Lions Profile: Mathew Freeman
Posted on June 23, 2013
Before the current crop of receivers were branded the YOLO Crew, there was a different stable of thoroughbreds- The Young Money Crew. Leading the YMC in style, attitude and on the field during the mid 2000s was a receiver named Mathew Freeman. A large, athletic specimen, Mathew was a force in the Lions’ passing game for many years- a product of the Cubs system that has placed so many talented young players into the Lions, NSW and Australian team.
There are many talented athletes that turn up to play each and every year, but the reason Mathew was able to attain the highest level of play on the most competitive teams was his tireless work ethic. Whether it was running conditioning after training, running routes against air or working himself over in the gym, nobody outworked Freeman. This was evident on the field- his route running was superb, his blocking on run plays was violent (ignore his answer below: he was a great run blocker, who just has a perchance for being hyper critical of himself, always trying to improve) and his aggressive nature with the ball in his hands allowed the Lions to have a reliable, sure handed chain mover. Some of the biggest moments in the last decade of Lions’ football involved Freeman, so sitting down to chat with Freemoney was a pleasure, as always.
How long have you been playing for?
I started playing Cubs in 2001 while attending Sydney University as a student, took a year off in 2002 to study abroad with fellow Lion, James Shine, to then return to the Lions from 2004 through 2009 when I left the country to play for the Australian team in England and then moved to Washington D.C. where I now live and work.
I played one year at LB, one year at RB and then the balance at WR. Liam Erby and I found a rhythm playing the two slot positions at every level- Lions, NSw and Australia
What is your sporting background?
I played soccer, rugby, cricket and ran track in high school. The majority of my sporting focus was on Ice Hockey though. I played for the Canterbury Eagles from 1993 to 1998, I was also selected to play for NSW and the national team.
What do you like about the game?
The speed and violence. We can all debate which game is tougher etc… but at the end of the day getting blown up at Nationals catching a limp pass from across the middle and running over “Ice” in the UTS vs USYD game are clear and cherished memories for me because of how brutal they were. If you play at 100% on a team that takes the game seriously, in a league that produces National Championships and fields the majority of the Australian team you will have no doubt that for speed and violence there are no other contenders.
What do you find the biggest challenge of the game?
In Australia the biggest challenge is club and league administration. I attribute a large portion of the Lions success to the talent the club has had consistently over the past 10 years in the front office. Obviously it helps having marquee names like a Cameron Lawrence or a Fady Aoun, but I would honestly say that the game is suffering because people are not investing their time and efforts consistently in organization.
In terms of playing the game, I always struggled with downfield blocking as a receiver… which is embarrassing because I was always a bigger receiver than my peers, so I should have been able to get that done!
Where do you hope to go with the sport?
I think my playing days are done. I hope to continue to watch Lions win and the Wolfpack win National titles… and I would love to travel to the next World Cup and watch the boys put it on the Germans again! That was sick! I watched that game on the internet in D.C. Dorney, Erby, Cauhepe, Croasdaile: it’s a strange experience to hear the announcer talk about your friends as they are moving the ball on an internationally ranked team!
Favourite pre game music?
I like to keep thinks lite and bouncy: Taylor, Spears etc..
Favourite pre game food?
Peanut M&Ms and Redbull. No one should follow my example in that… terrible, terrible choice.
Favourite Lions memory?
Most exciting memory was Joe Lim’s amazing sack against UTS in the Drive for Five State Championship. It was the turning point in the game, if we had lost that championship then a road trip would have been ruined and we wouldn’t be celebrating “The Decade of Dominance”.
Most impactful was Coach Dunne emailing me in the pre-season of 2004 telling me to get me to get my act together. That was a turning point in my career. I have much to thank Steve for, he made me into a far better receiver.
Really enjoyed being coached by Tim Snape and Andrew Griffith in my very first year as a cub.
My favourite memory as a Lion was catching a TD from Keirnan Dorney against Great Britain in England in a game that we went on to win. I will never forget that! (does that count as a Lions memory? I think the Lions had 7 of the 11 Australian team starters offense that day!)
Toughest opponent you ever faced as a Lion?
Definitely Skeletor; Andy Bennet from the Outlaws. That guy had his way with me. There was so much hype about Mike Harvey, but that was all smoke. Bennet was the real deal.
Or maybe the SS for Sweden. Couldn’t get a single thing done against him.
What was the biggest change stepping up to Lions from Cubs?
Probably the position change from RB to WR. But other than that probably the complexity of the system and the size of the players were all major changes.
I was really impressed with the amount and quality of coaching I received as a Lion. A hallmark of the club has always been exceptional, I trust that will continue.
Favourite opposition to play against?
That SS from UTS, number 10. I don’t know what it was about that dude, but nothing felt as good as seeing him go 0 tackles in a game.