Braith Xiannikis Anastasakis, commonly known as Braith Anasta, (born 14 January 1982) is an Australian professional rugby league footballer who plays for the Wests Tigers of the National Rugby League. An Australian international and New South Wales State of Origin representative five-eighth (though he has played a large portion of his career at lock forward), Anasta previously played for the Roosters and the Bulldogs with whom he won the 2004 NRL Premiership.
While attending Marcellin College Randwick, Anasta played for the Australian Schoolboys team in 1999. After playing his junior football for the Maroubra Lions (a South Sydney junior club), Anasta joined the Bulldogs ahead of the 2000 NRL season.
Despite spending a majority of his first season in Jersey Flegg, Anasta made his first grade début at the age of 18 on 2 June 2000 against the Parramatta Eels at Parramatta Stadium, filling in for the injured Jason Hetherington. This was the only first grade game Anasta played in 2000, however he had a great deal of success with the Bulldogs Jersey Flegg side, helping them to a premiership victory over the Western Suburbs Magpies.
Anasta's breakthrough year came in the 2001 NRL season. He secured a regular place in the team at five-eighth, scored 13 tries in 24 games and helped the Bulldogs finish second on the ladder at the end of the season. His season finished disappointingly however, as he missed the Bulldog's semi-final against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks with a thumb injury. Despite this, his excellent form throughout the season earned him the Dally M Rookie of the Year Award and a spot on the 2001 Kangaroo Tour.
The 2002 season was one of turmoil for the Bulldogs, as they were stripped 37 competition points for breaching the salary cap. The impact was so heavy on the club that there was speculation that Anasta would switch codes and play rugby union if he was asked to take a pay cut by the Bulldogs. Despite this, the season was a good one for Anasta individually as he made his State of Origin debut, scored 10 tries and at 20 years and 145 days, became the youngest ever man to captain the Bulldogs.
In 2003, Anasta assisted the Bulldogs in coming out of the salary cap crisis as the club finished third on the ladder at the end of the season. While the season was indeed a relatively successful one for the Bulldogs, Anasta spent a fair amount of time on the sidelines, fracturing his sternum at the start of the season and fracturing his foot towards the end of the season.
The 2004 season saw Anasta claim his first premiership ring as the Bulldogs beat his future club, the Sydney Roosters, 16–13 in the 2004 NRL Grand Final to win their 8th title. Anasta was a vital player in the Bulldogs premiership season, playing 26 matches and scoring 8 tries, including one in the Preliminary Final against the Penrith Panthers. At the end of the season, speculation was once again strong that Anasta was going to switch codes to rugby union and play for the New South Wales Waratahs in 2005, however Anasta opted to stay with the Bulldogs.
As 2004 NRL premiers, the Bulldogs faced Super League IX champions, the Leeds Rhinos in the 2005 World Club Challenge. Anasta played at five-eighth in the Bulldogs' 32-39 loss. 2005 was the final season of Anasta's contract with the Bulldogs, and in a season that saw Anasta voted the "most overrated player" in rugby league by a League Week player's poll, the Bulldogs failed to make the Top 8 the year after winning the premiership. It was in Round 18 of this season that Anasta scored his first and only hat-trick to date during the Bulldogs' 26–24 win over the New Zealand Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium. Anasta played his final match for the Bulldogs on 4 September 2005 in a 32–12 loss to his future club, the Sydney Roosters.
After Anasta's contract with the Bulldogs expired, the Sydney Roosters and the South Sydney Rabbitohs were seen as the two main contenders for his signature. The departure of Luke Ricketson, Michael Crocker, Jason Cayless, Chris Walker and Brett Firman ahead of the 2006 season allowed the Roosters to table a sizeable offer for Anasta. After months of speculation, on 13 July 2005 it was announced that Anasta had signed a 3-year deal with the Roosters. Anasta claimed his move to the Roosters wasn't financially motivated and was "based upon the opportunity to work under Roosters and State of Origin Coach Ricky Stuart".
Anasta made his debut for the Sydney Roosters on 12 March 2006 against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Telstra Stadium. His first season with the Roosters was a forgettable one as he failed to score a try in 16 appearances and missed the last part of the season with a groin injury. The Roosters also performed well below par, finishing 14th on the ladder and missing the Top 8 for the second year in a row.
The 2007 season was an excellent one for Anasta, and one of improvement for his team. While Anasta was practising to play at lock under the guidance of former Roosters' coach Chris Anderson during the pre-season, he only played the first game of the season there before shifting to his regular five-eighth position. After the Roosters lost their first 5 matches of the season, Anasta was instrumental in helping the side reach 9th on the ladder as the Roosters just fell short of reaching the finals. Anasta's performances throughout the season were rewarded as he was nominated for Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year and won the Roosters' prestigious Jack Gibson Medal for Player of the Year as well as the Supporters Club Player of the Year Award. In the Roosters' final match of the 2007 season, Anasta attracted a fair amount of media attention after he was hit by South Sydney Rabbitohs forward David Fa'alogo in what he described as a "coward act". After the end of the season, it was revealed that Anasta had signed a contract extension with the Roosters to keep him with the club until at least the end of the 2011 season.
