According to Carey Grammar’s First XVIII football coach Vin Detolli, Gold Coast SUNSRising Star Matt Rowell hasn’t changed from the first day he met him in 2015.
At the time, Rowell was in Year 8 and Detolli was new to his role at Carey (an independent, co-educational, Christian day school in Victoria’s inner-east) but immediately Rowell made an impact in the school’s APS football program.
“It was quite evident that he was an out and out competitor… what you see now (on the football field) is what he was doing in Year 8,” Detolli told aflplayers.com.au following Rowell’s Round 2 Rising Star nomination.
With Carey’s football program sporting the likes of Rowell’s SUNS’ teammate Noah Anderson and Nick Daicos (brother of Collingwood’s Josh) to name a couple, the school won the hotly-contested APS Premiership last year.
Detolli said the way Rowell performed in school and under-18 football was a clear indication of how he was going to tackle his AFL career.
“It doesn’t matter what he’s doing – he’s a talented footballer no doubt – but the reality is he’s a beast of a competitor,” he said.
“His growth hasn’t changed for me from the day I met him to where he is today – he does exactly the same thing but he’s doing it better.”
Rowell was known for his hard work and dedication to improve, focussing on doing everything he could to get himself and his body to the elite level.
Balancing commitments between Carey, the Oakleigh Chargers in the under-18 competition and his involvement with the National Championships meant Rowell’s coaches had to be mindful of his workload to ensure his body had time to recover.
“We had to hold him back – Matty can quite easily be an over-trainer because he just loves footy like there is no tomorrow,” Detolli said.
“But, when it came to game day on Saturday, you let the dog off the leash and he went to work.”
Watching Saturday night’s game was no different for Detolli than watching Rowell run out during his school days – Rowell was doing the same things but better.
Often compared to Geelong captain Joel Selwood for his hard-at-it nature, Detolli said he wasn’t surprised to see Rowell performing to the level that he is.
“I was laughing on the couch to be honest while watching it,” he said.
“I could see the Eagles getting stuck into him and was just thinking to myself, ‘Don’t poke the bear’… the harder you hit him the better he goes.”
Away from the field, Rowell is described as a “generous” individual.
During his time at Carey he would give back to those coming through the football program, sharing the knowledge he had acquired as he built up a successful junior career – something Detolli said has not gone unnotcied by current students.
“There were text messages being exchanged all (Saturday) night,” he said.
“Year after year we want all of our Year 12 students to leave a legacy behind so that the guys underneath grab onto the baton and continue with those values and Matt was unbelievable at driving that.”