It has taken determination and commitment for Matthew Suckling to arrive at his 150th AFL game.
Taken at pick #22 in the 2007 Rookie Draft, Suckling toiled on Hawthorn’s Rookie List for three years; being delisted and then re-drafted before being elevated to the senior list and earning an AFL debut in 2009.
“Growing up in Wagga and then missing out on the draft and getting taken in the Rookie Draft, my career probably started a bit slowly,” Suckling told westernbulldogs.com.au.
“I think I played four games in my first four years.
“It took a while to get going and then since then I’ve been lucky enough to be pretty consistent.”
A torn ACL in the 2013 pre-season saw the defender miss Hawthorn’s first of three consecutive Flags, but he rebounded to play in two premierships for the Hawks in 2014 and 2015.
“My career has been a rollercoaster,” he said on the even of his 150th game.
“I got delisted in my first couple of years and then obviously had some success.
“I did the ACL, so had to miss the whole year, and watch the boys play in a grand final and then change clubs. Having an achilles injury and watching the boys play in a grand final here as well was hard but it does build some resilience as you get older.”
At 29, Suckling has been the Bulldogs’ only player over 25 this year but said he was enjoying the extra responsibility.
“It’s been really refreshing actually to be one of the oldest. It’s probably weird to say that but I’ve really enjoyed the responsibility.
“In my first few years at Hawthorn I had so many great leaders to teach me and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to be one of the oldest now and hopefully there’s a few more years left and I can continue to grow in that area.”
Suckling is renowned for his trademark booming and accurate left boot, something we saw against Brisbane on Saturday when he cleared the fences from behind the arc to give the Dogs a 19-point lead in the final term.
“I was pretty lucky as a kid, I sort of taught myself how to kick and by the age of 14 I was already a long kick. I’ve managed to carry that through into my AFL career.
“I think trying to build my defensive stuff and the other side of my game has helped keep me in the game the last few years, definitely.
Suckling moved to the Western Bulldogs as a free agent at the end of the 2015 season and said his relationship with the Bulldogs’ coach and former Hawthorn backline coach, Luke Beveridge, was a big driver.
“I spent three years with Bevo as my backline coach. He was one of the main reason to come across to the Dogs because we have such a great relationship.
“I’ve been really fortunate in my career obviously Alistair Clarkson was a great coach, I had Chris Fagan, Brendan Bolton, Andrew Russell, the fitness coach.
“I’ve been very lucky and very fortunate to have such good mentors.
“I sat next to Jordan Lewis and Sam Mitchell for eight years, so it’s hard to put a foot wrong sitting between those two. They’ve taught me a lot as well.”
The Western Bulldogs will travel to Adelaide Oval on Friday night to face a Crows side on the rebound from a narrow Showdown loss.
“The crowd is always massive and loud and it’s always a big occasion,” he said.
“Our pressure the last few weeks has been really great and if we can bring that again, it gives us every chance.”
Ahead of his 150th game, Suckling is reflective and grateful.
“It’s a special achievement and probably once I’m done I’ll be able to reflect and be pretty proud of what I’ve achieved so far.”