Partnering Mitchell Pearce in the halves, the 2008 season got off to a good start for both the Roosters and Anasta. Anasta played a vital role in helping the Roosters win 4 of their first 5 matches of the season and continued to play well for the entire season helping the Roosters to a fourth placed finish and home final for the first time since 2004. Prior to the round 25 match versus the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Anasta was give the captaincy of the club.
In 2009, Anasta was sidelined with a season ending ankle injury in round 15 against the North Queensland Cowboys.
In the 2010 season he started off in the five-eighth position combining to form a lethal combination with Mitchell Pearce and Todd Carney which allowed the Roosters to have a firm hold on a top eight position. Mid-way through the season, Anasta was moved to the lock position to allow Todd Carney to play in the halves. In the first final game against the Wests Tigers, Anasta played in a new position at second row and scored the crucial field goal leading up to golden point. During the finals series, increased speculation about a possible move to the North Queensland Cowboys because of his want to play in the halves after Todd Carney and Mitchell Pearce forced him to move into lock. However, he soon dismissed these claims, saying that he wanted to be a "Rooster for life"
Anasta played in the 2010 NRL grand final and scored a try, but it was not enough for the Roosters to defeat the Dragons.
On 7 March 2011 Sydney Roosters Chairman, Nick Politis, announced the re-signing of club captain Braith Anasta ensuring he will stay at the club for the next two seasons. Just over a year later, it was announced that Anasta would join the Wests Tigers for two seasons starting from 2013. Anasta said of this period, "I was not enjoying my footy where I was and a lot of other guys weren't, mind you. There wasn't a huge commitment there from them."
Originally Anasta was signed by coach Tim Sheens as a potential halfback, only for Sheens to be replaced by Mick Potter before the start of the 2013 season. "I got off to a bad start when Sheensy got sacked. He was the reason I came to the club and his sacking set me back straight away." Anasta later said.
With Potter playing Anasta in the second row, Anasta said, "I never said I didn't want to play back row. I said I preferred five-eighth, but I made a grand final and played some of my best football as a left-edge back-rower." Later he admitted that he was surprised to find himself playing in unexpected positions, and only hit form towards the season. He played games at halfback, five-eighth, second-row, lock, and from the bench.
Anasta made his first appearance in Wests Tigers colours in a pre-season trial against Parramatta Eels. Playing in the second row and without captaincy responsibilities, he scored two tries in the first half of an easy victory. He played in eighteen games over the regular season, scoring one try.
While his Greek heritage makes him eligible to represent the Greek national rugby league team, Anasta initially pledged his allegiance to Australia. Since 2001, Anasta has played representative football for City Origin, New South Wales and Australia. In his International Career he has played 5 games. 4 games for Australia and 1 game for Greece.
After his outstanding 2001 season, Anasta was selected in the Australian squad for the 2001 Kangaroo Tour. It was on this tour that Anasta made his International debut, coming off the bench in Australia's 54–12 thrashing of Papua New Guinea at Lloyd Robson Oval on 7 October 2001. He was then selected in every match of Australia's 2–1 Ashes triumph over Great Britain. With Anasta coming off the bench in each game, Australia fought back from a 1–0 deficit, with Anasta helping the cause by scoring a try in Australia's 40–12 win in the second Test.
New South Wales
Anasta was a regular in the New South Wales team from 2002. He made his Origin debut on 22 May in Game One of the 2002 series, coming off the bench as the Blues easily beat Queensland 32–4. Anasta was promoted to start five-eighth for Game Two of the series, filling in for the injured Trent Barrett. While he scored his first Origin try in the match, the Blues lost 26–18 and the series was levelled at 1–1. When Barrett returned from injury, Anasta was left out of the side entirely, with Scott Hill being favoured for the third match of what ended up being a tied series.
Shaun Timmins was preferred to Anasta as five-eighth for the 2003 series, however Anasta was selected as lock in Game Three after the Blues had already sealed the series. Anasta missed the 2004 series completely due to the return to representative football of Anasta's future coach, Brad Fittler.
While Trent Barrett was originally selected as New South Wales' five-eighth for the 2005 State of Origin series, his injury opened the door for Anasta to play in Game II. Down 1–0 in the series, Anasta helped the Blues come back to win the series 2–1, scoring a try in the decisive Game III at Suncorp Stadium. Anasta played the first two matches of the 2006 State of Origin series, however was dropped for the final match after the Blues had an embarrassing 30–6 loss in Game II. Despite this, Anasta returned for the first two matches of the 2007 State of Origin series before being ruled out for the third with a fractured finger.
Anasta has played 10 games for New South Wales, scoring 2 tries for 8 points.
Anasta made his City Origin debut on 16 May 2003 at Central Coast Stadium in a 17–16 win for City. This match perhaps contained the highlight of Anasta's entire City vs Country Origin career as he kicked the field goal to secure victory for his team.
To date, Anasta has made 6 appearances for City, scoring 1 point.
In 2013, Anasta made himself available to play for Greece. He made his debut in a match against Hungary in Budapest, scoring four tries and kicking fifteen goals from as many attempts, in the 90-0 victory. Anasta said, "To play for Greece was a proud moment for me, for my dad and grandparents. It was the first time I was in Greece beforehand and I loved it."
Awards and honours
First Grade Debut(NRL): vs. Parramatta Eels, 2 June 2000
State of Origin Debut: 22 May 2002
Point Scoring Summary – Bulldogs/Roosters(NRL)
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