Just when you thought Queensland’s year of draftee’s and debutants couldn’t get any better, Yeronga ruckman Matt Eagles has won FOX8’s reality TV show, The Recruit, and a spot on the Brisbane Lions’ rookie list.
Eagles, who arrived at Leyshon Park in 2014, was announced as The Recruit winner following all 18 AFL clubs giving their three, two and one votes on the top three contestants.
From there, each club was given the opportunity to nominate to draft Matt, which Brisbane, Collingwood and GWS took up.
The 26-year-old then was given the luxury of picking who he signed the one year, Category B rookie contract with.
After a whirlwind 10 weeks on the show, he is still coming to terms with the fact his dream has been achieved.
“I was up for a few hours last night, I couldn’t get to sleep. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Eagles said.
“I was a sweaty mess up there; I was freaking out. I think I looked alright on camera, but I was jumping out of my skin. My brain was going 100 miles an hour. I was just trying to stay calm.”
Staying in Queensland at a club searching for ruck depth was the most logical choice.
“With the opportunity of a new coach coming into Brisbane, I thought it would be a great time to go to a club. They are a young side, and I only see them going up from here, so I would love to be a part of that,” he said.
While 2016 will always be remembered as the year he was drafted, it was 2015 that laid the foundation.
Last year, Eagles won the QFA South Best and Fairest, the Yeronga Best and Fairest and finished fourth in the QFA South Goal Kicking.
It was a year that put his goals back on the map.
“2015 was definitely a sign for me that I had to try and progress my footy. I have always had the talent I think, but I haven’t believed in myself for a few years. Last year was a big wake up call, and pointed my in the right direction,” Eagles said.
“Chris Ryan, Tim Notting, and Matt Brown definitely had a massive impact on my footy, and I’m really appreciative of them.”
He said the experience of the show was something he would never forget.
“It was pretty full on. I thought with 15 blokes in the house there might be a few punch-ons or something like that, but it was pretty cool. All the boys were great, and then getting hanging out with Mick Malthouse was unreal, and all the people we met along the way were amazing,” he said.
The Yeronga Football Club watched on with pride last night, as their favourite son took the next step.
“It’s great for the whole footy club to see. He told the show that Yeronga gave him the belief that he could play footy again. When he turned up here, he was done and dusted, but along with Matt Brown and Tim Notting, we all told him that he could play again,” Yeronga President Chris Ryan said.
“To have a contribution from a club level to help him achieve his dream is unbelievable.
“Although he only played at the QFA South level, by winning those awards it gave him the belief again that he could play.
“I think he lost all of that. We knew he could play AFL. He had people who had only known him a year telling him that, which really helped I think.”
For Ryan, last night was up their with anything he has achieved in footy.
“To be able to watch someone achieve their dream, and to be there when it happened, it’s a very emotional night. We know how determined he was, so to be a part of that is very humbling for me.
“It’s so rewarding. It’s hard to explain. To be a part of this, is as good as winning a premiership. It’s unbelievable.”
Along with the contract, Yeronga also pocketed a handy $25,000, which will be put to immediate use.
“With the construction around our clubhouse we have planned, the $25,000 will top that off nicely,” Ryan said.
Eagles will be on the job with the Lions from day one of pre-season.
By Andrew Wiles