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Where are they now? Matthew Bode

Katrina GIll  March 26, 2014 4:38 PM

Matthew Bode of the Crows acknowledges the fans after winning the round 22 AFL match between the Adelaide Crows and the Melbourne Demons at AAMI Stadium on September 2, 2006 in Adelaide, Australia.

Matthew Bode of the Crows acknowledges the fans after winning the round 22 AFL match between the Adelaide Crows and the Melbourne Demons at AAMI Stadium on September 2, 2006 in Adelaide, Australia.

I was very laidback as an 18-year-old. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but life took me into footy.

The popular Where Are They Now? series returns to in Season 2014.

In the latest instalment, we catch up with a fan favourite of the 2000s, forward Matthew Bode.

A talented junior footballer and cricketer, Bode took a year off from footy to pursue cricket abroad in 1997 but remarkably wound up on an AFL list the following season …

It was a funny one. I played as a bottom-ager in the Under-18 state carnival. The following year, when I would’ve played as a top-age player, I decided to go to the UK. I missed out on a full footy season and went over to England to play cricket for Bolton in the Lancashire League. 
When I got home from the UK there was a letter in my letterbox from Choco (former Port Adelaide coach Mark Williams) asking me to come out and do a pre-season with Port. Somehow, I didn’t miss a session over the summer and got picked up as a rookie. I went on to play every trial game and was included in the team for Round One in 1998. So, I’d gone from playing SANFL reserves football two years prior to playing in the AFL for Port Adelaide. It was quite strange how it all happened. I was very laidback as an 18-year-old. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but life took me into footy.

The skilful forward played 29 games in three seasons at Port Adelaide, averaging nearly a goal a game. At the end of the 2000 season, Bode made the bold move of seeking a trade to the Power’s cross-town rival, Adelaide …

My three years at Port were a great learning experience. I was lucky enough to be coached by some quality coaches in Choco and Phil Walsh. It was tough at the time for me to leave, but I felt I had to. I saw myself more as a midfielder than a small forward and I wanted to the opportunity to play in the midfield. I’d also had a few injuries. I came across to the Crows and had a few injuries here too, but under ‘Ayresy’ (former Adelaide coach Gary Ayres) I was able to play in the midfield.

Bode is one of only a handful of players, including Brad Symes and Brett Chalmers, to play for both Adelaide and Port Adelaide at AFL level …

It’s amazing how your allegiances can change so quickly. When I was playing for Glenelg, I was a Crows supporter. When I got to Port I hated the Crows, but then it didn’t take long – probably my first game for Adelaide – for me to hate Port again. It was pretty tough lining up against Port and playing against old friends in my first Showdown for the Crows. I remember they were pretty ferocious games. We lost my first couple of Showdowns for Adelaide and that made it even tougher. Then we had the ‘Ramsgate Rumble’ and it snowballed from there. I wasn’t there that night. I was meant to be, but didn’t end up going and I’m glad I didn’t!

Bode had a frustrating start to his career as a Crow, breaking his hand in his first game for the Club against Melbourne in Round Two, 2001. He recovered to play 25 games in 2002 – the first and only time in his AFL career he played every game in a season. The skilful goalkicker established himself as an integral part of the Adelaide team, becoming a fan favourite for his hunger for the contest and goalkicking ability. He played in several big finals for the Club …

I remember playing against Collingwood in the Prelim in front of 90,000 at the MCG. It was quite an experience for a 21-year-old. I played in a Semi-Final against Melbourne at the MCG that year too. At quarter time, we were eight goals up but we went into half time down. That was an amazing game, which we ended up winning. The 2006 Prelim was probably my most memorable game. I remember at half time of that game, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that we might play in a Grand Final, but I also knew that we had a fair bit of work to do. I played okay in the first half and felt like I was having an impact. The speed of the game was unbelievable. Ben Cousins and Daniel Kerr turned it on in the second half and the rest is history. It was a pretty tough day.

Bode had no way of knowing at the time, but the final against West Coast would be the penultimate of his injury-plagued AFL career …

I couldn’t tell you how many injuries I had. I had so many different injuries, which was frustrating because I couldn’t rehab any one area in particular. In 2004-05, I had bone bruising to my ankle which just didn’t come good. It rubbed me out for basically a year. I had the same issue at Port with my other ankle. I broke my hand in my first game for the Crows (in 2001) and missed the rest of the year. I also dislocated my shoulder.

My last injury was in Round One, 2007. I was at training trying to prove my fitness for Round Two. I was just running in front of the doctor and ‘Craigy’ (former coach Neil Craig) and there was a large cracking noise. A few weeks later we got an X-Ray and realised the kneecap had split in half. I’d had pain in my knee for a while, but didn’t know what it was. Looking back, it was a stress fracture. A lot of my injuries were serious and happened at the start of the year, so I missed several full seasons.

