Career : 2008 -
Debut : Round 3, 2008 vs Essendon, aged 18 years, 327 days
Carlton Player No. 1112
Games : 173 *
Goals : 89 *
Guernsey No. 8
Height : 200 cm (6 ft. 7 in.)
Weight : 94 kg (14 stone, 11 lbs.)
DOB : 13 May, 1989
Best First Year Player 2008
Rising Star Nomination: Round 11, 2008
Carlton supporters look back at 2008 with a certain degree of fondness, mainly because that was the year that saw the arrival at Princes Park of a champion new captain of the Blues in Chris Judd, and a raw-boned, 200 cm ruck prodigy in Matthew Kreuzer.
Selected with Carlton’s number 1 pick in the 2007 National Draft, Kreuzer was a genuinely exciting prospect; an agile, athletic giant with endurance and elite all-round skills. That same year, he had been adjudged the Most Valuable Player for Victoria Metropolitan in the Under 18 Division 1 National Championships, and appointed as first ruckman in the All Australian Under 18 team. An AIS-AFL Academy graduate, he had been a star for the Northern Knights in the TAC Cup, where he won his club’s Best and Fairest, as well as the Morrish Medal as the best player in the competition. In addition, he was named in the TAC Cup Team of the Year in both 2006 and 2007, and awarded the TAC Cup Coaches' Award in 2007. With all these achievements, it's easy to see why Carlton had no hesitation in calling his name with our priority pick in the draft.
As in indication of Carlton’s high opinion of him, Matthew was offered - and accepted - guernsey number 8, as previously worn by an eclectic mix of former stars like Lance Whitnall, Wayne Blackwell, Trevor Keogh and Fred Fitzgibbon. Wearing his new colours for first time during the pre-season NAB Cup, Kreuzer thrilled Bluebaggers watching across the country when he landed a left-foot goal from 45 metres out with his first kick, in the opening round against Port Adelaide. As the club buzzed with his exploits, he was one of his team’s best players in the final practice match against the Western Bulldogs, and would have made his senior debut in round 1 against Richmond, but unfortunately, suffered a hip injury at training in the week prior to the game. A fortnight later however, the club announced that Matthew would make his senior debut in round 3 of 2008 against Essendon adding even more colour to an eagerly-anticipated match.
Kreuzer's emergence would have been a dream come true if Carlton had won, but that scarcely seemed to matter in the afterglow of the finest first appearance for the Blues since Andrew Walker in 2004. Early on, Matthew got the Blues rolling with a clean centre bounce hit-out to Chris Judd, who chipped out to Eddie Betts wide on the flank. Instantly, Kreuzer sprinted from the centre circle to the forward 50, and Bett’s pass to him was a clinker. Showing no nerves whatsoever, the youngster lined up the goalmouth and slotted a classical ruckman’s goal with his first kick at senior level. That milestone major was followed up by another in the second quarter, when his agility allowed him to crumb the pack and stream into an open goal. Afterward, although Essendon won by almost three goals, Kreuzer’s 16 disposals, 8 contested possessions and 12 hit-outs had Blues fans salivating at the prospect of seeing him at Princes Park for the next dozen years.
Matthew enjoyed his first win in Navy Blue in the round 4 clash against arch-rival Collingwood, where he had 15 disposals at 87% efficiency, 11 hit-outs, and 2 goal assists. In Carlton’s round 11 victory over Port Adelaide, Kreuzer was awarded a Rising Star nomination after kicking three crucial goals in the final quarter to help the Blues recover from a 30-point deficit at three-quarter time and win their first match against Port Adelaide at Football Park since 2001. In the same match, he was awarded his first Brownlow Medal vote. He then kicked another three goals in Carlton’s round 17 victory over the second-placed Western Bulldogs, and followed up with two more in another tireless effort in the Blues’ round 19 victory over Port Adelaide. At the end of the 2008 home and away season, Kreuzer followed in the footsteps of previous No.1 draft picks Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs by being presented with Carlton’s Best First Year Player award.
In 2009 Kreuzer showed no signs of suffering from the second year blues, as he put in a wonderful season leading Carlton’s on-ball division. His all-round skills and eagerness for the contest endeared him the Blues faithful, to the extent that by half-way through the season, the unmistakeable roar of “Krooooozzzzzz” would roll from the grandstands every time he went near the ball. He didn’t miss a game all year, finished fifth in Carlton’s Best and Fairest, and experienced finals football for the first time when Brisbane edged out Carlton by 7 points in a cracking Elimination Final at the Gabba.
