Matt Allen – Wangaratta Rovers, Corowa-Rutherglen
Matt Allen wasn’t destined to be the next bright talent to make his way into the W.J. Findlay Oval in the mid-1980s.
As the son of a former Wangaratta Magpies premiership player, Allen’s career could have easily gone down a different path upon graduating from Junior Magpies.
The Hawks struck gold twice in the one off season with another Junior Magpies product Robbie Walker joining Allen on his way to the Rovers.
Walker became an O and M immortal, but the boy from Byawatha enjoyed a career many could only wish to emulate.
He broke into the Hawks’ senior ranks for the first of his 416 O and M senior matches in 1985 and three years later was a 20-year-old premiership player who quelled Lavington coach Jeff Cassidy in a pivotal grand final match-up.
University studies took Allen to Bendigo for two seasons before returning to Wang Rovers to briefly fill a void left in the forward line before being sent back to defence where he played in back-to-back flags in 1993-94.
A knee injury in the 1994 season meant Allen performed below his best and he switched to Corowa-Rutherglen in a move which netted two him two club best and fairests.
He returned to Rovers in 1998 and resumed a remarkably durable career which saw him miss only game to injury in his first 300 appearances.
Pre-season training was never a favourite time, but he stayed in peak fitness in the summer months as a fine tennis player.
Allen relished his battles with the opposition’s leading key forwards such as Tim Sanson and preferred to back his judgment rather than punch from behind.
His left-boot wasn’t straight out of the manual, but his competitiveness was unquestioned.
In 2009, Allen stepped up to coach the Hawks and retired from senior footy after his second and final season at the helm.
His club record 362 matches may never be beaten.