Aged 28, Bode parted way with the Crows at the end of the 2007 after 108 games in an AFL career spanning a decade …

It was disappointing not to go out on my own terms. The game before I injured my knee was the final against West Coast. Even though I was 108 games into my career, it was the first time I genuinely felt like I belonged. It was a big game and I was able to contribute. You think your career is just starting off, and then six months later you’re finished. But that’s life. There are a lot more talented players than me who didn’t get an AFL opportunity. I’d like to think the life experience I’ve had holds me in good stead in my current role as a strength and conditioning coach. It enables me to have empathy for those guys and have an understanding of where they’re at.

The popular Crow was also famous for his spiky, bleached blonde hair. Although, his trademark hairstyle did land him in hot water on one particular occasion …

I was one of those players who believed in the ‘Look good, feel good, play good’ theory. The day before we played Fremantle in 2006, I went to my hairdresser just to get some small blonde tips in my hair, which I always did. My hairdresser, Bec, said, ‘I’ll let my apprentice do it today’. The apprentice left it on a bit long and I came out of the hairdresser looking like Jason Akermanis.

When I turned up to the Club on game day, the players all looked at me and couldn’t believe what I’d done. The first thing my opponent did was sledge me for my hair. Luckily enough, we had a win but John Reid tapped me on the shoulder after the game and said, ‘You might want to tone it down a bit for next week’. It’s pretty funny looking back, but it wasn’t at the time.

Another funny moment also occurred against Fremantle at Subiaco Oval in 1998 …

My second game for Port was against Fremantle at Subi. I’d sat on the bench, as you did in those days, for the whole first quarter. I needed to pee, so as soon as the quarter-time siren went I took off across the oval and went up a race. The race looked a little bit different to the one the team ran out from, but I didn’t think much of it and kept going. I found the bathroom and went inside. All of a sudden, I was swamped by hundreds of Freo supporters and I realised I was in the public toilets. I’m standing there in my full playing kit and the blokes next to me were just looking at me like, ‘What are you doing here?’

A pinch-hitting midfielder and dangerous forward, Bode kicked 95 goals in 108 games. He had the defensive mindset we see in small forwards throughout the AFL today …

Towards the end of my career the focus was on defensive pressure from the small forward. That was basically how I got a game, by keeping the ball in the area and laying as many tackles as I could. I don’t think that aspect has changed too much, but these days the players are a little bit more talented. There are guys who are my height, but are brilliant overhead like Eddie Betts. I think that’s the main difference, but I’d like to think there will always be a place for smaller guys in the game. My son, Jesse, is only four at the moment, but he’s not going to be very tall, so I’d like to see him have a chance.

Bode went back to SANFL club Glenelg for a season after finishing with the Crows. He also moved into the next phase of his life …

I was lucky enough to get married and have two kids, which is the highlight of my life. I have a son, Jesse, and a daughter, Luca, who is 13 months-old and runs the house. We’re lucky enough to have the pigeon-pair, so I think we’ll hang the boots up there. My wife Kamala is a teacher. Kamala (Lamshed) played basketball for West Adelaide and also the Adelaide Lightning when I met her. Unfortunately, she’s like me and a bit short, but she was a really talented player, so hopefully the kids inherit some good genes. Jesse isn’t father-son for either the Crows or Port, which is a bit disappointing, but hopefully he’s smart and plays cricket instead!

After footy, I opened up my own business, a health studio in Glenelg, which was a great life experience. But before it got too far off the ground I got the opportunity to come back to the Crows as strength and conditioning coach. When I was working in my health studio I really missed the week-to-week ups and downs that footy brings. It was really hard to get used to a steady week, month and year. I love the uncertainty of professional sport. Every day is different. I also wanted to work under Stephen Schwerdt again. He’s a very good operator and has taught me a lot. Now, I'm learning a lot from Nick Poulos, who has been a great addition to the Club.

He’s still referred to as ‘The Wiz’, a nickname he earned when he joined the Crows …

There’s actually nothing funny about the story, unfortunately. James Byrne, who used to play here and now works at Essendon, gave me the nickname. For some reason he just started calling me ‘The Wiz’ when I started at the Crows.  I think his philosophy was that when you go to a new club, you get a chance for a new nickname, so you might as well make it a good one.

It was funny, the other day I was mucking around with Eddie Betts. I said to Eddie, ‘Did you ever get a chance to play against The Wiz?’ And I was talking about myself. Eddie looked at me seriously and said, ‘Who? Jeff Farmer?’ A few of the boys overheard it, so it’s gone viral throughout the Club and I’m copping a bit of stick about the ‘real’ Wiz.

As part of his role as strength and conditioning coach, Bode acts as Adelaide’s match-day runner. A job that he relishes …

Endurance-wise, it’s a bit tougher than it was last year with two runners, but I love it. It’s about as close as you can get to playing and it finishes of the week for me. It also keeps me in the loop in regards to the tactics of coaching, which I really enjoy as well.

Recently, the gifted sportsman returned to the sport that could’ve easily taken him away from footy, cricket …

I played a few games this year for Unley and really enjoyed it. I don’t know what I’ll do next year because it’s so time consuming, but I love the competitiveness. I’m a batsman. I got starts in a couple of innings, but didn’t go on with it. I’d love to put in a proper pre-season and play next year, but we’ll see how we go.