Crows’ Matthew Wright deserves respect
He’s a young man who gets little plaudits outside of the Adelaide Crows inner sanctum, but Matthew Wright deserves a lot of attention in the wider football world.
Currently, the 22-year-old number 47 is managing to hold down a spot on the vastly improved Crows half forward line while competing with other small forwards in Ian Callinan, Jarrod Petrenko, the line switching Ricky Henderson and Matthew Jeansch.
Though not a noted goal kicker like Callinan or Petrenko, or blessed with the same booming kick as say Jeansch, Wright has held down his spot with a flawless work ethic; with tackling, hard chasing and spotless in and under work become a trademark of his game.
To date some of his statistics are hardly groundbreaking with an average 1.25 goals and 2.25 marks a game, but with an impressive with average of 17 disposals, 4.6 tackles and at least one free-kick for a game.
These statistics show Wright for what he is; the workman at ground level in the forward line, an unheralded, unremarkable hard man with excellent work ethic. A real blue-collar worker.
Considering where he came from, I’m not surprised. Wright and I attended the same high school in the working-class north east of Adelaide. The same school, The Heights, has also offered the AFL Heath Grundy, the Sydney Swans big man in defence.
While I graduated a year ahead of him, Wright’s football prowess was known to me through the younger siblings of friends at the school. For the longest time he looked set to be taken highly in the draft of 2007.
However, the young man was struck by tragedy – in truth, he was struck by a beer bottle.
Attending a party with his girlfriend of now six years, the 17-year-old Wright fell afoul of some gatecrashers, and spent time in hospital with brain swelling, a fractured skull and 6cm cut above one eye.
Having such a serious setback at only 17, Wright’s AFL career looked all but over.
One careless, stupid and outright cowardly act of criminality and a young man’s dreams of a professional career dissipate in front of him.
Wright had to contend himself with playing in the SANFL for local club North Adelaide, where he became a fan favourite for his work ethic and hard tackling.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Wright’s hard work was finally acknowledged, with the Crows throwing him a lifeline in the 2010 Rookie Draft.
However, with his dream so close, another injury set his AFL birth back by a year, with an ACL and subsequent LARS surgery further halting Wright’s progress.
Now, after five years of needless setbacks and frustration, he’s finally carved out a spot for himself and making a real go at realising his destiny.
The real shame is how quickly the bloke’s story is forgotten.
So many young footballers don’t get to realise their dreams, suffering similar setbacks, and never even have their story told.
Wright was lucky enough to get his second chance, and stands as a shining light for all others who think their time has passed.
Well done, mate; old Heights Boy come good.
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