Priddis shows the way
West Coast club champion Matt Priddis and former Eagle Andrew McDougall are running a football academy for teenagers. Pic: Ian Munro/WA News

When Matt Priddis arrived at West Coast via the 2006 rookie draft, he was given the opportunity to learn off three of the game's premier midfielders - Chris Judd, Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr.

Now, with the retirement of Kerr and Andrew Embley last year signalling the end of an era in the Eagles engine room, it is up to Priddis to show the way to the club's next generation.

"Leadership is something we expect from everyone, but obviously being a part of the leadership group is great and it's a challenge and it can take you out of your comfort zone at times," he said. "I look forward to those challenges."

The 28-year-old has come a long way since being overlooked at three consecutive drafts, finally breaking through to win the John Worsfold Medal as West Coast's best and fairest last year after twice finishing runner-up.

Having built a reputation as one of the league's most reliable workhorses in his eight seasons, the challenge now is to maintain that standard while helping the rest of the playing group adapt to life under new coach Adam Simpson.

Priddis said he loved his time under Worsfold, but admitted that Simpson's appointment had brought a breath of fresh air through the club.

"With no disrespect to our past, it has been very enjoyable," he said.

"I suppose for me it almost seems like you're back to your first or second year of footy again.

"It's a whole new environment. Our weekly schedule is changing, training has a different feel and different philosophies because it's a new coaching group.

"It brings back a little bit of excitement and the guys are enjoying that."

Leadership is an aspect Priddis has been working on for some time and while he believes true leadership is shown through action, he acknowledges that his path to the elite level is one which offers a number of key lessons to young footballers.

Not blessed with outstanding athleticism, Priddis was forced to earn his stripes with Subiaco for three seasons before clubs finally realised that despite the knocks, he could play good football.

With the help of mentors, notably former Subiaco coach Peter German, Priddis learnt to play to his strengths and stop worrying about things he couldn't control.

It's a lesson he has looked to pass on to anyone who asks, most recently taking West Coast's top draft pick and fellow Subiaco product Dom Sheed under his wing.

But he's also taken the message outside the walls of the club, embracing his role coaching teenage footballers in the Corporate Sports Australia Bankwest Football Academy.

The academy has been running for the past four years, giving aspiring young footballers access to Priddis, Kerr, Jack Darling and Fremantle ruckman Aaron Sandilands through coaching clinics and introducing them to the style of testing used at the AFL's draft combine, with results passed on to all 18 clubs.

Port Adelaide's Kane Mitchell, Essendon's Nick Kommer and Richmond's Kamdyn McIntosh are just some of the players to benefit from the program.

Player manager and former first-round draft pick Andrew McDougall, who now runs the academy, said Priddis' experience of missing out on the draft and then earning an opportunity through hard work gave the young players a great example of how to go about their football.

"I think Priddis models the fact that determination and hard work and perseverance can get you through at any age," McDougall said.

"There's always different ways to get into the system and we believe this is something that can help them get through."

Priddis said the message for all aspiring footballers was simple.

"That's one thing I really try to make clear to the guys, that you're drafted on your football talent and recruiters will acknowledge that," he said.

"At the end of the day that's what it's all about."

The West Australian

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