By Rob Spurr

The Big G is big.

6’4 type of big.

Big voice, big handshake, big emoji range and big smile. Mostly big heart though.

Not uncommon in the region, Matt’s decade within the Asian footy community was largely through traveling happenstance. On a 2012 holiday to Japan he was introduced his future wife Akiko at a Christmas dinner in Osaka. He quickly extended his teaching leave and took the plunge into a cultural onsen of family, food and footy.

Pre-Asia, Matt was a decorated player in his home state of South Australia. He kicked off his footy career in hometown Whyalla before moving through the grades and finding his way with Woodville-West Torrens in the top-flight SANFL.

It turns out that form translates pretty well to AFL Japan where he made an immediate impact with his beloved Osaka Dingoes with whom he was recently awarded life membership. He once bagged 20 goals in a single game and kicked 9 in a losing grand final!

On the national stage he represented the Japan Goannas throughout his tenure as a player and coach at numerous Asian Champs and regional tournaments. For ten years he booted (or bounced) the Sherrin across Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and China.

In 2018 he received an AFL Japan Recognition Award and has the annual goalkicking award named in his honour.

Matt receiving Life Membership from the Osaka Dingoes in 2023. 

It could be argued however that his greatest impact was on the regional stage whereby the code made huge strides with tournament formats, umpire development, player discipline, inclusion and social media, all predominately under Matt’s considered direction. His quirky podcasting show with Billy Crang produced more than 30 entertaining episodes for the growing Asian footy diaspora.

As President of AFL Asia from 2018/2019 Matt’s committed advocacy saw the game transition across to formal AFL stewardship which has seen immediate improvements in organisational structure, funding and professionalism.

At a personal level, Matt has always put himself out there, unafraid to take his throng of social media followers along on his personal journey. Whether it’s an epic walking adventure to Mt Fuji or articulating his struggles through Covid lockdowns in a foreign country, his posts are compelling, thoughtful and always honest.

That journey will now continue in Adelaide where Matt and his young family have recently relocated.

We owe him our gratitude for his considerable volunteering efforts and thank him for his legacy.

A big legacy.

Matt with Dane Swan at the 2019 Asian Championships.

Rob Spurr is an AFL Asia Advisory Board member who has served alongside Matt for the past three years.