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Tough love the key to Matera’s rejuvenation

Before Brandon Matera takes to the MCG for his 100th AFL game, Gold Coast skipper Tom Lynch writes an exclusive column for ahead of his mate’s milestone.

It’s bloody tough to play 100 games of AFL footy, so I’m incredibly proud of Brandon ahead of his achievement.

We played our 50th games together over in Perth so that was a nice moment to share with him and we lived together for a few years.

With both of us being a part of the club’s first season, I remember being around a cheeky 17-year-old fella who always had a smile on his face. He was always one of the more welcoming players from the start.

Whenever we practiced set shots at training, he’d always grab a ball and head straight to the boundary to snap a few from ridiculous angles.

Occasionally, he’d get told off by Ken Hinkley who would encourage Brandon to nail the shots in front of goal that he’s more likely to get on game day. He copped a fair bit of ribbing from Kenny for that.

For those that don’t know him, he’s cheeky and loves to have a little laugh but he’s one of the more caring guys on the list. He’s the one who gets along with all of the players.

If you’re having a bad game or are a bit down during the week, he’d be the first to check in and ask if everything is alright.

Early days, his training wasn’t at the highest standard — which isn’t unusual for a young player — and he would play patches of good footy but the consistency wasn’t quite there.

Since Rocket has come in, he’s been a bit harder on Brandon and left him out of the side a few times and that’s proved to have worked because Brandon has come in played some of the best footy of his career this season.

Besides his obvious talent, Rocket kept him in the reserves for an extra week or two when he could’ve brought him in and that’s helped him mature and realise he needs to train hard to play well.

It’s not as if Brandon didn’t come back in good nick. He had the best pre-season he’s had since being at the club and in the last two years, his mindset has really changed.

Because he didn’t get the rewards for working and training so hard, he was a bit disappointed to not play in Round 1.

To his credit, he didn’t sulk and he put himself in a really good position to perform and is reaping the rewards now.

On the back of his best pre-season, he was disappointed to not play in the seniors straight up but Rocket told him that he can either put his head down and get back into the team or he can sulk about it.

He eventually played such good footy in the reserves that Rocket couldn’t not pick and he’s brought a lot of that to the top level.

Everyone gets frustrated when they’re not getting a game especially when you think you’re in good form, but Brandon used that as motivation to force himself back into the side.

We’ve had a fairly up and down year but Brandon is playing his most consistent footy of his career. He’s more clear than ever on what he needs to do to play his best footy for him and the team.

He’s always been one to snap a goal or use the footy well but if there’s one thing he’s improved on the most throughout his 100 games it would be his work rate on game day.

That AFL-level work rate in the forward half of the ground, which Ash Prescott, the forward line coach, has really drummed into him, has increased through the roof since his time at the Suns.

In our time together, we’ve become really close and I’ve learned that his skills aren’t limited to the footy field either — he’s a pretty handy golfer too and is way better than me so I steer clear of him on the golf course.

It’s been a hard fought seven years and I can’t wait to run out with him on the MCG against the Hawks. It’s a big milestone for him, and he deserves it after all the work he’s put into his career.