August 1st, 2021From Doggy to AFL premierships: Pearcy’s parade
A YOUNG man starts out with the Daylesford Football Netball Club. Impossible, then, to even think that one day he would stand on the dais at the MCG with a premiership AFL team.
Matt Pearce’s first step came when he was approached by the then VFL side North Ballarat. “After joining the Roosters, I took on the role of head trainer for four years.”
Daylesford born and bred, “Pearcy”, as he is widely known, continued his rise when he was asked to join the medical staff at Melbourne for the 2007 season. “After two years at the Demons, I was asked to join the Tigers for season 2009 – and well the rest is history, I guess…I jumped at the opportunity.”
With his time at Melbourne, this adds up to over 350 games.
Football had always been a big part of his life, whether as a supporter or a junior.
“In more recent times I’ve had the pleasure of running around for a few reserves games for Daylesford when my Richmond commitments allowed me the time to do so.”
The peak of his 12 years at the Tigers was, of course, those three premierships in four years. “However, the 2017 Premiership probably stands out because it was the culmination of so many years of hard work by all involved. There is a point when a dream becomes a reality, and for me that realisation came at the 22-minute mark of the last quarter when it dawned on me that we had won our first premiership in 37 years.
“The other two premierships are also very special, but it’s a bit like when you have kids…you don’t love them any less…they’re all just a little different.” He has two sons.
As a trainer he saw a lot of injuries up close.
He remembers Tiger Reece Conca having a significant ankle dislocation in his 100th game, against Sydney in 2018 after a tackle by Buddy Franklin.
Another was this year when ex-Geelong player and Daylesford local Josh Cowan suffered a bad leg fracture in Round 1, his comeback game at Daylesford.
“Both were really nasty injuries that happened to two of the best human beings I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.”
Tiger great Alex Rance featured in the most remarkable recovery Pearcy has seen, and although, ultimately, it didn’t mean a return to the playing field, Rance came very close.
He injured his ACL in Round 1, 2019. An ACL injury is a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate ligament, one of the strong bands of tissue that help connect the thigh bone to the shin bone. Usually this means 12 months out of the game, but the grand final was approaching so he put himself into a position where he could almost have played, an unheard of feat.
We discussed the burning issue of head injuries. “Concussion in sport is a very real issue but also a very wide ranging one. I honestly believe we are heading in the right direction, however, there is a lot of work to be done, particularly by the code and the local leagues, in continuing to educate and develop policy to protect players at any age level.”
Pearcy also counts himself lucky because of opportunities football presented, including overseas training camps and travel and being selected as head trainer for the Victorian side in the 2020 State of Origin game for bushfire relief. As a 20-plus years member of the Daylesford CFA, this was close to his heart.
Asked about why he retired from Richmond he offers one word: “Family.”
The AFL world is all-consuming for players, staff and their families.
“Retirement had been on my mind, but after spending almost five months away from my wife and two young boys last season in the AFL hubs I made the decision to step away while on top. I left on my own terms – something that not many in the industry get to do.”
At 37 he finds getting involved again at Daylesford a bit like coming full circle. He mentions being able to give back to the club that gave him a start. “My role has evolved since returning and I now find myself overseeing the club trainers, mentoring the leadership group and assistant coaching – not quite what I (or my wife) thought I’d be doing but really happy to be able to be involved.
“The nice thing about local footy is that now my boys are able to experience the community that sports clubs provide, they are participating in Auskick and they love coming to cheer on the Doggies on the weekends.”
Pearcy will join Konrad Marshall, author of Yellow & Black: A Season with Richmond, Stronger & Bolder: Inside the 2019 AFL Finals Series with Richmond and The Hard Way: The story of Richmond’s 13th Premiership, and Cameron Schwab, former CEO of Richmond, at the Daylesford Football Club for a special Words in Winter forum on Saturday, August 21.
Words: Kevin Childs | Image: Contributed