Welcome to the Round 2 edition of Footy Prophet’s new weekly series – Fantasy Flashbacks. Each week during the 2016 home and away season, we will look at some of the greatest historical fantasy performances correspondent to the upcoming round – before fantasy football existed.
This week’s Player of the Round is arguably the greatest player to have played AFL/VFL football in Hawthorn legend Leigh Matthews.
Matthews earns his place as Player of the Round for a dominant performance against Essendon in Round 3 of the 1973 season. On that particular day he had 38 kicks, three handballs and nine marks while booting 11 goals and three behinds to register a massive fantasy score of 216. Had tackles been included in statistics in 1973, that score would have been even higher.
Leigh Matthews was signed from the Chelsea Football Club on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula by Hawthorn as a 16-year old, making his senior debut against Melbourne in Round 16 of 1969. In his first game playing as a forward pocket, Matthew’s first and only kick for the day resulted in a goal. He did however retain his place in the side, and in the remaining four games averaged 17.7 disposals and 1.5 goals, which earned him Hawthorn’s best first year player award.
Matthews played 16 games the following year spending more time in the middle of the ground and lifting his disposal average to 18.6 while kicking 20 goals. In his third season Matthews averaged over 20 disposals for the first time, and kept doing so for the next 12 years.
Over a career spanning 332 games, Matthews averaged 22.2 disposals and 4.5 marks while kicking 915 goals (the most by a non-full forward). His most productive season came in 1977 in which he averaged 21.4 kicks, six handballs, 5.5 marks and 3.8 goals per game, for a season total of 91.
Known as Barney (after Barney Rubble), to his team mates and Hawthorn supporters and Lethal to the wider football community, Matthews played the game hard and has admitted regret at many of his actions on the field. Particularly an off the ball incident involving Neville Bruns of Geelong, which eventually led to a four week ban from the game and an assault charge from police.
However, none of that detracts from his footballing achievements. Matthews won Hawthorn’s best and fairest award eight times and was the clubs’ leading goal kicker on six occasions, while also taking out the Coleman Medal in 1975. He was a four-time premiership player, captaining the club from 1981 until his retirement in 1984 and was selected for Victoria 14 times.
He won the VFL MVP award which is now known as the Leigh Matthews Trophy in 1982, and although he never won the Brownlow Medal he polled 202 votes over his career – the sixth highest by any player.
Not only was Matthews inducted into the Hall of Fame of both Hawthorn and the AFL, he was also given legend status by the two, and was included in their teams of the century as well as being named officially by the AFL as the greatest player of the 20th Century.
Following his retirement, Matthews went on to highly successful coaching career, leading Collingwood to their first premiership in 32 years in 1990, then taking the Brisbane Lions to four Grand Finals in succession from 2001 to 2004, including an inaugural premiership in 2001 followed by two more flags in 2002 and 2003.
About the only thing in football Matthews has not done is have a fantasy average – until now. And what a fantasy player he would have been. Not including tackles (of which he was ferocious), Lethal would have averaged a very impressive 97.5 fantasy points over his 16-year career, with a career season high of 113.6 in 1977.
There is no doubt that Leigh Matthews would have been a fantasy gun had it existed at the time he played.