Round 2 – Gold Coast v West Coast: The kid arrives


Don’t mind me. I’m just your average Hawthorn supporter eagerly anticipating the game between the Suns and Eagles on my Saturday night.


Traditionalists will despise my excitement, as they regard its source – fantasy football – as beneath both them and the sport they so treasure. To them, I politely suggest that there aren’t many neutral supporters who will enjoy this evening as much as I will.


The particular fantasy league I am in – now starting its 25th season – has been designed to reflect as much of the true AFL player management experience as possible. And this year, after five consecutive finals campaigns including a premiership, I found myself admitting that my side was on the decline and it was time to begin the proverbial “rebuild”.


Once this plan was in place, I immediately set my sights on recruiting a just-finished-Year-12-at-Carey-Grammar kid who would be the obvious first choice to rebuild around. A kid who’s junior statistics were as good as anyone had ever seen, matched only by Sam Walsh who is coming off the best rookie fantasy season in history. A kid who was also, from all reports, considered a model citizen.


Fantasy trade talks ensued. Not having the first pick in the fantasy draft this year, it would have been impossible for me to get my hands on the kid without trading something valuable in exchange. Eventually, terms were settled. I’d accept the fact that my love-affair with Isaac Heeney would have to come to a premature end, and I’d send him out as the major piece of a trade that would bring me the first pick, with which I’d take the Gold Coast kid.

And so, on Saturday night I sat down to watch Matthew Rowell play for the first time.


Fantasy football can cause one to watch a game differently, and tonight, every time the red hair and remarkably square shoulders of the 18 year-old number 18 came onto the screen, my eyes were drawn to him. His physique initially reminded me of HG & Roy referring to Glenn Lazarus as “The Brick With Eyes”, but Rowell’s quickness on his feet is the antithesis of this analogy. It’s so rare to see an athlete with such light balance that is matched with such genuine strength. On this night, Rowell’s “high footy IQ” and his low centre of gravity enabled him to not only reach the ball first on numerous occasions, but also enabled him to stand up in and break through tackles that teenagers usually have no right to do in modern footy. On occasion, his disposal wasn’t perfect…but it was for a good percentage of the time, including a classy running goal to open his career tally.


With some athletes, watching them when they don’t have the ball is as fascinating a study in sport and athleticism as is watching them when they have it. Tonight, this is true of a kid who the commentators believe deserves 3 Brownlow Votes in only his second game of league footy. And this all on a night when the opposing midfield includes Shuey, Kelly and Yeo.


Suns fans could rightly criticise this summary of the game as one that has ignored numerous magnificent performances from other men in red. Lachie Weller was clean with hand and foot, Noah Anderson showed flashes of brilliance on the outside, and Sam Day finally appeared to be a genuine forward target. Sam Collins stood up in defence, Jarrod Witts looked the part against NicNat, and Jack Bowes was calm and smooth whenever the ball found its way to him.


But we sports fans are a fickle bunch. We find love for athletes who aren’t on the team we support for all kinds of arbitrary reasons. And on this night, for me, the game appears as if 41 players are bursting around a chaotic field, circling the calm poetry-in-motion that is Matthew Rowell.


Tonight, I have a new favourite player. Here’s to years of watching him read the play just a little faster than everyone else.


GOLD COAST         2.0        6.2        11.4     14.6 (90)
WEST COAST         1.4        5.5        6.8        6.10 (46)


Gold Coast: Day 2, Rowell 2, Ainsworth 2, Weller, Lemmens, Anderson, Greenwood, King, Holman, Lukosius, MacPherson
West Coast: Allen 2, Shuey, Kennedy, Petruccelle, Darling


Gold Coast: Rowell, Day, Weller, Bowes, Anderson, Miller
West Coast: Shuey, Gaff, Kelly, Naitanui 


Gold Coast: Nil
West Coast: Nil


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Edward P. Olsen

EPO is equally passionate about sport and sports writing. While others toil away at the local indoor sports centre re-living their futile childhood dreams of being one of the best of all time, he types away at home re-living his futile childhood dream of being one of the world’s great columnists.


  1. Daryl Schramm says

    I’ve not watched any of this match. Might have to now. Not into the fantasy stuff either but enjoyed the read. Thanks for posting.

  2. I dipped in and out of Dreamteam fantasy football in the past EPO, haven’t done it for a number of years, but I understand where you’re coming from. For me though, this was such an exciting performance for more pure supporter reasons – I’ve seen a few pretty handy footballers walk out onto Carrara since 2009 (including of course the best I’ve ever seen in the flesh, GAJ), but to see an 18 year old to not just have an impact on a game but be arguably the decisive factor was pretty special. His drive and attitude are an absolute bonus for the Suns – I think you’ve picked a fairly decent new fave.

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