Matthew Rowell’s unprecedented second NAB League Boys Grand Final best-on-ground medal felt much sweeter than the last one, with his Oakleigh Chargers rebounding from 2018 heartbreak to triumph in Saturday’s 2019 decider.
The potential top selection at this year’s NAB AFL Draft was dominant in the midfield during Oakleigh’s 53-point victory over the Eastern Ranges at Ikon Park, recording 44 disposals, 26 contested possessions, 12 clearances, nine tackles and six inside-50s – all game-highs – as well as kicking two goals.
Only a year ago, 178cm Rowell led all comers with 32 disposals, 23 uncontested possessions, 11 marks and seven inside-50s as the Chargers fell short of claiming the 2018 premiership by six points against the Dandenong Stingrays.
This time around, the tireless efforts of the Boroondara Hawks and Canterbury (Yarra Junior FL) product added to those of his highly talented teammates to overwhelm a gallant Ranges outfit, which won the 2019 minor premiership based on strong team play but couldn’t match Oakleigh for class in three encounters across the season.
— Local Footy (@localfooty) September 23, 2019
Rowell was seemingly everywhere throughout Saturday’s contest but perhaps most crucially booted his two majors in the middle of a seven-unanswered-goal run to end the third quarter that effectively secured the flag for the Chargers.
“It’s a much better feeling this time around,” Rowell said after the Grand Final. “It really hurt last year and we really wanted to get back to this stage.
“We’ve gone one more (step), so I just couldn’t be prouder of the boys and the way we went about it. We really stuck it out for four quarters today and that’s what got us over the line.”
Rowell’s performance capped a stellar season that added to what was an already very accomplished junior career.
He was named in the 2019 NAB League Boys Team of the Year after averaging 32 disposals, nine tackles and four inside-50s per game in seven NAB League Boys matches and also represented Vic Metro for a second time at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, after which he was named in the AFL Under-18 All Australian Team.
For all the honours bestowed upon him and the chatter about his lofty standing in this year’s draft class, Rowell maintains a remarkable humility about his place in football.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m just there to do that,” he said. “I just enjoy playing footy.
“I get a bit of attention (from the opposition), but that’s footy I guess. I just take it in my stride… I just go out and do my thing and hopefully it brings some people along with me.
“It’s not what I play for (individual honours), but I’m much happier getting the (Grand Final best-on-ground) medal this time around because we won.”