When Matt Dick was delisted by Carlton last year, aged just 21, he wanted to take a step back with his football.
After four years in the AFL system – two with Carlton and two with Sydney – Dick decided his time in the AFL system was over.
He had a number of options to continue his career but it was his junior club, Macedon, where he decided his future lay.
“I wasn’t too keen on going back into the AFL system so it made the decision a little bit easier,” he said.
“I’d had four great years in the AFL and things didn’t work out. I was really happy with my time and I gave it my all.
“I wanted to go back to a relaxed style of footy, so I then had to weigh up whether I’d go and play VFL again.
“It’s been nice to come back to the local club … it’s just like it was when I played juniors.”
Coming up through the juniors, Dick was one of a number of talented players at Macedon. In a two-year period, three Cats players were drafted to AFL clubs: Daniel Markworth was drafted by St Kilda in 2011 and Lachie Plowman (Greater Western Sydney) and Dick were selected 12 months later.
Only Plowman remains in the AFL system, making a name for himself as a backman at Carlton. Markworth, like Dick, is back playing for Macedon.
Dick was selected at pick 64 in the 2012 national draft by the then reigning premiers Sydney. It was always going to be a challenge to break into the side and after two years he was delisted without playing a senior game.
Carlton provided a lifeline, signing Dick as a delisted free agent. He spent two years at the Blues, playing six games in year one.
“I had four great years,” he said.
“The two years in Sydney was a great learning curve. I went up there just after a premiership in 2012, so it was really tough to break into the team.
“But I learnt a lot up there and I could apply that when I came down to Carlton.
“I had a fun time at Carlton. I played a couple of games; obviously I would have liked to play more but that’s how it worked out.”
It was a tough last season at the Blues for Dick, who couldn’t break into the senior side despite some strong VFL form.
He said while it was frustrating, there were no hard feelings. “The club went on a path of redevelopment and I’m not the only one on the other end of that.”
Now studying exercise science at university, Dick has settled into the Cats without a hitch. He’s been named among the side’s best players most weeks. As well as playing his normal position at half-back, Dick has spent plenty of time in the middle and said the challenge of playing further up the ground had been fun.
With the club firmly headed towards the top of the ladder, Dick and his teammates have their sights set on a premiership.
“There’s a lot of guys that I’ve played junior football with, a lot that I played with at Calder Cannons and a few guys I’ve never met before, which has been really good.
“It’s really inclusive,” he said, “and it’s nice to get that feel of playing for the local football club again.”