MATTHEW Cottrell may be as understated as any outside of the four walls of IKON Park, but he’s anything but internally.
There probably wouldn’t be too many more popular members of the playing group to produce one of the great finals Carlton cameos like the boyhood Bluebagger produced on Friday night in front of over 92,000 people.
While for some it may have been a case of ‘Matthew Who?’ on Friday night, that’s far from the case for those who represent the Navy Blue daily. So much so that while Cottrell doesn’t really like doing too much talking to camera or on the microphone, his teammates and his coach were more than happy to do it for him.
It was a performance - in particular, the first half - which will live long in the memory of Carlton elimination final folklore.
There was Jimmy Plunkett’s 34 disposals and two goals in 2001. There was Bret Thornton - centre-half forward Bret Thornton, mind you - who hauled in five contested marks and two goals against the arch rival in 2011. There was, perhaps most famously, Nick Duigan’s four goals post-salad rolls in 2013.
And then there was Matty Cottrell in 2023, with 17 disposals, two opportunistic goals, a high-flying mark on the last line of defence and a momentum-shifting chasedown tackle on Swans star Errol Gulden in the centre of the MCG with the game on tenterhooks.
Of course, there wasn’t any post-match media for Cottrell on Friday night. But Mitch McGovern was one of a few who shed some light on the Blue blood.
“I was getting in his ear saying someone needed to tag him, because he was absolutely on fire,” McGovern told RSN on Monday morning.
“He was really good, up and about as usual. The boys celebrated and enjoyed that [performance] — he’s a funny character, ‘Cotts’.”
Cottrell turned heads with a few individual acts in 2023, none more so than his run against Gold Coast in Round 23 which kickstarted a goal to Matthew Owies. It was a passage of play which saw Alastair Lynch hail Cottrell as “unheralded”.
But the man who kicked that goal in question suggested that while Cottrell may be just that - unheralded - externally, the high half-forward is very much a favourite of Lynch’s premiership captain Michael Voss.
“Those redheads stick together! They’re fiery competitors and they stay true to the name, they’ve got a great relationship,” Owies told 6PR post-match.
“I said to him after the game that it was one of his best games, and I didn’t know he had that in his wheelhouse when he went to ground, shrugged off an opponent and went onto his left.
“’Cotts’ is a workhorse and it was great to see him perform on the biggest stage: hopefully he does it again next week, because it brings a lot of joy to us. His energy is infectious.”
While coaches don’t like to concede that they may have favourites, Voss’ comments when asked by Leigh Matthews on the weekend did nothing to dispel Owies’ theory.
“He came back from his foot injury [mid-season], we really missed him,” Voss said on 3AW on Saturday.
“He’s obviously got a big engine and he’s quick. But he put on a couple of extra kilos over the pre-season and became really strong, but it hasn’t taken away from any of his strengths. He’s been able to build on his decision-making, his touch and his finish.
“He’s been able to play a critical role for us. He’s not the first one that anyone speaks about [externally], but he is inside the four walls. He’s been an important player.”