K rock Football

Hawks to play with Gatters’ spirit

Ryan Gatgens (middle) celebrates the 2009 Drysdale premiership with teammates Daniel Gage (left) and Luke Matthews.

DRYSDALE co-coach Luke Matthews has urged his club to play with the same spirit that premiership defender Ryan Gatgens brought to the Hawks during his career this Saturday.

The final round clash with Anglesea at Mortimer Oval will be the first time Drysdale has taken to the field since the sudden death of the 32-year-old last Sunday, leaving the club and the local community in shock.

“It is a tough one because I don’t want to put too much pressure on the players to perform,” Matthews told krockfootball.com.au.

“Everyone’s going to handle this situation in different ways; some people will handle it OK, some people might not.

“We want to finish the season off on a good note, but there’s probably going to be some reflection about how Ryan played.

“I really hope from the under-19s to the reserves to seniors, if we could all play with the spirit that Ryan did, I think that would go along way to trying to get to the wins on the weekend.”

Matthews, who is in his first year as co-coach alongside Daniel Jull, labelled the week as “tough and emotional”.

“Especially for people who knew Ryan really well,” he said.

“He’s had a huge impact at the club as a player, and as a friend, and as an under-19s coach.

“The beauty of the Drysdale Football Club and the town is that everyone looks after each other and supports each other the best we can.

“The club and the town will pull through and we’ll stick together and help each other out.”

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The Hawks will play the Roos in the seniors and reserves, while the under-19 team Gatgens coached opens the day proceedings with a clash against St Albans that doubles as mini elimination final.

“They’ve just been brilliant those boys,” Matthews said. “We had a get together on Monday night at the club and they were all there and united as one.

“Tuesday night (training) we had a great night and a few boys pitched in and helped them.

“I’m sure they’re doing it tough, and it’s very hard for players at that young age.

“It’d be great for them to get a win. They’ve produced a fantastic effort to turn the corner.

“Halfway through the season, they had only won a couple of games. And probably due to Ryan being such a great coach and helping them out as a mentor, he’s got them to almost playing finals football.”

Matthews said Gatgens was as a player who overcame his deficiencies to be a key player in Drysdale’s drought-breaking 2009 premiership win over Geelong Amateur, which was then followed by another victory over Ammos in 2010.

“He probably wasn’t blessed with skills, but it was all the other stuff that made him what he was,” Matthews said

“He was a brilliant mark of the football and he had a “team-first” mentality. He was brave, he was tough, he started off as a ruckman straight out of under-18s and won a senior best-and-fairest.

“Then he moved down and played at fullback, and he was such a critical player that helped us win those two premierships.

“He never really wanted to play fullback, but being the person that Ryan is, he knew someone had to do it, and he did it for the team.

“Whenever he walked out on the field, he knew he had a job to do and he just did what was right for the team and the blokes he ran out with.”

Drysdale marked the 10th anniversary of the 2009 premiership with a function on August 3 which was attended by 21 of the 22 players who helped the Hawks to glory, with Gatgens as popular as ever with his former teammates.

“That group, regardless of if we won those grand finals or not, we’re just such a close group of friends and players,” Matthews said.

“And we just did whatever we could to give us the opportunity to win, and Ryan was one of those.

“It was one of the greatest nights we’ve had; we celebrated again as we did 10 years ago.

“I think all of us from that team are so grateful we had that night and it means probably even more now.

“I loved all those blokes I played with, and we loved each other.

“He’s going to be dearly missed.”

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