An AFL dream felt like a lifetime away for Matthew Wright.
As he attended a party, the then 17-year-old was struck in the head with a glass bottle, an attack which left Wright with brain swelling and a fractured skull.
But despite the horrendous incident, which put Wright’s AFL career and Year 12 exams in limbo, the future draftee couldn’t imagine anything more than a life without the game he loved.
“I remember getting back out on the training track, it was the best day of my life,” Wright told Aflplayers.com.au.
“There was a time where I thought it wasn’t going to happen, when the incident occurred it was initially about my health and getting back on my feet. I was in a pretty bad place there for a small amount of time but once I got the all clear all my attention turned back to footy.
“To be able to resume something you’ve done growing up and after having it taken away from you makes you appreciate it that much more.”
While Wright did achieve his dream of reaching the AFL when he was selected as a rookie by Adelaide in 2009, things weren’t quite as smooth sailing when he joined the Blues at the end of 2015.
After all, the now 27-year-old had to take the first steps of his new life without his wife, Anna.
“The toughest part for mine was I was recently married and my wife’s contract at work, she is a nurse, didn’t finish up until late February,” Wright explained.
“So there was three and a half months where I was living with Levi Casboult, away from the family and our two dogs.
But while Anna and Wright have now settled into their new lives in Victoria, the former North Adelaide player says he owes plenty of gratitude to Casboult.
“Levi and his wife Hayley were great for me and I’m appreciative of what they did for me, our partners have become close and we have as well.
“I hadn’t really met him before and I drove over and moved in. For him to open his doors to someone he hasn’t met was special.
“We go to most games together now and are really enjoying our footy at the moment.”
When Wright did arrive at the Blues he quickly found himself in an unusual position, he was suddenly a leader within a club boasting one of the youngest lists in the competition.
Now a leader while at the age of 26 with 94 games of AFL experience, Wright said it’s a position he found pleasantly surprising.
“I’m enjoying it and to be honest I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I am,” Wright added.
“We’ve got a fantastic forward line coach Shane Watson and obviously Bolts is involved as well. Watto allows Levi and I to take control of the forwards at times and then at other times he takes control.
“We’ve got some good kids coming through and understandably it’s going to take time but their attitude to get his better is outstanding.”
Having established a senior position within the playing group, Wright is looking to pass on his knowledge to the next generation.
The small forward is one of Carlton’s coaches of their academy side alongside Ed Curnow, which Wright said was important to help continue his leadership development.
“We did that so we could help ourselves grow as in being able to communicate better with the young boys and get our message across at the footy club,” Wright said.
“You become a little bit more invested when you are trying to help others and I’m just trying to repay the faith.”
Wright said he and Curnow are looking to pass on a very important message to the younger guys: never be afraid to ask a question.
It’s a piece of advice Wright’s father used to pass onto him but it’s only since arriving at Carlton and being coached by Brendon Bolton that the phrase has truly sunk in.
But while Wright is focused on helping the next wave of talented footballers, his most important goal is steering the Blues’ younger brigade in the right direction.
“When you first start out you are just rapt to be playing AFL footy and if you can get a kick and your team wins it is a bonus.
“I see myself in a good position to help the kids that are going to play 10 years for the Carlton Football Club.
“If we can instill some good habits into these boys it’s going to hold the club and individuals in good stead.”