Anthony Koutoufides (born 18 January 1973) is a former Australian rules footballer with the Carlton Football Club. One of the most powerful and athletic players of all-time, he played in almost every position and was often called the prototype of the modern footballer.
Of Greek and Italian descent, Koutoufides has been an Australian celebrity making numerous television appearances both during and after his football career. He was most recently a gladiator in the Australian television series Gladiators in character as Kouta, "a Gladiator touched by the gods" and won the Australian Dancing with the Stars in 2006.
Koutoufides was recruited from Lalor by Carlton in 1990, and played fifty games in the reserves, where he won the 1991 best and fairest. Beginning his AFL career in 1992, he quickly established himself as one of the most versatile and athletic players ever to play the game.[according to whom?] He was a strong mark, a beautiful kick and a hard runner. Koutoufides, a state under-16 high jump champion who also competed in the 110m hurdles and the discus, made a choice to switch from track and field athletics to Australian rules football.
His profile grew through the early to mid-1990s, and he was a star of the game by 1995.[according to whom?] Koutoufides was best known for both his strong mark, and his incredible one-handed capability at stoppages. He was better than any other player in the league at picking the ball up off the ground with one hand, and then looping that arm over opponents to set up clearing handpasses.[according to whom?] He played in Carlton's 1995 premiership, earning All-Australian selection in that year.
From 1996 to 1999, Koutoufides was a solid contributor to the team, playing more often in key positions. This was usually in defence, but played some games in the forward line, scoring his career-best 6.4 against Collingwood in 1997. He was the club leading goalkicker in 1997 with 28 goals. In 1999, he was selected in the final Victorian State of Origin team, his only ever Big V.
Koutoufides rose to greatness in 2000, his best season. He played 20 games, averaging 26 disposals, over six marks and nearly 2 goals a game. He managed his career-high 39 disposals against Sydney in Round 8. He was clear favourite in the Brownlow Medal, but suffered a knee injury (torn posterior cruciate ligament) in the Round 20 against Essendon in front of 91,000 fans; he held the equal-lead in the Brownlow count at the time of his injury, but unable to poll votes in the final three games, he ultimately finished fourth. He would also fail to win Carlton's best and fairest, that prize shared between Brett Ratten and Scott Camporeale, but he won the prestigious AFLPA MVP Award (now known as the Leigh Matthews Trophy), and would gain All-Australian selection for the second time; his knee injury would prevent him from taking part in the International Rules series.
Koutoufides' PCL injury was healed before the start of 2001, and he had another stellar season, finally winning his first club best and fairest. However, in the semi-final against Richmond, he again sustained a knee injury, this time a very serious torn anterior cruciate ligament. He would not play again until Round 15, 2002, playing only three games in that year, and wearing a specially designed game-day knee brace. Koutoufides' capacity to jump was severely limited for the following years. Carlton's poor season was put down to his long term injury.
Following the retirement of Andrew McKay, Koutoufides was made the captain of the team in 2004, a position he held until 2006. As captain, Koutoufides won his second best and fairest, in 2005, once again a key figure in Carlton's midfield. In 2007, he handed the captaincy to Lance Whitnall.
Koutoufides announced his retirement from AFL football on 31 July 2007. The decision was made following a hip injury that he suffered against St Kilda in Round 17 2007 which was discovered to be more severe than first expected. In Round 18 2007 Carlton vs Collingwood he had a lap of honour and a standing ovation before the match from the Carlton players and the supporters. Having played 278 games, Koutoufides is sixth all-time on Carlton's list. Despite the usual practice of players changing to lower numbers after their junior seasons, Koutoufides wore the No. 43 guernsey through the prime of his career, and holds VFL/AFL record for games in that number.
Standing out amongst Koutoufides' career are two particularly memorable performances. In Round 5, 1996, against West Coast at Optus Oval, Koutoufides dominated on the wing. He took his career-high 18 marks, including the final game-saving mark which kept the Blues ahead by one point. It was included in the "Memorable Moments" competition for the Optus Oval farewell.
The second was his final quarter against Essendon in the 1999 preliminary final. In the final quarter, Koutoufides moved into the midfield, and drifted forward and back, to finish with ten kicks and six marks, generating four clearances, three rebounds and two goals, helping the Blues to come from 11 points behind to famously beat the heavily favoured Bombers by one point. The performance was described by club legend (and later, president) Stephen Kernahan as "the greatest quarter of football ever played".
Through the mid-1990s, Koutoufides was hot property, becoming a pin-up boy for the club, appearing in the Men For All Seasons calendar on numerous occasions, and being an AFL face of Nike and adidas in the mid-1990s. Competition between those rival companies for boots sponsorship caused a particular controversy in 1997, with Koutoufides having an individual adidas sponsorship, and Carlton having a team Nike sponsorship. The "Kouta's Boots" scandal nearly resulted in Koutoufides missing games unless he could fulfil his own endorsement contract, but the issue was resolved before any such action was taken.
There was criticism that, in later years, Koutoufides did not deserve his $1 million contract, as he missed a vast number of matches due to injuries to his knee, hamstring and hand. However, much of Koutoufides' salary during the height of his career was deferred to later contracts for salary cap reasons.
In 2008, Koutoufides played 'Kouta the Greek God' in the Seven Network's revival of Gladiators. On the show he was usually referred to as 'Kouta, a Gladiator touched by the gods'.
Koutoufides owned the Souvlaki Hut restaurant in Templestowe Lower with former Carlton team-mate Ang Christou, and became the advertising face for the franchise, until its closure in early 2011.