If three years ago you told Bendigo Gold recruit Matthew Farrelly that he’d one day play VFL, he probably wouldn’t have believed it.
As a junior, the 19-year-old from Echuca went through mostly unnoticed and wasn’t contacted at all by the Bendigo Pioneers.
But things can change pretty quickly with a bit of hard work – just ask Farrelly.
Preparing for top-age under-18s at the Echuca Murray Bombers in 2011, he put in a massive pre-season and unlocked some outstanding potential.
“Me and couple of mates didn’t think we’d have a great team. We wanted to have a bit of fun and win some games so we had our own pre-season over the summer,” Farrelly said.
“We went to the gym a fair bit and we knuckled down and it worked for me.”
Farrelly won Echuca’s best and fairest that season and also played three senior games.
The 185cm half-back flanker was a standout in Echuca’s 18 senior matches this year, leading to the Murray Bombers’ coach Cam Stewart pushing for his inclusion in last month’s AFL Victoria Young Guns match.
Farrelly trained with Echuca’s top-10 draft prospect Oliver Wines in the lead-up to the game and his top performance caught the eye of new Gold coach Aussie Jones.
“Coming from Echuca, it was probably a step-up to the Young Guns game and he just slotted in like a veteran,” Jones said.
“We’d be backing our staff in that over a full pre-season with us, if anything, he’ll take a step-up from there. We expect Matt to be an integral part of our side.”
Farrelly’s slightly daunted by the upcoming pre-season, but has the self-belief to make it in the VFL.
“Coming to the end of this year I figured I probably could play at that level, I’m pretty excited to have that opportunity anyway,” he said.
“Aussie said it’s going to be a young team and I know that. I’ve played with a young team at Echuca, hopefully it’s pretty similar and it will be the same sort of building process.”
Meanwhile, Jones expects to announce more players next week following the Gold’s information night on Monday.
“I was actually really happy with the turnout but there was quite a number that I was expecting to be there that weren’t there,” Jones said.
“We probably had a few guys that I had to communicate with the day after that VFL footy – it’s not optional.
“What I’m trying to do at the footy club is make everything a hell of a lot more professional and communication’s a big part of that.
“So going forward, it will be explained to these guys that this is the second best competition in Australia and you’re either in or you’re not.”