Matt Priddis: Last Man Standing

A week ago I sat down for an evening to compile the stats to condemn the All Australian selectors for not picking Eric MacKenzie as the best key defender in the AFL. I was angry.  Typical Victorian-centric myopia.  Look at the numbers, only Talia did a similar job of holding the Franklins and Hawkins of the comp.  Hooker and Rance are easybeats when the cream comes to the top.

As for Matt Priddis, I shrugged my shoulders. He would be the first man picked for most teams, not for what he does, but for the work he does to create opportunities for his team and team mates.  He is at every contest.  At the bottom of every pack.  Shovelling it out to the team mates who can run and create.

My rationale was that he doesn’t hurt you directly. He doesn’t waste many opportunities, but we all know that his kicking penetration is modest.  So he plays to his strengths.  He struggles to kick 40 metres, so he gut runs to space at the 30 so he can chip a goal.

He doesn’t have a right foot, so he has a step. Most left footers swing wide and beat you on the outside.  Matt goes that way, props, and beats you on the inside.  Every time; every week; every year.  I have seen him sell that candy a hundred times, and beat his opponent 99.

He makes a strength of weakness. Overcoached AFL players play the percentages.  Don’t get beaten on the outside is so drummed in to them, that the players who props and goes inside has an edge.

Matt is the Moneyball man of the AFL. Best in disposals.  Third best in tackles.  Played every game.  Never gets suspended.  Never gives away silly free kicks.

He is the last man standing in every pack. He is often tackled, but rarely stripped.  Small but not slight, with incredible core strength that needs a herd of elephants to take to ground.

He was the last man standing in his draft years, overlooked for 4 seasons among his peers, before a Sandover Medal with Subiaco in 2006 meant his local AFL club could no longer overlook him in favour of fancier imported models.

And the last man standing in AFL 2014. Fyfe boneheadedly suspended thanks to a coach that is turning sublime talent into midfield meat grinder.  Ablett, Dangerfield and Kennedy injured and not standing up to the stresses of a full season.  Franklin rested for a final round to give the Tigers an opportunity at finals humiliation, while rewarding the Eagles with a Brownlow in place of an elimination final beating.

I was glad that Matt got the 2 votes in the last round to win the medal outright. No one – not even a Docker – deserves that heartbreak.  I have marvelled at Nat Fyfe’s skills from his earliest games, as my match reports attest.  The extra 20 kilos required for Rossball, and the bash crash role will take 50 games and 50 Brownlow votes off his longevity.  Another footsoldier sacrificed on the wire on footy’s version of trench warfare.  When will they ever learn?

When everyone is playing the same percentages, the place to be is where the percentages aren’t. When everyone is recruiting beep tests and standing jumps, why not recruit a bloke who can find space and share with team mates?  When recruiting 17yo’s gives you dodgey knees, stress fractures and flakes who go to water under pressure – why not recruit a 20yo with 3 seasons of playing against men behind him?

And above all you recruit character and effort. A man who will give you 100% of all his capacity every time; instead of 60% of his potential when mind, body and planets align.

Matt Priddis has been Ben Cousins successor in most things, including Brownlow Medal winning West Coast Eagles. Recruited in 2006 but only playing 2 games as Ben and the Eagles won the AFL premiership, while Matt won the WAFL’s Sandover Medal.  An AFL regular from 2007 as meth and macho took priority over matches for Ben.  Judd got sick of the circus and eventually Kerr’s battering ram style betrayed his body.

Substance over style. Matt Priddis has always known how to outwork and outlast team mates as well as opponents.

Last man standing.

Nice guys finish first. The tortoise passes all the hares.

Matt – The Avenging Eagle and I have seen and treasured every minute of every game you have played in 9 seasons at Subiaco Oval.

You were our Every Man. Now you are everyone’s All Australian.

Comments

  1. Gees Peter, you don’t miss a moment, you got that to press pretty quickly. Makes me think you’d been working on it for the last week – did you know something that the rest of us didn’t?

    Great to see a humble, in-and-under player get the recognition he deserves. From what I’ve read this morning (it’s morning here in the US, not a hugely productive one in the office on my part since I logged on during Round 18 of the count) on social media, most Victorians are shocked and have no idea who Priddis is. 3AW then tweeted the compelling facts: no.1 in the league in disposals, no.2 in clearances, no.3 in tackles. Pretty obvious winner on that basis.

    Hopefully the Eagles will now try to recruit a couple of blokes with some legspeed to get on the end of his handballs… To put that another way, West Coast might be a more attractive place for a running player with decent ball-use to go to, knowing how he’ll get fed.

    Those 2 games Priddis played in 2006 – if I recall, game no.1 was as an inclusion for Judd (out with his hammy) on that famous day at Kardinya Park, when we came back from the biggest-ever 3rd quarter deficit (54 points half-way through the term). Anyway who debuted on that auspicious day was surely going to be bound for big things.

