As the Geelong Falcons bowed out in the finals after a shock loss to Eastern Ranges, the side that had been dominant all year was forced to reflect on what went wrong. One man who sat on the sidelines after missing the finals was midfielder/forward Matthew Boag.
Chances are, most people who have been following the TAC Cup and Under 18s coverage over the past month are probably scratching their heads wondering who he is. For someone who has witnessed the amount of talent that can often go unnoticed, Matt Boag is a man who has the talent to make it but a few niggles and a couple of bad games saw him miss the back end of the TAC Cup season.
Matt Boag played 11 matches to take his total to 18 in the TAC Cup and booted 19 goals in an impressive season that has surprisingly seen him fly under the radar. Soreness caused him to be omitted from the side and he couldn’t force his way back in despite his good form early in the year.
While the AIS Academy players in Lewis Taylor, James Tsitas, Nic Bourke and Darcy Gardiner were away, Boag played in the midfield, averaging 19 disposals, four marks and four tackles. Once those boys returned, in particular Taylor and Tsitas, Boag moved to the half forward flank where he immediately made an impact.
“I had some really good form at the start of the year. I felt really fit over the pre-season and I was able to play well in the first half of the season which was thanks to the coaches and high performance staff” Boag said.
Against the Northern Knights, Boag had 23 disposals (18 effective), nine marks and a five goal haul to his name. It was the best game he had played in his career and was rewarded by being named best on ground.
It wasn’t long before Boag was a pillar of consistency, booting ten goals across his next five games while averaging six marks and just under 20 disposals a game. Unfortunately for Boag he was to only play another two matches, taking his total to 11 as his place in the side was filled by others of whom the club needed to put game time into.
“I had a few niggles but ultimately I had a couple of bad games near the end. It was disappointing, but I guess that’s football.”
While being in a successful team such as the Geelong Falcons has plenty of benefits, it can also hide some of the players who might have been seen as stars in lesser teams. Boag is one player who could potentially have been a full time midfielder at one of the lower ranked country clubs, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I guess you could say that (being noticed more in a weaker side), but you could say the same for a lot of blokes at the Falcons. Reid Adams for example has had a sensational year and yet he doesn’t get the praise others do, so there’s a few in the same boat.”
After a solid bottom-age year last season, Boag mentioned that one interstate club had been in contact with him in the pre-season to touch base about what they were after. Unfortunately he failed to make the Vic Country side which at the time was seen as a bit of a surprise given his impressive form for the Falcons.
“It was a great experience. Obviously not making the team was disappointing but at least I was able to go to the trials.”
Despite the disappointment, Boag continued to work hard on the training track while completing Year 12. He’s a keen business student who wants to study at Deakin University in Geelong, close to home where he can also play football for a VFL club should he not be selected by an AFL one.
“I’ve been training down at Werribee so I’m hoping to get a gig there and that will help me in the next stage of my development. Obviously the ultimate aim is to get drafted but with limited contact I’m not h0lding out much hope but we’ve seen from mature aged players that good VFL form can see you rewarded by being drafted into the AFL.”
He might have had a self-proclaimed underwhelming finish to the season, but on exposed form, Boag has the potential to cut it at AFL level. A strong core makes him hard to bring down in a tackle while he has good evasion and versatility around the forward half of the ground making him a danger at all times as revealed by his profile earlier in the year.
“I knew that if I came up against a smaller bloke I’d be too strong whereas against a stronger opponent I felt I had a bit more speed which really helped.”
Given the Falcons’ extraordinary talent, so much has been spoken about the likes of Lewis Taylor and James Tsitas, but what about from the players’ perspectives?
“Lewy is the hardest bloke to tackle at training. No-one can tackle him and it’s so frustrating. Jimmy is a star and should be an easy top 30 chance. He’s a sensational worker and I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about him.”
Of the lesser known players, Boag rates Darcy Lang and George Cameron as the most improved this season. “They are guys who at the start of the season were expected to be really solid players and they’ve exceeded expectations. George won the Morrish Medal and Darcy was a star before injury struck him down.”
It’s been a tough road this year for Boag. After fantastic form early, he hit a road block with some small niggles and couldn’t force his way back into the side. He admitted he had a few things to work on for the future.
“I want to improve my defensive pressure and get a bit fitter. If I can build my tank, I can try and push to play permanent midfield in the VFL and that’s my ultimate aim. That will enable me to really impress AFL clubs”
While Boag is hoping he can hear his named called out by an AFL club in one of the various drafts over the next month, he’s not holding out on it and already has his plans for next year worked out.
“I’ll just go to uni and play footy. After all, that’s my main passion and what I want to do. If I can impress and work hard, you never know where it can take you.”
If he is lucky enough to gain a spot on an AFL club’s list, supporters can be quietly excited about what he has to offer and could be a diamond in the rough, possibly late in the rookie draft. While one might not know who he is at the moment, if given the chance to shine at AFL level, it won’t take long before you do.