer it again, if I get another contract."

Tohill has yet to settle on which medical field to pursue - from sports to emergency, paediatrics, cardiology and oncology - but the 20 year-old wants to be a fully-fledged Magpie first.

"I'm not an experiment," Tohill said.

"I want to play AFL football, it's why I'm here.

"I want to get the best out of myself and I think I've got what it takes to hopefully play AFL football in the coming period, whether that be some stage down the track."

But Tohill has had the opportunity to juggle football and cerebral interests, by asking questions of Collingwood's medical and high performance personnel about scans, treatments and rehabilitation.

"All that is interesting to me," Tohill said.

"I'm very, very curious as a rule."

After drilling into footy fundamentals last year, Tohill, an advocate for outside interests, like art, photography and golf, wants to enrol in select short-courses to help stimulate the mind further.

"I only just turned 20 so being young and fresh to the world," Tohill said.

"I'm still trying to learn a lot about economics and government policy… just try and educate myself on those fronts and then go on into some proper structured education this year."


Anthony Tohill flies against Matthew Lloyd in the 2001 International Rules series.
Anthony Tohill flies against Matthew Lloyd in the 2001 International Rules series.


Anton Tohill is following in his father’s footsteps. Picture: Rob Leeson
Anton Tohill is following in his father’s footsteps. Picture: Rob Leeson


Tohill made his VFL debut in Round 3 last year and went on to kick seven goals in 12 games.

It has been a steep learning curve, with bouts of injury, homesickness and self-doubt, but Tohill remains determined to "make it" and break into Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley's best 22.

After a "bad day on the ground" last season, thoughts raced through Tohill's head: "What am I doing here?" and "I could be home and be comfortable?".

Unlike father Anthony, whose contact to Ireland was reduced to one phone call a month and writing letters, Tohill only has to pick up a smartphone to "shoot the breeze".

"To have that (a father that played elite sport) in the house with me growing up, it's a great help to be able to sound things off a guy that's been there and done what I want to achieve," Tohill said.

"(He) still kicks a footy, a torp or two, kicks it pretty good."


Isaac Quaynor tackles Anton Tohill at Magpies training. Picture: Michael Klein
Isaac Quaynor tackles Anton Tohill at Magpies training. Picture: Michael Klein


Melbourne delisted Tohill Sr in 1991, largely due to him missing several months with a broken leg sustained in a pick-up game of Gaelic football in suburban Keysborough.

He returned to Ireland and focused on the national code, going on to be a four-time All-Star and championship winner at Derry.

Tohill represented Ireland eight times across four International Rules Series from 1998-01, and captained his country in wins over Australia at the MCG and Adelaide's Football Park in 2001.

He also served as a selector and coach of the national team.

Magpie Tohill would be eligible to represent his country, if selected, when the IRS returns to Ireland in November following a three-year hiatus.

"I'd love to represent my country," son of a gun Tohill, who went to school with Irish-born Hawk Connor Glass and played Gaelic with GWS Giants' import Callum Brown, said.

"It's something my father did… (to be) able to carry that through would be an astonishing honour and something I'd love to do, but it's not my main focus right now."