On Presentation Day 2020, the Pennant Hills footy club paid tribute to one of the Club’s best players over the past decade or so. After struggling once again with injury, Matt had to make the difficult decision that 2020, the year of the pandemic, would be his last and he announced his intention to hang up his boots.
A champion of the Club, Matt won all the major player awards, including the Ern Holmes Trophy twice, was the Demon’s Footballer of the Year in 2013 and the Best First Year Local Player in 2009. He played 126 first grade games over nine seasons and was a member of the 2017 Premiership side. He captained the Under 18 side in 2008 and also won the Best and Fairest that season, winning the Lenny Hayes Trophy. He was among the Premier Division’s leadership group over a number of seasons.
Matt’s footy career started with Auskick in Lavington when his family was living in Albury. When they moved to Sydney he joined Westbrook Juniors in the Under 9s. He played there for 8 years, playing 136 club games and kicking 178 goals, captaining his side for 6 seasons. He played in six Grand Finals and was captain for three premierships in a row in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
He was a regular junior representative player culminating in selection in the Under 16 Sydney Starz and Sydney Redbacks in 2006 and then played Under 18 Starz footy two years later in 2008.
Matt joined the Senior Club in 2007 and played two seasons with the Under 18s. In 2009, he was a Sydney Swans Reserves top-up player (1 game) and in the same year he debuted for the Premier Division side in the first round match against East Coast Eagles played at Ern Holmes Oval; unfortunately it was a loss! In addition to winning the Club’s Ken Macrae Shield for Best Local First Year Player, he was nominated for the League’s Rising Star award and finished a creditable 5th place.
It may be an over-statement to say that Matt’s footy career was ‘plagued’ by serious injury, but he did experience more than his fair share of setbacks that included four surgical reconstructions, two shoulders and two knees!
He missed the whole season in 2010, rehabilitating from a knee reconstruction. He resumed playing in 2011 before attempting a move to Canberra to play in the NEAFL for Ainslie. Unfortunately, Matt injured his shoulder in a practice match and was out for the whole of the 2012 season. He returned to Penno in 2013 and was Premier Division’s Best and Fairest and the Pennant Hills Footballer of the Year. He also captained the Sydney AFL Under 23 Development Squad that year.
He played in the two losing Premier Division Grand Finals in 2013 and 2014 and then missed the whole of 2015 recovering from a shoulder reconstruction. Whilst he wasn’t able to play in the 2015 Premier Division Flag victory, he was able to share some of the glory as the team’s runner.
Returning once again from injury in 2016, Matt was Premier Division’s Best and Fairest for the second time making it a hat-trick of B&Fs. Arguably, the best moment of his career was being a part of the Grand Final victory in 2017. You can imagine his joy and relief at winning his first senior flag after all the setbacks he had experienced.
He is a right footer and could play all around the ground. For almost a decade he’s been a familiar sight in the #4 jumper which he has worn since 2012. He has a solid physique and a bustling style of play. He played a rugged, no- nonsense brand of footy and was highly respected by his teammates and opponents alike.
Twice winning first grade’s top award is a good indicator of Matt’s high level of football skill, ability and achievement. He was also a strong and prominent presence on the paddock, leading by voice and action. Coming back from serious injury, not once, but three times, speaks volumes for his drive, resilience and passion for the game. Tearing an ACL again in training last season, he required another knee reconstruction, and this was the final straw and Matt made the decision to call it a day, bringing to a close an incredible footy career at the Demons.
At the Presentation Day tribute at Mike Kenny Oval, Matt was awarded Life Membership of the Club, an acknowledgement of his achievements on the footy field and of his dedication and devotion to the Pennant Hills footy club.
The Club congratulates Matt on a wonderful football career and wishes him all the best in whatever comes next.
Well done Matt!
|MATTHEW THOMAS #4 – CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
(2007–09, 2011, 2013–14
|126 Senior Grade
13 Reserve Grade
37 Under 18
|Club Awards – Premier Division|
|Pennant Hills Footballer of the Year
Best & Fairest
Best Team Man
Best Local First Year Player
2016 (PP), 2013
|Other Awards & Representation|
|Under 18 Best & Fairest & Player’s Player
AFL Sydney Rising Star nominee (finished 5th)
AFL Sydney U23 Development Squad
|Westbrook Bulldogs – 136 games, 178 goals
Premiers/Minor Premiers – 2003, 2004, 2005 (Captain)
Northwest Reps, U16 Starz & Redbacks in 2006, U18 Starz in 2009
MATTHEW THOMAS #4 – MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
|1.||Premier Division Grand Final 2017 – Blacktown ISP – 16 September 2017
Pennant Hills 10.6-66 defeated Sydney University 7.18-60
Ranga Ediriwickrama – Rod Podbury Medal (BoG)
|2.||Premier Division – Round 18 – Mike Kenny Oval – 19 August 2017
Pennant Hills 24.16-160 defeated UTS Bats 7.6-48
Matt Thomas 100 game milestone – 2 goals
|3.||Premier Division Grand Final 2015 – Henson Park – 27 September 2015
Pennant Hills 14.5-89 defeated East Coast Eagles 7.12-54
Damian Dell’Áquila – Rod Podbury Medal (BoG)
Matt Thomas – Team Runner
|4.||Premier Division Debut – Round 1 – Ern Holmes Oval– 12 May 2009
Pennant Hills 8.5-53 lost to East Coast Eagles 13.12-90
Matt Thomas & Daniel Witt First Grade debuts
Written & compiled by John Acheson for PHAFC, 7 March 2021