Matt Guelfi. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)
Matt Guelfi. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

How ‘outstanding’ Dons debutant seized his chance

WITH Essendon's intent and desire questioned after a poor loss to the Bulldogs, John Worsfold backed the same team to have a crack at Port Adelaide - except for one change.

With Conor McKenna suspended, the Bombers called upon first-year West Australian Matt Guelfi to make his AFL debut.

It was the biggest step in Guelfi's interesting road to the AFL.

Guelfi barely registered a blip on the radar in his original draft year of 2015, missing out on selection altogether.

So the West Australian returned to WAFL club Claremont, where he predominantly played Colts football, along with earning five senior games.

While he improved in 2016, Guelfi was again overlooked by all clubs.

But in 2017, the young gun cracked a full-time gig in Claremont's senior team, shifting from the midfield into a forward line role.

Matt Guelfi. (AAP Image/Hamish Blair)
Matt Guelfi. (AAP Image/Hamish Blair)

It paid off, with Guelfi averaging 15.5 disposals, eight contested possessions, 5.5 ground ball gets and 4.4 score involvements, along with 1.1 goals per game.

They were numbers that while not particularly eye-catching, set a good base for heading into the AFL - and caught the eye of recruiters.

So Essendon pounced, adding yet another West Australian to their list with Pick 76 in last year's draft.

By Round 4, the versatile 20-year-old with superb speed and endurance had earned his shot.

And on Sunday afternoon, Guelfi grabbed his opportunity with both hands.

In his first quarter of AFL football, Guelfi had five disposals - including four kicks - plus two inside-50s to his name.

Three of his first five possessions were contested.

While he touched the ball just two times in the second term, in the third quarter, Guelfi racked up another six touches.

But it was another act which summed up Guelfi's value.

After Jake Stringer pressured Trent McKenzie into a loose handball to Dan Houston, Guelfi pounced on the defender, with his crunching tackle forcing Houston's pass into the path of Stringer, who ran into an open goal.

Dan Houston is tackled by Matt Guelfi. (AAP Image/Hamish Blair)
Dan Houston is tackled by Matt Guelfi. (AAP Image/Hamish Blair)

"He doesn't mind hitting in hard and he did some great acts for the team," Worsfold said post-match.

"And then he made some really clever decisions with the ball in hand as well."

By the end of the game, Guelfi had 17 disposals, nine contested possessions, four score involvements and 400 metres gained to his name - a fine debut.

Fellow West Australian David Myers lauded the debutant's game as "outstanding" after the 22-point win.

"He was outstanding," Myers told

"He's just come in and played the way that we've seen him train from day dot.

"He doesn't crack, he gives his all, you obviously saw his hardness, he's a good ball user.

"So very exciting, (we) can't have too many West Australians in the side either, it's nice."

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