As the Navy Blues looked forward with confidence to 2010, Matthew continued to be a lynchpin of Carlton’s midfield. He was Best on Ground in the ruck and up forward in our round 5 win over Geelong and a driving force in Carlton’s tilt at another finals campaign - at least until round 13, when the Blues met Fremantle at Docklands. In the first quarter, the big bloke flew for a mark, landed – and his left knee buckled under him. Carlton’s loss by 9 points paled into insignificance after that, when the news broke that Matthew had torn an anterior cruciate ligament and would be out of action for at least 12 months – unless he opted for the option of LARS (Ligament Augmentation and Repair System) surgery. Fairly quickly, that idea was discarded and Kreuzer embarked on the conventional journey of surgery, recovery and rehabilitation.
Coming on top of the worst decade in Carlton’s history, the re-emergence of the Carlton Football Club as a genuine flag contender in 2011 was one of the feel-good stories of the first half of the season for the long-suffering Bluebaggers. And when Matthew returned to the field with the Northern Bullants in May, the optimism at Princes Park continued to rise. Even more so when it was obvious that the big unit had been working extra hard during his rehab, and looked in superb condition.
So after two warm-up matches in the VFL, Matthew came back to AFL football at last, in the round 12 match against the struggling Brisbane Lions at Docklands. Beforehand, all that Carlton fans wanted was a win, and for Kreuzer to get through unscathed. And that is precisely what they got. Carlton demolished the Lions by 61 points, as Kreuzer eased his way back in with 13 possessions and a dozen hit-outs.
The following week - precisely 12 months after suffering his injury, and at the same venue – Carlton met Sydney in a mid-season showdown. And in a display that surely sent alarm bells ringing at every other club with their eyes on the finals, Kreuzer simply took the Swans apart. After kicking two goals in the first quarter, he spent the rest of that Sunday afternoon giving the Blues’ potent midfield runners an armchair ride, in a 6-goal victory that cemented Carlton’s place in the top four. While the grandstands rocked, Matthew collected 24 disposals and 6 marks, laid 7 tackles and made 13 hit-outs to advantage to be unanimously voted Best on Ground.
However, despite the euphoria that that was sparked among the Carlton masses after that display, the big bloke found the going considerably tougher thereafter, and wasn’t able to maintain top form during the latter part of the year. And in a huge blow to the clubs’ finals hopes, he limped off the field with a mysterious foot injury early in Carlton’s 20-point loss to St Kilda at the MCG in the last home and away match of the season. During the pre-game warm-up that afternoon, Kreuzer lost all feeling in his left foot, and the club medical staff couldn’t find an obvious cause of the problem. Although he began the match on the field, he was soon clearly in distress, so he was subbed out of the game midway through the second term.
Over the next few days there were conflicting reports of causes and treatments, before the club admitted that Matthew’s season was over. Carlton finished fifth on the ladder, and began their finals campaign by demolishing Essendon by ten goals in an Elimination Final at the MCG – the club’s first win in a final in Melbourne for ten long and torturous years. The extent of that win was another tonic for Carlton and the game, although it did earn the Blues a tough road trip to WA for a Semi Final clash against West Coast at Subiaco. Afterwards, many fans pondered whether a fit Kreuzer would have made a difference had he been able to take the field that day, as 2011 ended for his team in a gutsy, heartbreaking 3-point defeat.
Hardened by those events, Carlton and Kreuzer began 2012 with a new level of optimism, and stormed to Premiership favouritism with crushing victories over Richmond, Brisbane and Collingwood in the first three games of the year. A shock defeat by Essendon next up in round 4 however - during which a crippling run of injuries began – was the precursor to a train-wreck of a season for the Old Dark Navy Blues. Coach Brett Ratten was unable to field his strongest line-up for the rest of the year, but his team showed little grit and resilience when it really mattered. Eventually, after Carlton staggered through a horror season to finish tenth, there was a lot of sadness (and virtually no surprise) when Ratten was told that his services were no longer required.
Kreuzer’s season in 2012 mirrored that of his team – occasional bursts of brilliance, followed by a string of ordinary games. True, at times he appeared short of peak fitness, but he soldiered on through the hard times with little support to play 20 matches, averaging 22 hit-outs, 12 disposals and three marks per game. He kicked only ten goals for the year, yet Carlton’s faith in him never wavered. Matthew signed a 3-year contract extension in June 2012, and made it clear afterward that he had every intention of seeing out his career at Princes Park.
