Matt Suckling chats with reporter Sam Landsberger at Whitten Oval. Picture: Tim Carrafa
Matt Suckling chats with reporter Sam Landsberger at Whitten Oval. Picture: Tim Carrafa

Suckling still setting trends at kennel

Matthew Suckling is "definitely a shoes man".

"I've got my favourites that sit in their boxes," Suckling said.

"We're looking at 20-25 that are still in their boxes and get cleaned after every use.

"They're easy to clean if you don't get them dirty, so if you're very particular with where you step they get looked after."

 

 

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Don't be fooled by Suckling's birth certificate.

The second-oldest Western Bulldog in 2020 is, along with Jason Johannisen, still the Whitten Oval trendsetter.

"JJ and I send each other a lot of pictures from the NBA and NFL and we're very Americanised," Suckling said.

"We like to express ourselves and we like a bit of retail therapy every now and then. On interstate trips we sit there online and pick out some nice things."

Suckling's wardrobe also delivers an insight into his footy career, with neither going out of style anytime soon.

Suckling - long linked to post-AFL punting career in America - hopes there is plenty of wear left in his footy boots before he hangs them up … or puts them back in the box.

"The goal is to just keep playing AFL and that (NFL) won't become an option," the 31-year-old said.

"I still feel really refreshed and hopefully there's a few more years left."

 

 

Matt Suckling practising his gridiron skills at Western Bulldogs training. Picture: Tim Carrafa
Matt Suckling practising his gridiron skills at Western Bulldogs training. Picture: Tim Carrafa

 

Bulldog fans will be hoping that Suckling's 25 left shoes have an extra inch of padding, because that booming foot remains one of their big weapons.

Remember Suckling's penetrating goal 21 seconds into last year's elimination final against Greater Western Sydney? It was the only bright spot for the visitors on a day that quickly soured.

Champion Data rates Suckling "elite". His delivery inside 50m ranked 11th in the AFL for retention through marks last year.

Suckling even has his very own kicking style.

"I kicked the soccer ball first and just figured I could get more power kicking around the corner," he said.

"A fair few coaches gave me a spray kicking around corners growing up, but I stuck to my guns.

"The way I kick gives good leverage, it probably causes a few more shanks than I would like, but the power's definitely there."

Completing Suckling's forever young look, the Wagga Wagga boy promised to bleach his hair blond to raise cash for the bushfires - and generated more than $10,000 in donations in just 36 hours.

 

 

Matthew Suckling unloads with his left foot.
Matthew Suckling unloads with his left foot.

 

"I'm obviously from NSW and they're pretty heavily affected back there," Suckling said.

"I was actually meant to be up pretty close to where the fires were, and a lot of my friends and family had to help fight fires or evacuate and stand in some rivers and stuff.

"I spent a lot of time growing up and making memories in the affected areas. That was probably the hardest thing to see.

"I was sitting on the couch and kind of wanted to dye my hair so I thought this would be a good reason to do it.

"I was happy to go and get it bleached and am now just waiting for Mr Johannisen to do the same. He said that if we got $10,000 he'd do it as well. He's had the haircut and I think he's ready to go."

There'll be no missing Suckling's breakaway speed against Collingwood in Round 1, either, with the bleached hair that helped him pull off an Eminem costume at a party last night set to stay.

Yet Suckling was a missing ingredient when the club won the 2016 premiership.

"It was obviously pretty hard. I had an Achilles problem throughout the second half of the year. I think I was playing one week on, one week off," Suckling said.

"It was getting harder and harder to get up each week."

 

 

Suckling shows off his new look at Whitten Oval. Picture: Tim Carrafa
Suckling shows off his new look at Whitten Oval. Picture: Tim Carrafa

 

 

Suckling was given two weeks off after Round 18, another after Round 21, another after Round 23 (the bye) and then, after back-to-back finals, he was done.

"We played Hawthorn (in the semi-final) and that was a game I didn't want to sit out," Suckling said, having just crossed from a Hawks team coming off four-straight Grand Finals.

"Playing that one I probably knew that the turnaround was going to be pretty hard.

"I was sliding down my stairs on my backside in the mornings, it was pretty bad."

Suckling next ran in the Tuesday of Grand Final week and, while he "just" got through training and was named an emergency, he was too sore to play.

"Carrying it for that long it was gradually getting worse and worse and it wouldn't have been a good thing for me to be playing," he said.

"It was obviously nice to play in a couple of winning finals and I definitely have motivation still going to achieve some more with this group."

 

 

TOP DOG BEVO BACK IN DRIVERS' SEAT

Luke Beveridge's summer in the back seat has allowed his Western Bulldog assistants to grow, although "The Big Dog" is back in charge now.

Star defender Matthew Suckling said the initiative had been "good for everyone" with senior assistant Steven King in charge of a chunk of pre-season.

"The players can hear a different voice and I know since Bevo's been back that, when he takes meetings and stuff, he's got that real authoritative voice," Suckling said.

"And it's a fresh voice again, too. It's really good for the other coaches to take the reins and organise training and manage everything without 'The Big Dog' here.

"I'm sure they really grow as coaches."

 

 

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has delegated to his assistants in the pre-season. Picture: Getty Images
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has delegated to his assistants in the pre-season. Picture: Getty Images

Suckling anointed boom youngster Tim English and fellow defender Bailey Williams as the summer standouts, while he has also trained with top draft prospect Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

" (Ugle-Hagan's) looked really good. Really athletic and I'm sure he's going to have a promising AFL career," Suckling said.

Ugle-Hagan has been likened to Lance Franklin and will land at Whitten Oval as a Next Generation Academy prospect, which will enable the Dogs to draft him at a discount.

Suckling said new captain Marcus Bontempelli was "really composed".

The left-footer spent his off-season in America and was given the "royal treatment" at one of Joe Ingles' NBA games for Utah Jazz.

"Roughy and Hodgey (Jarryd Roughead and Luke Hodge) are good mates with Joe Ingles, so we had dinner and drinks with him after a game, which was pretty nice," Suckling said.

"We got to go on the court and meet a few of the boys."


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