Kouta started his AFL career as a 19 year-old rookie in 1992 and ended as an elite footballer in 2007 with a unique record of excellence. In that respect, Koutoufides can lay claim to being arguably the most exceptional footballer during this period of time. By highlighting his best home and away matches on a year by year basis one can see how much he has given to the game of Australian Football and to the Carlton Football Club. Koutoufides’s performances in the finals have also been outstanding, yet that is a topic in itself that should be dealt with separately to his home and away career.

1992 : Round 13, 1992 vs Adelaide - Koutoufides’s debut match
Koutoufides debut match started as it does for most rookies – on the bench. Kouta watched the game from the sideline for most of the first half, yet when he entered the fray he had an immediate impact. Kouta laid a shepherd to clear a path for DeIulio to score a goal and then within two minutes of that kicked a goal himself. Ashley Browne of The Age stated, “Judging by the glimpses of talent he showed yesterday, the 19-year-old did the right thing dumping hurdling for football. He went to the forward pocket half
way through the second term and with his second kick steered through a fine goal.”

Koutoufides played the next two matches on and off the bench but from there lost his place in the team. In round 21 he regained his spot, and against West Coast in the last round he had his best match of the year with 19 disposals to his name.

1993 : Carlton vs Essendon – round 2

The drawn match against Essendon in round two was Anthony Koutoufides’s best game of 1993. Kouta obtained an impressive tally of 11 possessions in the first quarter and ended up with a total of 24 possessions for the match. After this round, Kouta battled hard to maintain his place in the team, but a foot injury in round six and strong competition for spots reduced his output to a total of eight matches for the year.

1994 : Carlton vs Richmond – Round 23

On a day when Carlton scored 161 points to Richmond’s 48, Koutoufides was just one star player in a list of many. Bradley played his 200th game on this day and dominated, while Fraser Brown kicked seven goals. Nevertheless, this match was arguably Koutoufides best game for 1994 as he picked up 27 possessions playing on the wing.

Koutoufides’s growing influence in the team was such that between round 15 and round 24 he only twice dropped below twenty possessions in a match. Koutoufides also obtained his first exposure to finals football during this year. Unfortunately they were losses against Melbourne and Geelong.

1995 : Carlton vs Richmond – Round 14

In 1994 Koutoufides was a player of potential, and in 1995 he fulfilled that potential. The round 14 match against Richmond was a defining moment in his career. As well as it being the first match in which he accrued 30 plus possessions in his career, it was also a “triple-double” moment for Kouta. A “triple-double” is a term applied to a player who obtains double figures in kicks, marks and handballs. It is an accomplishment that few footballers achieved in their career at that stage, still a decade before the possessions explosion brought about in the modern game. (Kouta’s figures in this match were 24 kicks, 10 marks and 10 handballs.) The trademark Kouta pack marks from impossible positions featured on this day, yet even more impressive was how he avoided tacklers. He held the ball in one hand as if it was no bigger than a tennis ball and swirled it below and above his shoulders in a circular motion, making it impossible for the opposition to take the ball from him.

Just like Polly Farmer of Geelong back in the 60’s, who introduced effective long range handpassing, Koutoufides had introduced a new skill to the game. The complete mastery that Koutoufides had of the ball in one hand was a skill that had never been put to such effective use.

1996 : Carlton vs West Coast – Round 5

In 1996, Kouta continued to produce in patches the high quality form we witnessed in 1995. But it was not produced on a regular enough basis for him to make All-Australian selection or a place in the top three of Carlton’s best and fairest vote for the year.

The highlight of Kouta’s year, however, was the match against West Coast in round five. When Kouta obtained 26 kicks and 9 handpasses one assumes that he had a better than average performance, but when he combined it with a total of 18 marks it must be deemed as nothing short of a momentous performance. David Parkin stated in reference to Koutoufides after this match, “I think we would have had awful trouble winning the game without him.”

