IT’S been a long journey for Matt Owies since he donned the Hawaii College basketball jersey in the USA to the Navy Blue guernsey on the MCG.
Now in his third year at Carlton, Owies has started to string together some consistent game time at the highest level, after spending his last two years developing in the VFL and throughout scratch matches in 2020.
Using some of his traits that helped him as an undersized point guard at college level has given Owies the ability to become a pressure player in the Blues' forward line.
“I read space and where to run and now knowing the system, being able to find little pockets of space so the spatial awareness is a big thing,” Owies said.
“The manic pressure definitely translates over from basketball: slowing your feet is one of the big things, to stay in front of your opponent.
"The difference in football is that you’re trying to close that space so slowing your feet and forcing them one way is definitely something I pride myself on.”
When Owies looks back at that journey, he still can’t quite believe where he has gotten to, having kicked 10 goals from his six matches in 2021.
However, according to development coach (and Carlton VFL coach) Daniel O’Keefe, it’s no surprise that Owies has strung together some consistent football.
“In terms of players at our football club, it’s really hard to find someone that works harder and owns his role more than what Matty does,” O’Keefe said.
“He knows what his strengths are and he knows what his expectations are, but he focuses his game on what he can control.”
Owies played a full season with the Northern Blues in 2019, admitting that he almost gave up on his football dream before it began.
“It was pretty tough to be honest, especially at the start I remember some conversations with mum and dad after the first couple of games like ‘I feel that far off it’,” Owies said.
“That was really tough but I grew into the season and learnt a lot of other players at training and in games.”
Owies kicked 18 goals from 17 games in 2019, moving onto 2020 where everyone in the football world had to find a way through with the VFL competition suspended for the season.
In a series of scratch matches, Owies proved himself enough to make his AFL debut, and while things may have not gone to plan, it gave him a taste of the big time.
“It was a long road to get my AFL debut, those scratch matches were really hard,” Owies said.
“When I got that opportunity against Sydney, even though it probably wasn’t my best game and not how I wanted it to go, it gave me the hunger going into the off-season to put in work and know that I got a taste for it and that I can make an impact at that level.”
Owies certainly has made an impact in the senior side, playing six games in 2021 where his forward pressure and accuracy in front of goal have been highlights of his game.
“He’s leading our forward 50 tackles for the season at the moment in the AFL and that’s contributed off the back of all the work and effort he’s put into this pressure side of this game over the last couple of years,” O’Keefe said.
“The best asset about his game is his ability to put pressure on: closing that time and space away from the opposition and executing a tackle.”
Now that Owies has strung together some good form at the highest level, he is looking forward to playing some more good footy with a club that he loves.
“It took a little bit to get used to playing with the boys, especially in the first quarter and a bit against Essendon, but once I got that goal, I felt right at home,” Owies said.
“It’s been really awesome feeding off the fans and feeling like a part of the group. It’s been surreal for me and my family.”