  2. Yvette Wroby says

    Well done to Matt, he wasn’t the just the last man standing, he seemed to be the best, hardest working and nicest bloke standing. Well done him.

    Congrats

    Yvette

  3. Neil Anderson says

    A good guy coming first. i didn’t think I would ever hear that expression ever after Chris Grant missed out in 1996. What a great role-model Matt is for the AFL and such a change from some of the ego-maniacs hogging the lime-light.
    It’s hard to imagine the NRL being able to produce someone of this quality to show of to the rest of Australia.
    This year’s winner with the Lenny Hayes/ Brad Johnson humble qualities will convince many parents to encourage their kids to take up Aussie Rules if ever they’re deciding between sports.

  4. Great, worthy winner. Clearance, and contested ball specialist. Ultimate team man, In and under players are the ones that get it going. I know his kicking lacks penetration, but his disposals are always clean and precise. Dead ringer for Gene Wilder circa 1971? Hard not to like.

  5. David Zampatti says

    Wouldn’t it be fun if a homophone of the great Haydn Bunton was to become the third player to win both Sandover and Brownlow medals?

  6. Refreshing, worthy winner…..good words….

  7. Great win by Matt Priddis,but Peta please open both eyes when it comes to Eagles backmen and your hatred of anything purple,hope you dont go to Freo for coffees

  8. Skip of Skipton says

    Yes it was a ‘Bradbury’ with the circumstances of Ablett, Fyfe, and Kennedy considered, but I have no problem with the competitions leading ball winner getting the Brownlow. Great article Peter.

  9. I’m sure Priddis was worthy of his win. However I think there was an oversight regarding Robbie Gray.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Great write up Peter. Priddis is a star and very deserving Brownlow winner.
    He almost dragged his Eagles over the line against Collingwood in Round 10 at the ‘G, fully appreciated his talent that day. Then dominated in the return fixture in Perth.
    He’s a great story in a game needing good stories.

  11. That’s a fine tribute, PB.
    A fine tribute to an individual left well alone by Melbourne media and the blokey -mates -former teammates -schoolboy clique people who (largely) populate it.

    I’ve seen a few stories about how the Brownlow is “broken” and needs “fixing”.
    On the contrary, the Brownlow stands apart as an award that keeps its distance from the mee-too-ism of Special Comments Men and the like.

    I was surprised that M Priddis won it. But then, without really thinking about it, I’m fed the same diet of unthinking gruel as the rest of us. The winner won it. That’s it.
    Well done M Priddis.

  12. Skip of Skipton says

    Brilliantly put and argued E.regnans.

    Jordan Lewis achieved AA status, and was hyped into Brownlow contention on the back of a very strong finish to the year. His last six games. At round 16 or so he had 2 votes. He finished with 15.

    That is the ‘short memory’ or ‘fresh in the memory’ factor at play.

    Priddis just kept on keeping on through rounds 1 – 22.

  13. Robbie Gray was the other late season hype spruiked by the bookies. Ever the realist Gerard Whateley made Travis Boak his ‘lock’ bet as Port’s top pollster. Trotted in. Gray was third fave to win the Medal. Ridiculous crap from the media hacks who talk up the bookie’s lays.
    There was a young maths student over here who has done a thesis on correlating season stats to Brownlow votes based on the last 10 year’s data. He had Priddis third pick at $9 when the Bookies had him at $17.
    Lucky I don’t bet these days, I would have Jonah’d him somehow.

  14. David Zampatti says

    Pete, I neglected to say earlier that Pridiss was a perfectly worthy winner, and was always in the top line of betting in my book. His neglect by the punditry reminded me of all the experts who didn’t pick Port to finish in the top eight, because they “couldn’t fit them in” (not surprising when they all assumed Collingwood, Essendon, Richmond, Carlton and the Eagles would make the cut on the basis, I suppose, of divine pre-ordination).

    It’s interesting to ponder the ding-dong battle that would have ensued if every player had got to play every game this year. Contrary to the claims that G Ablett would have romped it in, I think the likely outcomes would have ranged from him pipping N Fyfe by one vote to Fyfe beating him by two or three. Interestingly, while Gazza got 17 votes in his first nine games (an incredible 1.9 votes per game), he only picked up 5 in the 6 games thereafter. Perhaps those who thinks the sun shines out of his head (rather than merely reflecting off it) were too dazzled to notice, but Ablett, like the Suns, was clearly running out of puff as the season dragged on. Just saying.

    Back to the admirable Priddis for a tick. His non-selection in the AA team (“we just couldn’t fit him in”) was a travesty that can’t now be rectified, but it should be possible for the AFL to belatedly discover a slip up in the published qualification to represent Australia in the international in November. Surely it should have been that to be selected, a player must be an All-Australian OR a Brownlow Medallist.

    I can’t believe anyone would object in the slightest.

  15. David Zampatti says

    And apologies for mis-spelling Priddis. It is one of those names.

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