1997 : Carlton vs Collingwood - Round 19

In 1997 Kouta was involved in unwanted media attention regarding his choice of boots, as they conflicted with the brand of boots chosen for the team. The negative media focus must explain in part why Koutoufides’s form deteriorated in comparison to what he achieved in the previous two years.

There were patches of brilliance from Koutoufides in 1997, with his best matches for the year being against Collingwood. In round 4, Koutoufides obtained a season high tally of 32 possessions and then in the return bout later in the year he kicked a haul of six goals.

Playing at full-forward, Kouta’s initial opponent in the return match was a 20 year-old under the name of Mal Michael, a player who would go on to play in premiership sides with the Lions.

Although this match was a return to form, coach David Parkin believed Kouta’s aerial output was the one area that was still of concern and stated, “He’s been averaging four marks a game for the past five matches. It means the greatest attribute he’s got is not being used for our benefit.”

1998 : Carlton vs Port Adelaide – Round 22

Koutoufides’s playing performance in 1998 was adversely effected by the emotional toll of his father’s illness. Even though he played all but one game in the season, he rarely reached the heights of his ‘95 and ‘96 seasons. Eleven possessions against Richmond, twelve against Sydney and Essendon, thirteen against Adelaide and the Bulldogs – this was the type of output he was accruing in matches throughout 1998. Jim Main stated, “In early 1998 as the Blues battled for success, Koutoufides’ form dipped accordingly and he was on the brink of being dropped from the side.”

By the end of the season, though, Koutoufides had recovered well enough to be a leader for the Blues. His best match in terms of a possession tally was the Round 22 clash vs Port in which he accrued 13 kicks, 15 handpasses and 9 marks. Kouta played in the back pocket and at centre half back in this match, effectively subduing Port’s taller players in Lade, Chalmers and Tredrea.

1998 Kouta fact: Kouta finished 16th in the club’s 1998 best and fairest count.

1999 : Carlton vs Collingwood – Round 17

In an indication that he was tired of his spare parts role in defence and attack, Kouta stated in an interview on the 1st of April ‘99 that, “When I was playing my best football I was playing in the midfield and basically staying there all day.” For the season’s opener against Essendon, Kouta again played mostly in defence yet also had a late run in the midfield. After the game he stated, “I was privileged and happy to get into the midfield in the last quarter and get some clearances and touches.”

In round 17 Kouta had arguably his best performance in the home and away season of 1999 and it was whilst playing solely in the midfield. Although Beaumont stole the headlines by kicking eight goals up to half-time, the key battle of the match was the midfield battle between Kouta and Buckley. Neither player could claim outright victory over their opponent though, as Kouta obtained 34 possessions to Buckley’s 31. Nevertheless it went some way to proving that Kouta’s best playing position in this period of his career was in the midfield.
1999 Kouta fact: Kouta finished second in the best and fairest in 1999, a clear improvement on his 16th place from the previous year.

2000 : Carlton vs The Kangaroos – Round 11

Back in the 1980’s the third quarter was that magical quarter when Carlton’s midfielders- Johnston, Ashman, Buckley, Marcou and others - would band together to annihilate the opposition. Against Sydney in round 8, 2000, Kouta inflicted on the opposition a third quarter annihilation of his own making that matched anything we saw from the Carlton teams of the early 80’s. Playing in the midfield for the third quarter, Kouta obtained 14 disposals and seven marks in this period alone and helped turn a 12 point half-time lead into a 50 point three-quarter time lead.

Paul Roos said it best in an interview just after this match against North. Considering Kouta’s height, Roos was astounded by Kouta’s ability to pick up the ball and also mark the ball overhead. “I don’t think I have seen a player in the last twenty years that can do both of those skills equally as well as what Kouta can do,” said Roos.

Although this match against Sydney was the one in which he obtained the most possessions in 2000 (39 possessions), his more celebrated performance was against the Kangaroos in round 11. Kouta went one out against Wayne Carey in this match, won the duel, kicked five goals and obtained 38 possessions. This outstanding performance resulted in the memorable line from the commentator Kevin Bartlett, “How many Koutoufides’s are playing today.”

