By JEFF STEPHENSON
IF the Northern Territory Tourist Bureau is seeking to produce an all-media advertisement promoting the wondrous delights of the Top End that “kicks goals” they should look no further than our own Matt Hammelmann as the campaign’s central figure.
He’s a walk-up start for the lead role, to be sure.
His nine-goal haul last week against NT Thunder at Darwin’s TIO Stadium followed another nine-goal bag last year – this time at Alice Springs.
On both occasions Matt’s herculean efforts guided our Redland Bombers to encouraging victories and, hopefully, this latest effort will be the kick-start for some further success after an outstanding month of football that has seen us claw back some much-needed attitude and generate more of that Bomber spirit to which we are accustomed.
Matt’s brilliant effort last week has seen him grab a commanding lead in the NEAFL goalkicking list.
It also broke a long sequence of Darwin outs for the Bombers and gave us our first win at TIP Stadium in nine years.
So, what does he put this “love affair” with the NT down to?
“I’m not too sure,” he said.
“Maybe it’s the big grounds up there and the conditions always seem to be good, so that’s probably something that’s helped me,” he said.
We asked whether he’s enjoyed some special holidays in the Territory, which might be the subliminal spark for generating his goal-kicking frame of mind whenever he travels north of Brisbane.
“Well no, I’ve never been there – except when I’ve played footy.”
What Matt pointed to however, was the efforts of his Bomber teammates whose work provided him with “the opportunity” to kick goals.
“There’s definitely a lot of credit that has to go to the team because they moved the ball in quickly and gave me the chance to get on the end of a few”.
His stats against Thunder bear that out – 22 disposals, 16 marks (five contested) and a result of 9.4 – in a celebrated 21-point victory.
It has seen us climb a rung on the ladder and as well as leading the goalkicking with 33 (the next best is Sydney’s Tristan Davies on 22) our key forward has also jumped into eighth with 24 votes on the NEAFL MVP leader board.
Ruckman Craig Malone is presently holding on to fourth spot on 29.
Sydney’s James Rowbottom leads with 36- – uniquely awarded by a combination of umpire and coaches votes.
Matt was named in the 2018 NEAFL Team of the Year and is on target to repeat the process.
The 23-year-old played 12 games with Brisbane Lions before heading across to Redland.
The Lions played him mainly in defence – nine games in the backline in 2016 – before trying him in attack where he played three games the following year.
Since being de-listed Matt has grown into his forward line role with the Bombers and is a much better player.’
“I probably wasn’t ready at that stage,” he said of his AFL experience.
“I was a bit immature and only weighed 85 kilograms and I’ve put on more muscle since those days.”
His increased strength has helped him in one-on-one battles and his speed and agility, his improvement in contested marking and the increased defensive pressure he brings to his game have all further enhanced his already elite standing.
He hasn’t thrown away the prospect of being re-listed.
“Yeah, I still think I can give it a shot.
“What I’m trying to do is to not put too much pressure on myself; I’m learning to relax a bit more so who knows?
“But yes, I’d love to be back on an AFL list.
“I’m at the stage now where I know where I’m at and what I’ve got to do.”
Matt has built a formidable relationship with fellow forward Clay Cameron and the two have been emphatic in their partnership this season.
Clay is also a goalkicker – four last week – and his marking strength has also been vital for the Bombers.
“Clay’s work up the ground has to be seen to be believed,” Matt said.
“I seem to get the benefit of all that, but that’s a good thing as we like working in together.”
Matt believes the spirit within the club and the strongly contested football the Bombers have tabled this season will continue to be rewarded.
The Bombers have played eight newcomers thus far and have uncovered some bright young prospects in the process.
He’s anticipating another tight and tough contest this week at Voxson Oval against Aspley, who lost a close encounter with Southport last week.
“They’ll provide another tight contest – there’s nothing surer.
“They play the one-on-one brand well and I think it’ll be another close one.
“If we take our opportunities again like last week and put in a really solid four-quarter effort then we’ll be right in it.”
We will too – and if Matt continues his goalscoring heroics who knows – that guest appearance with the NT Tourist Bureau could be much closer than we think.