Every year several teenagers have to face the gruelling realisation that they will not make it into the AFL.
Matt Guelfi has had to suffer that realisation twice after missing out in 2015, before he was one of the surprise omissions from the 2016 Draft, despite a strong season for the WA U18s State Academy and Claremont and an invite to the National Combine.
For WA he played all four games and averaged 16 possessions (10 contested), 6 tackles, 5 clearances and 4 inside 50s.
He was named in the best against Vic Country (20 possessions – 13 contested – 8 clearances, 6 tackles, 4 inside 50s, and a goal) and the Allies (18 possessions – 11 contested – 7 tackles, 5 inside 50s, 5 clearances and a goal). He also had a strong outing against Vic Metro when he accumulated 15 possessions (7 contested), laid 6 tackles, won 4 clearances, and recorded 3 inside 50s.
And for the Claremont Colts, he was one of their stars. Despite only playing seven games in the Colts’ home-and-away season, he finished 13th in the Jack Clarke Medal after he polled 18 votes. It followed on from his 11th placing in the 2015 Jack Clarke Medal with 20 votes from 16 games.
In the seven games, he was named in the best on five occasions, with his dominant outings coming against East Perth in round 1 (36 possessions, 11 tackles and 9 inside 50s), Swan Districts in round 4 (31 possessions, 6 tackles, 6 inside 50s and 2 goals), Peel Thunder in round 6 (30 possessions, 8 inside 50s, 5 tackles and a goal), West Perth in round 7 (30 possessions, 5 tackles and 5 inside 50s), and South Fremantle in round 8 (28 possessions, 8 inside 50s and 7 tackles).
He made his League debut in round 19 against Peel Thunder along with fellow WA U18s representative Jake Waterman.
Guelfi played a further four games with the Tigers’ League side before going back down to the Colts and playing a key role in their finals series.
In the Qualifying Final against South Fremantle, he booted two goals from 19 possessions and also laid six tackles, while in the Second Semi-Final against Perth he amassed 33 possessions, took six marks, laid four tackles, recorded four inside 50s and booted a goal in a dazzling display.
Despite gathering just 12 possessions, Guelfi’s influence in the Colts’ Grand Final should not be underestimated. He laid six tackles and was often at the bottom of packs trying to get the ball out to his team-mates.
Despite showing such promise, Guelfi was ultimately overlooked, but in 2017 he has come back with a vengeance. In 19 games, he booted 20 goals and averaged 15 possessions, four marks and four tackles in a superb first year of WAFL League football that saw him net Claremont’s Players’ Player Award.
His breakout game came in round 4 against East Perth when he accumulated 30 possessions, took five marks, recorded four inside 50s and kicked a goal. He also produced notable performances against West Perth in round 10 (23 possessions, four tackles, four inside 50s and a goal), Swan Districts in round 13 (17 possessions, six tackles and two goals), South Fremantle in round 21 (17 possessions, four marks, four tackles and a goal), Swan Districts in round 22 (20 possessions and two goals), and West Perth in round 23 (17 possessions, eight marks, five inside 50s and two goals).
WHY PICK HIM?
Guelfi is a midfield stoppage specialist, much like former Hawthorn and West Coast star Sam Mitchell. He has an appetite for getting his hands dirty and loves to rip the ball out of stoppages and propel it in the direction of forward running teammates.
As well as being an ‘inside bull,’ Guelfi is also incredibly skilled, especially with his elite penetrating kick. He can also drift forward and use his remarkable contested marking ability to have an impact.
He is also an elite runner, recording level 21.7 in this year’s Yo-Yo Endurance test, and clocking a sub-three second 20m sprint at the WA Combine. While last year, at the AFL National Combine, he completed the Agility test in 8.29 seconds.
THE QUESTION MARKS?
One of Guelfi’s strengths is his versatility, but could also be seen as a weakness. For Claremont’s League team he would often be moved around, which was not the best thing for his consistency.
Only 20-years-old, Guelfi has enormous upside, making him a tantalising prospect.
He is tough, skilful, athletic and kicks goals – attributes that are hard to come by.