Season 2013 was generally bewildering for Carlton supporters, as their side came to terms with the methods and discipline of former West Coast and Collingwood Premiership coach Mick Malthouse. In replacing Ratten, Malthouse had staked his reputation on getting the Blues into the finals, and that seemed to be an especially big ask when the team lost their first three games straight. The third of those losses (to Geelong at Docklands Stadium) was made doubly expensive when Kruezer broke a thumb in the first quarter and couldn’t play for three weeks. It took him a further month or so to regain confidence, but when he did he made the Blues a very competitive combination.
In round 16 at Docklands, Matthew played his 100th match for the Navy Blues in a big win over St Kilda. The following week, he put in an excellent all-round performance against North Melbourne to rack up 17 disposals, 29 hit-outs and four tackles, prompting former Carlton premiership ruckman Justin Madden to say; “He can do things that other ruckmen can't. What's under-estimated is his ability to do things after he hits the ball. He doesn’t just stand back and let the little fellas fight for the ball; he lays tackles, and shepherds and stays in the contest. He certainly imposes himself.”
After finishing 2013 in ninth place, the Blues were sensationally elevated to eighth on the eve of the finals, when Essendon was disqualified for bringing the game into disrepute amid allegations of systematic performance-enhancing drug use. The Bombers were turfed out of the finals by the AFL, and Carlton celebrated by beating Richmond in front of a record crowd in a thrilling Elimination Final. That victory came at great cost however, because Kreuzer broke a bone in his right foot during the game and was ruled out of Carlton’s season-ending Semi Final loss to Sydney.
Matthew underwent surgery prior to Christmas, and had recovered well enough by March 2014 to be included in Carlton’s line-up for the opening round of the new season against Port Adelaide at Docklands. But after the Blues fell to the Power by 33 points, Kreuzer reported pain in his foot, and scans later revealed that the break hadn’t healed properly. Further surgery and a long, careful period of rehabilitation was required. Matthew was off the field this time for more than a year – in fact until June, 2015 – when his long-awaited return bolstered a flagging Carlton side enduring the worst season in living memory.
Although Kreuzer retained his fitness and played 13 successive games over the latter half of the year, he wasn’t able to save the Blues from collecting their fourth wooden spoon. Crippled by the loss of key personnel during the trade period, and hard-hit by injury from round 1, the Blues sacked coach Malthouse before the mid-point of the season and went on win only four matches. Princes Park was a very unhappy place late in the year and it was an open secret that Kreuzer’s management was testing the market to see what was on offer from rival clubs.
Matthew’s talent wasn’t in question, only his long-term durability - so naturally, clubs like Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs insisted on a full medical assessment before any serious trade negotiations could begin. When those appraisals raised some doubts, both suitors revised their offers, so Kreuzer committed himself to a new two-year contract with Carlton. “Matthew is the heart and soul of Carlton, and we are rapt that we've got the deal done,” Blues’ Football Operations Manager Andrew McKay said when the new contract was signed in September 2015. “We really value his experience and leadership – this year in particular he has got some continuity back in his game, and shown the world how much of a talent he really is.”
In 2016, former Hawthorn assistant coach Brendon Bolton was appointed to the top job at Carlton. Kreuzer started the year impressively, and when he kicked the goal that won the match against Port Adelaide at Docklands in mid-May, he had played in all eight of Carlton’s games to that point in the season. But in the rooms afterward, Matthew complained of a sharp pain in his left knee, and for a while it seemed that he was destined for another long period on the sidelines. However, in a remarkable procedure, he underwent immediate keyhole surgery to repair a damaged meniscus cartilage, and was back playing within a fortnight. He finished the season strongly, and his statistical averages of 11 disposals, 20 hit-outs, 4 tackles and 3 clearances per game again reflected his all-round value to the team.
FootnotesKreuzer played for St Marys, Greensborough and Bundoora Football Clubs as a junior before moving on to the Northern Knights in the TAC Cup. The last Carlton senior player to come through Bundoora was dual premiership player and 200-gamer Barry Armstrong.
Milestones50 Games : Round 7, 2010 vs St Kilda
100 Games : Round 16, 2013 vs St Kilda
150 Games: Round 12, 2017 vs GWS Giants
50 Goals : Round 1, 2013 vs Richmond
Career Highlights2008 Rising Star Nomination - Round 11
2008 Best First Year Player
2009 5th Best and Fairest
2012 10th Best and Fairest
2016 9th Best and Fairest
LinksArticles: Carlton's Top Ten Draft Picks | That First Pick...Players taken with Carlton's first pick in the draft | Triumphs & Tribulations of a Blue Debut
Blueseum: A summary of Kreuzer's playing career | Career Breakdown | Kreuzer's Blueseum Image Gallery