Matthew Primus: ‘Little wins got me through the tough times at Port Adelaide’
He’s a dual All-Australian, a former Port Adelaide captain and a member of the final Fitzroy Football Club AFL side. Now, Matthew Primus is coaching part-time with the Southport Sharks in Queensland, and he went One on One with Jack Hudson.
Jack Hudson: Take us back to the start of your footy days. What was life like growing up?
Matthew Primus: I grew up in Geelong, I started my footy in the YMCA under 8s or under 7s.
Just did the usual and had the oranges at quarter-time, half-time and three-quarter-time, play in different positions.
I went through the ranks there and spent the first few years doing that.
I then went to my junior club, the Grovedale Tigers, and went up through the ranks there.
JH: You moved across to the SANFL and played with Norwood. What was that like?
MP: That was really enjoyable, I was on Geelong’s list for about 18 months when they had their zones.
I was delisted then, and I wanted to go and play in a league and get drafted to the AFL, and like the SANFL is now, it’s the best competition to go to outside of the AFL/VFL system.
Norwood had been in contact with me from playing in the under 17 Australian carnival, and I had a pre-season there and liked what they were about, they had good coaching – Neil Craig was there at a time.
I had a ball over there, learned a fair bit about myself as a young bloke moving away from home, and got to play in some senior footy with some pretty hardened men, it was a good leg up for me to get back into the AFL.
JH: You got drafted to Fitzroy from there, which was a club that had its future up in air. What was it like being there and what was the feel around the club?
MP: The feel around the club was good when I got there, obviously they had their issues over the last two or three years before I got there regarding their finances.
A lot of their good senior players also left.
When I got there, we didn’t know it was going to be their last year.
Facility wise, they struggled, their oval had the VFL team and their school teams and those sorts of things, but they had a really good crop of youngsters.
Unfortunately, by the middle of the year, it was then they made the decision to merge with the Brisbane Bears.
There were guys, about 10 or 12 that could’ve been chosen to go up to Brisbane, it became pretty hard in the last few weeks of the season.
It was a real good sounding board and learning board that there’s things off the field that you can’t affect or can’t decide, so it was good in that regard.
JH: You had a pretty good season personally and finished second in the Lions’ last best & fairest count – what did that mean to you?
MP: You want to play good team footy, but once we merged and we lost our senior coach, we couldn’t see any future at Fitzroy, it was a bit more about learning about my game and compete each week and hold up a high standard.
The individual things you were trying to do were there, but there were some really good players that year, Martin Pike who I think went onto win the best & fairest finished with four premierships, Chris Johnson, Jarrod Molloy.
I was happy with how the year went, but I wanted to go to a club that was about being successful and give me the best chance to play my best footy and to play in a premiership eventually, and Port came knocking at the end of that year…I had knew a bit about them, I played against them at Norwood and I decided to make the move back over to Adelaide again.
JH: Were you confident you were going to get picked up after the merger?
MP: I was, I spoke to a few clubs, it was a matter of deciding where to go and what to do, that took a bit of time.
In the end, I think Port Adelaide was a pretty good choice to come to.
JH: Was a bit odd, after playing with Norwood, to represent Port on the big stage?
MP: Yeah, I suppose it was, they were the mortal enemies weren’t they, Port and Norwood, they still are.
Not only were Norwood an outstanding club and win premierships, you knew Port was exactly the same, they worked pretty hard to get into the AFL.
They knew with the kind of people they put in place, John Cahill as coach, Brian Cunningham as CEO, Mark Williams as an assistant, you knew they were fair dinkum about becoming good.
I know it was going to be hard work early days with a new team into the competition.
So, it was different, but you knew their history and knew what they were about.
JH: You played in Port’s first ever AFL game against Collingwood. What was it like running out onto the MCG that day?
MP: There was a fair bit of enjoyment, there were players from all over the country.
There were players listed from other clubs like Scott Cummings, Gavin Wanganeen, Shayne Breuer, we had guys from everywhere, then we had some Port Magpies lads, and there was a group of young SANFL players like Roger James, Warren Tredrea, Brendon Lade.
We had a hard pre-season and trained hard, playing Collingwood at the MCG was a great moment to walk out there with the Port colours, we didn’t get the result that day, but it didn’t take long before we were able to chalk up our first win.