Dear 18 year-old self,
After hearing your name read out in the Draft a lot higher than you expected, and having just jumped on a plane and moved to Adelaide, it’s OK that you are feeling a bit overwhelmed.
The next year is going to be really tough.
You will find it hard being away from your family and friends, and it is going to take you a while to adjust to being an AFL player.
Although you can’t imagine it now, moving interstate is going to be one of the best things that happens to you.
You are going to learn to grow up quickly and make a life of your own.
You are going to meet some great people, and create some amazing memories.
Things will get easier. You will feel more comfortable. A few great friends are around the corner.
Let your teammates see your fun and laid-back side; it will help you enjoy the experience and gain a better balance in your life.
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
Even though you will always want to be the best, you will play as many games in the SANFL and VFL as you do in the AFL, so make sure you embrace your time there.
You will find out that despite all the pressure and analysis of the AFL world you are in, for you it all comes back to the love of footy that you had as a 10-year-old: that hunger to chase the ball and tackle hard, and enjoy being part of a team.
The more you can bring it back to that, the better you will be.
You are going to feel like you spend more time in your career battling uphill than feeling like you have made it, and some of your clearest memories are going to be the challenges you have to face.
You will learn by being in these tough situations that you always have a choice.
The way you choose to respond to getting dropped, or to playing in the ‘twos’, and a few more tough challenges along the way, is what you will be most proud of at the end of your career.
You will experience some extreme highs and lows, and will lean on some amazing people around you.
Make sure you always thank them for how they have helped you.
Be desperate to get better every day, but enjoy every part of the journey as much as you can.
Work hard, stay grounded, and embrace it all.
Matthew is now the Accredited Agents Manager at the AFL Players’ Association