Matt McGuinness has slipped under the radar at times since being drafted in 2019, but a change of role at VFL level is seeing him stand up and be counted in 2021.
Primarily playing as a forward, McGuinness was instrumental in North Melbourne’s VFL pre-season win against Port Melbourne, kicking two crucial goals in wet and windy conditions.
The 20-year-old says his move into the forward line is like going back to his footballing roots.
“I was drafted as a defender, but I played local footy back in Tassie as a forward,” McGuinness told North Media.
“I can play both ends of the ground, but I feel like I’m building my game as a forward. I’d like to stay forward, keep building and get better and better each week.”
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While the sun came out in the second half of the game against Port Melbourne, pelting rain and swirling winds restricted both sides early, as North entered the main break with just one goal and nine behinds.
Conditions like that often make it difficult for key forwards, but McGuinness was able to adjust his game on the fly.
“My mindset was just to stay strong in the contest, and when it dried out a bit just to provide a lead and keep coming up at the footy,” he said.
“I wanted to use my strengths like my work rate, being strong and not getting pushed off of the ball.
“I’ve been working on my contested stuff … so bringing other players into the game, it felt good.
“To finish the last practice game on a win and take that momentum is a good feeling and it’s really good for the boys.”
With the likes of teammates Will Phillips, Tom Powell and Charlie Lazzaro already making their AFL debuts this season, North is rewarding its youth.
McGuinness says seeing his young teammates earn spots in the AFL side only acts as motivation for the other young players at the club.
“'Nobes' (David Noble) said at the start of the year that if you’re having a crack, putting the work in and playing well, you’re every chance to be called up,” he said.
“I want to keep having a crack at the VFL and keep putting my hand up.
“I know I have to keep working hard and it isn’t going to come easily, I want to build up my weaknesses, improve my strengths and give it everything.”