This article was originally published on November 4; on November 25, Matt Buntine was announced the 2015 Cleo Bachelor of the Year.
Matt Buntine has always been brave on the footy field, but facing teammates after featuring topless in a popular women’s magazine might require a new level of courage.
The Greater Western Sydney defender is one of 30 finalists in Cleo magazine’s 2015 Bachelor of the Year competition and, as Buntine found out the hard way, there was never going to be an easy way to keep the nomination from a group of 40-odd mates.
Featured as the only AFL player in this year’s group, Buntine told aflplayers.com.au he’s experienced mixed reactions from his teammates so far.
“I was hoping the [media] release came when I was overseas so I would miss the flak from the boys, but unfortunately I’ve had a week of some pretty hard stick from the them,” Buntine said.
“Tim Mohr’s probably given me the most; he’s one of my best mates and is very much against the social stuff.
“But I got a lot more support than I thought I would. The boys will certainly get into me on the first day back.”
— GWS GIANTS (@GWSGIANTS) September 27, 2015
Only two AFL footballers have taken out the coveted title of the country’s most eligible bachelor since the award’s inception in 1990 – Dermott Brereton in 1990 and Jim Stynes in 1992.
Up against a host of well-known Australian personalities and celebrities, 22-year-old Buntine says he would’ve been the last person to consider himself worthy of representing the AFL community in such a way.
“It was a bit of shock. I thought there’d be a lot more boys on the list that would be more appropriate.
“It features people from all different walks of life and I think Cleo was lacking a footballer. They might’ve looked through the club and made a shortlist that I was on. Whether I was the first one asked by our media team or the first to say yes, I’m not too sure… But there was certainly no self application on my behalf, I assure you.”
— Phil Davis (@phildavis_1) October 26, 2015
Voting for the Cleo Bachelor of the Year closes on November 13. A day later, Buntine will return to pre-season training.
Putting a couple of injury-interrupted years behind him, he benefited from consistently getting on the park in 2015 with a career-best season. After a punctured lung and some calf troubles hindered previous campaigns, he strung 10 consecutive matches together mid-year before a couple of concussions all but ended his season.
The medium-sized defender was forced to take on some greater roles in the Giants back-half during the year, as the club’s key defensive stocks dwindled throughout the season.
Playing on the likes of Travis Cloke, Jarrad Waite and Ben Griffiths, the 189cm defender showed he’s not afraid to take on players of all shapes and sizes when required.
But a serious head-knock in Round 16 was the beginning of the end of Buntine’s season. He missed the following week before being cleared to play against the Dockers in Round 18, where another concussion ended his season.
With the AFL community developing a greater understanding of the impact of concussion-related injuries, Buntine knows he and the club will have to keep a close eye out for any warning signs in the future.
“I had two concussions in three weekends so if it was to happen again, we’d have to take it really seriously,” he said.
“When you look at guys like Leigh Adams retiring due to concussion this year, it’s very serious. My brain’s a lot more important than a few football games, I have to live with my brain for a lot longer than my career.
“After a concussion, you get eased back into training. You’re not allowed to do a lot earlier in the week, even if you’re cleared to play the weekend after, you’re still doing minimal in the first few days so you don’t activate the concussion. I was training below maximum intensity so I didn’t knock the concussion around or reinforce the symptoms.
“A week after the second one, I felt mentally and cognitively fine but training was a bit harder than it usually would be and an average lighter session might feel a lot harder.
“By the last week, I was doing a full week of training but you certainly get put through your paces to ensure everything’s crossed off and you’re all good to play.
“It was an interesting time, but I’m glad I didn’t have anything residual that came out of it and I’m pretty happy with the way we went about it.”
2015 also saw the creation of Where You’d Rather Eat, Buntine’s Instagram food blog, dedicated to the various cafe-style meals available in the Sydney area.
With his pre-season kicking off on the 14th of November, Buntine has around a month left to cram in some meals before the hard slog begins.
He says the blog is a good outlet away from the daily grind of being a professional footballer.
“We’ve had a breakfast group of Callan Ward, Rhys Palmer, Tim Mohr, Adam Kennedy and I for around a year now, where every Thursday or day off we try and find a different spot that we research and want to try out.
“The way Instagram and social media plays nowadays, it’s pretty easy to take a photo and upload it, so I thought it would be a good way to also explore a bit of Sydney considering I’m a Melbourne boy and don’t know all the good spots to eat.
“It’s a lot of fun and gets us away from football, which is a nice escape.”