As Matt Leppard walks onto Etihad tomorrow night in his 50th AFL game he is hoping they will not be playing the song by chumbawamba “I get knocked down” because the last time Essendon and the Bulldogs met at Etihad in 2012 Matt did indeed get knocked down; three times, by players coming out of a field bounce. “Yeah I felt like I had a target on my back that night,” exclaimed Matt today. “But it wasn’t as bad as the hit I received in my first year when I was really cleaned up in the Essendon v. WCE match and really didn’t know where I was for a while.”
Matt needn’t worry, since umpires have been instructed to throw the ball up around the ground he hasn’t been hit once. Always one with a dry sense of humour Matt said today, “I’ll enjoy my 50th AFL game more than I enjoyed my 100th VFL game. I only achieved that milestone last year when I was dropped to the VFL for poor form.”
Matt’s first AFL game was in round 1 2011 when he came on at three-quarter time in the Essendon v Western Bulldogs game. “Luke Farmer did a hamstring and so I got on unexpectedly for my first game. No nerves just slipped straight into it.” His first AFL appointment was to the Port Adelaide v Gold Coast Suns game in Adelaide which will be remembered for all time as Gold Coast had their first win in the AFL. “I remember quite clearly Justin Westhoff having a shot after the siren to give Port Adelaide the win but he didn’t get it.”
Matt lives only 500 metres from Etihad Stadium so we asked how he found walking to the ground. “I get a car park pass, I have to use it, I always drive.” No doubt Matt, it is a safety issue and the AFL would want you to drive also……!