''Kouta Facts –2000: Thanks to the award of the AFL’s MVP, Kouta received at least some official recognition for his performances in 2000. Yet in the Brownlow medal count Koutoufides finished five votes behind the winner, Shane Woewodin.

Injury prevented Kouta picking up votes in the Brownlow medal in the last few rounds, but his cause wasn’t helped by missing out on votes for the matches in rounds 2, 5, 12, 14 and 15. In all of these matches he was a star player for the Blues.''

2001 : Carlton vs Brisbane – Round 8

One of the main reasons why the premiers of 2001, the Brisbane Lions, lost this round eight match against Carlton was that they had no answer for Koutoufides. The Carlton champion had another “triple double” match with 17 kicks, 19 handballs and 11 marks to his name. Playing in the midfield, Kouta’s opponents were Michael Voss and Chris Scott.

2002 : Carlton vs Melbourne – Round 15

2002 was the worst year in Carlton’s history to that point and Kouta was absent for the most part due to a knee injury. Kouta made an appearance for three matches in round 15-17, yet it was clear that they were nothing more than cameo appearances as he hadn’t fully recovered from his injury. In his comeback game against Melbourne he obtained eight possessions and kicked three goals, and in the next two matches he obtained just 10 possessions apiece.

2003 : Carlton vs St Kilda – Round 20

In 2003, Koutoufides played every match of the year and placed 2nd in the best and fairest count. The round 20 match against St Kilda was his best match in terms of possessions (19 kicks, 15 handpasses -34 possessions.) Yet his most important contribution in 2003 was his 31 possessions against Richmond, which helped the Blues secure a narrow victory and thereby avoid the wooden spoon.

2004 : Carlton vs Collingwood –Round 22

Although well down on his expected output in terms of a possession total (22 possessions), this match had some of the magic of old from Koutoufides. A pack mark from Kouta early on reminded the fans of those commanding marks in the last quarter of the preliminary final of 1999. And we also saw a long booming goal that matched the best of Kouta from 2000/01. Koutoufides played much of this match in the midfield.

2005 : Round 18, 2005 v Richmond

As Carlton sought to end of the longest losing streaks in our history in another sorry year, Koutoufides starred as Carlton BOG and winning the 2 Brownlow Votes for his efforts on-ball against the Tigers at the Dome. Although Carlton would slump to our second wooden spoon in 2005, Koutoufides would remain one of our better players and he would win the John Nicholls Medal as our best and fairest for the year.

2006 : Round 16, 2006 v Essendon

Kouta's all round ability was still present in 2006, despite his increasing age and Carlton's lack of on-field leadership and to be honest ability - after all, Carlton were on our way to our third wooden spoon in 5 years. But in this game, incidentally a draw against the Bombers, Kouta managed 20 possessions to be one of our best but also 2 goals 3 when running forward from midfield. He could have been more accurate, he could have won the game, but he was still a key player for the Blues and had a wonderful game.

2007 : Round 9, 2007 v Adelaide
2007 Rd 17 - Kouta's last game for the Blues.
Carlton set out in 2007 to play a fast paced game with open forward lines. It seemed as though Coach Denis Pagan was reverting to what was most familiar. Kouta, although only months away from the end of his career, again remained a useful player under all football styles with 22 possessions (Carlton's highest) and 2 goals from midfield. The high-leaping was gone, the pace dissipating, but the pure ability remained in tact.

Some 8 rounds later, Kouta's career would end on a rather sad note through injury, but it should be remembered that in the weeks leading up to that match, Kouta's ability to find the ball remained.

When looking back on Koutoufides’s career it is clear that he had overcome many obstacles to become an elite footballer. A serious form slump in 97-98, injuries and controversy have dogged his career. In his favour he possessed a combination of evasive skills, mobility, low to the ground ball skills and pack marking ability that was unprecedented for someone of his height. For that, and his role in the 1995 finals series, all Carlton fans must be forever grateful for Kouta’s legacy.