Image Credit: On The Ball Media
SNAPSHOT: “Roberts is a hard-working midfielder or half-forward with a high football IQ who is able to impact the scoreboard on a regular basis.”
Matthew Roberts is one of several talented draft prospects out of South Adelaide this year. A ‘footballers footballer’, Roberts has been high on the radar of AFL recruiters for several years, having represented South Australia at consecutive Under 16 National Championships alongside club teammates Jason Horne-Francis. In his bottom-aged season last year, Roberts proved a class above the SANFL Under 18 level, winning an abundance of the football and regularly impacting the scoreboard. In Round 6 this season, after dominating three Under 18 matches early on, the Langhorne Creek product made his League debut with the Panthers. However, Roberts’ season took a hit when he suffered a syndesmosis injury whilst playing college football with St. Peter’s, leaving him sidelined for over two months. Roberts returned to feature in five of the Panthers’ final six games, including three finals. He performed admirably and looked comfortable against senior competition, averaging 11 disposals, 3.9 tackles and just under a goal per game in seven matches. Roberts returned from injury in time to play three games for South Australia at the improvised Under 19 national carnival. Spending most of his time in the midfield, he didn’t reach his best but will have learned plenty from the experience going forward.
+ Contested ball
+ Work rate
+ Scoreboard impact
+ Football smarts
Roberts has no trouble finding the football. Whether he’s operating in the middle or stationed up forward, he is always involved in the game and regularly gets his hands of the footy. Well developed physically, Roberts proved far too good for the Under 18 level, dominating at the start of the year with South Adelaide. He is capable of winning plenty of his own footy and has shown he can also fill a role on the outside as well us up forward, as he showed in his League games. He finished among South Australia’s leading possession-getters in the three state matches he participated in, and played a lone-hand in getting his side back into the contest after quarter-time in the first clash against Western Australia.
Roberts may not be the flashiest footballer with the cleanest skills or most dynamic athleticism, but his on-field work ethic is tremendous and will hold him in good stead at the next level. Roberts has a sound endurance base and wills himself from contest-to-contest. His work rate allows him to accumulate some handy uncontested marks and possessions to compliment his grunt work on the inside. Roberts is an intelligent player, with his high footy IQ obvious at stoppages and in his forward craft. He is a clean ball-user by hand in-tight and is an effective kick when given time and space. However, in the latter stages of the year with the intensity rising, Roberts’ skills weren’t as effective and he appeared to lack a touch of composure.
Arguably Roberts’ most attractive quality as a midfielder is his ability to go forward and impact the scoreboard. Roberts has been a regular goalkicker at every level he’s played at, booting South’s first two goals of the game in their League preliminary final defeat this year. He has good forward craft and knows where the goals are. He also works hard up the ground to offer an option in transition, but is just as quick to get back and provide a target inside 50 when his side breaks into attack. He is strong above his head and boasts an effective set shot routine.
Roberts has sound fundamentals, with his football smarts, forward craft and production all sound, however he lacks the athleticism which would elevate his game to the next level. Whilst his aerobic capacity is strong, Roberts lacks a yard of pace which puts him behind the ledger of more explosive midfielders. Roberts’ ball use is not overly damaging, but it’s predominately clean. He tended to favour long up-and-under kicks during his League and state stints, and could do with slightly altering his decision making in order to make a stronger impact with his disposal at the next level.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 15-30
Roberts has been a standout junior in South Australia for a number of years and looks set to join an AFL list via the National Draft. He showed admirable resilience to overcome a medium-term injury during the middle of the year, and return to the South Adelaide League side for their finals campaign. One of the hardest workers in the draft pool, Roberts is a fundamentally sound midfielder and a regular goalkicker when rotated forward. Able to have an impact at AFL level next season as a physically mature prospect, Roberts would appeal to a club looking to add some midfield depth in the second round of the draft.