footballer with a giant faith

GWS Giants footballer, Matthew Kennedy, is a practicing Catholic in the current AFL landscape. John McLaurin interviews…

Being a practicing Catholic in the current AFL landscape isn’t something which particularly fazes first year Greater Western Sydney footballer Matthew Kennedy.

The Giants number 15 and his family have always gone to Mass and he says it is a part of who he is.

“My faith is really important to me and it’s a big part of who I am,” he said.

Matthew Kennedy

Matthew Kennedy

“You definitely cop a bit of flack for it at times, but overall it’s not too bad.”

Along with the adrenalin of playing top level sport, Catholicism is something which runs through Kennedy’s veins.

He just so happens to be the nephew of Bishop Michael Kennedy – the current Bishop of Armidale Diocese.

Kennedy – the footballer, kicked three match-winning goals in his round 13 debut game against Essendon under the bright lights of Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium earlier in the year after a string of good performances in the reserves.

He believes that his Catholic faith is something which helps him both on and off the field.

“I definitely love playing football and the discipline that comes with it, but you need a few outlets from the pressure cooker environment.”

“I feel going to Mass is good for my spiritual development and makes me a more complete person, which can only benefit my game,” he said.

Fulfilling his obligations as a Catholic is by no stretch an easy task for Kennedy. Although hailing from Wagga Wagga in the southern part of New South Wales, the youngster is no stranger in having to face challenges.

“Naturally there has always been a lot of travelling for football, but I always check on google to see where the nearest church is and what the Mass times are,” the footballer said.

Much like his football, Kennedy knows that leadership in living out his faith, is largely done by example and not so much by words.

And according to the young utility, this approach appears to be paying dividends.

“At one stage in the pre-season we had some spare time and a few of the boys asked me what I was up to. I told them that I was going to Mass and a teammate decided that he would come with me, which was really good,” said Kennedy.

The 19-year-old and his teammates were in Canberra playing the Richmond Tigers at Manuka Oval on Saturday, July 30. It was shaping up to be an important game in the team’s top four aspirations for season 2016.

As part of a ten year agreement with the ACT Government, every season, GWS play one pre-season match and three home and away games in Canberra.

Manuka Oval, is virtually a second home for the Giants until 2021, when the agreement ends.

“We always look forward to playing in Canberra. There are a number of guys at the club who come from either from the ACT or the Riverina, so it’s always good to be able to take some of the games there,” Kennedy said recently.

Despite his busy schedule as a professional footballer, Kennedy was still intending to get involved in local World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations towards the end of July.

Ever generous with his time, the young Giant was scheduled to give a talk about faith, family and football, following the 9am Mass at St John the Evangelist Parish, Jugiong, on Sunday, July 31.

“Even though I’m not able to be over in Krakow (Poland), I will keep up to date with WYD online and it is still nice to be able to mark the occasion with other young people,” Kennedy said.

From his speaking engagement in Jugiong, the young footballer, was looking forward to spending the rest of that Sunday afternoon in Wagga Wagga, with his parents – Frank and Vicki, before flying back to Sydney later that night.

“Growing up just outside Wagga Wagga, I always love getting back to the family and the farm,” the first year Giant said.