News & Updates

2 February 2023 • Track and Field

Hammer king Anthony Nobilo seeks capital gains in Wellington

Anthony Nobilo is currently in the form of his life after last month setting PB of 68.95m in Auckland. Credit: (Mark Roberts).

Once dismissed as too small to throw the hammer, 5ft 10in Anthony Nobilo has proved the doubters wrong and is currently in the form of his life heading into the Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic on Friday (3 February).

The four-time national hammer champion drilled the hammer out to a PB of 68.95m in Pakuranga in January and throughout a glorious 2022-23 summer campaign so far, he has achieved the best four performances of his career.

Yet if the 23-year-old North Harbour Bays athletes had taken notice of the naysayers he may never have pursued a career throwing the hammer.

“I was told I was too small to be a thrower, but I wanted to prove people wrong,” he said. “I want to prove that can be on the smaller side but still be successful.”

Taking up athletics at the age of five, Anthony, whose father is second cousin to former professional golfer Frank Nobilo, he started out as a 400m sprinter before gravitating to the throws. Initially engaged with shot and discus under the coaching of Sasha Pilkington – he won a Colgate Games silver medal in the latter event – but it was after he was asked if he would like to join the training group of Millie McNie to try the hammer when the direction of his athletics career took a pivotal turn.

“I thought hammer sounded cool,” explains Anthony. “From the beginning I loved spinning around in circles and I fell in love with the hammer.”

He quickly developed into one of New Zealand’s premier schoolboy hammer throwers. He recalls enjoying some fantastic tussles with Scott Gregory, now a utility back with the Highlanders Super Rugby team. Gregory often shaded Anthony during their age-group battles but the North Shore-based athlete says their rivalry brought the best out in each other.

Inspired too by the achievements of Matt Bloxham, who set his national U20 hammer record of 73.41m in 2015, Anthony further improved under the coaching of Didier Poppe and was crowned national U20 champion.

The next key piece in the puzzle arrived in 2018 when he began life under the coaching of Mike Schofield, the man who also coaches Commonwealth shot put bronze medallist Maddi Wesche and national senior men’s discus record-holder Connor Bell. Anthony praises the huge role Mike has played in his development, which has allowed him to flourish at a much higher level.

“Mike’s very athlete focused. He always puts us first, looking out for us and makes sure we are in a good head space,” explains Anthony. “He’s also very good as pushing us beyond our boundaries and making us take that next extra step. An example of that would be, sometimes I get a bit hesitant in the hammer circle, but he insists I need to push myself out of my comfort zone and feel what the speed is like.”

His progress has not always been linear. Back in 2019 – the year of the first of his four senior national titles – he weighed in at 87kg and knew he needed to pile on more weight to add strength and power to his hammer throwing. Over time he added a further 15kg to his frame, but his development “stagnated” as he struggled for several season to convert that extra weight into the speed required for the hammer circle.

Anthony dominated domestically but describes this period of his career as “a tough time.”

“I thought I was doing everything I could to improve but it wasn’t quite happening,” he explains.  “It dented my patience and perseverance and then during the Covid lockdown it was hard to stay committed working out of a home gym and not having Mike to push me.”

Yet a couple of factors contributed to a breakthrough performance at the Virtual Throws meet at AUT Millennium in late-2021 when he hurled the hammer out to a 66.58m – a PB of more than a metre-and-a-half. Under Mike’s guidance he had made some key technical changes but coupled with that he had also teamed up with HPSNZ nutritionist Glenn Kearney who gave him a dietary plan to follow.

“The diet was a lot healthier and allowed me to gain weight without losing speed,” he said.

Over the past year or so the AUT University Sports Science student has just continued to get better and better as his recipe of training six throws and three gym sessions a week in the winter and five throws and two gym sessions a week in the summer has come up trumps.

At the 2022 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Hastings he set a PB of 66.71m on his way to fourth successive national title. At the Oceania Championships in Mackay last June, he added a further 58cm to his PB to win a silver medal.

Since returning to the hammer circle for the 2022-23 summer campaign he has continued his upward trajectory, hurling PBs of 67.74m and 68.25m at his home track at AUT Millennium in November and December before posting his current PB of 68.95m set in Pakuranga in January, which places him fourth on the all-time New Zealand lists behind the 73.10m of national record-holder Angus Cooper,

So does Anthony have ambitions in the future to smash the 29-year-old record?

“My main goal this season is to hit 70m, which would be a great milestone, but the longer-term focus is to be the first New Zealand hammer thrower to hit 80m,” he says.

Realistic that at this stage of his development a ticket for the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest is probably beyond him, Anthony is however contemplating a potential European trip later this year to aid his competitive hammer education.

In the shorter term, Anthony just hopes to continue to focus on remaining disciplined on his recovery, eating and sleeping – a format which has stood him in good stead over the past year or so and most importantly enjoy the experience of hammer throwing beginning at the Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic on Friday.

“The main thing that helps during competition is to set low expectations and have fun,” he says. That is what I’ve found has brought me success. If I go there and enjoy what I do, I’ll throw far.”

***Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic start lists here

***Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic full programme here  

***Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic results here