When Narrandera last hosted AFL pre-season games, Matt Flynn was just a boy, dreaming of what might lie ahead.
This Saturday, seven years on, he’ll run on to Narrandera Sportsground for his first senior appearance with Greater Western Sydney, against West Coast in the JLT Community Series match.
“I remember sitting up there after we helped with the renovations for the clubrooms and (former Narrandera coach) Jamie Grintell said, ‘One day you’ll be out on that ground and you’ll be able to tell everyone you helped build that’,” Flynn recalled to The Daily Advertiser.
“From all those years ago to now, it’s exciting, for sure.”
Flynn rang his parents early this week when he knew he would be playing at Narrandera, this time against an Eagles team.
“They were stoked, and so were Nan and Pop,” he said.
“Dad and the footy club really want to make the most of it because everyone knows how excited we were as kids when we had those games there.”
Flynn remembers his Mum taking him to the bakery after school where Swans stars Barry Hall, Adam Goodes and Nick Davis were having a coffee. He thinks rising Riverina stars Zac Williams (Narrandera) and Matt Kennedy (Collingullie) and forward Jon Patton can prove a similar attraction.
“I think the kids will want to see Zac after how good a year he had last year – he was nearly all-Australian – and Matty Kennedy after the footy he played,” Flynn said.
But the 19-year old himself is focussed on his role for the Giants – up forward, as well as relieving in the ruck.
He’s worked hard in the off-season, on his endurance to get to the contests, and in adding a couple of kilograms so he has an impact when he gets there. Now the 200cm, 103kg Giant wants to seize his opportunity.
“I’ll be putting my hand up and having a crack, competing for a second or third JLT game and moving on from there,” he said.
“But I’m just really excited to have this first game.”
Flynn won a NEAFL grand final with the Giants reserves last year but said the club is still hurting after exiting the AFL finals with a preliminary final loss to the Sydney Swans.
He said they’re intent on avoiding any hint of ‘second year blues’ after such a standout season.
“We were bitterly disappointed at what happened in the preliminary final but we can take a lot out of last year,” Flynn said.
“We all agree that the talent’s there but it’s the structures we need to just fine tune to really compete.”
The Giants have named Josh Kelly as skipper for Saturday’s game. Co-captains Callan Ward and Phil Davis head a list of experienced names who won’t make the trip, including Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron, Steve Johnson and Heath Shaw.
West Coast are also expected to name some new faces when teams are confirmed on Thursday.
“West Coast are a decent side and I think they’ll be similar to us – a pretty young side,” Flynn said.
“They’ll still have a pretty decent backline I think and a young midfield. And it’ll be the highest level of footy I’ve every played.”