Lloyd's lucky escape

Thursday, 30th August, 2012

Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd obliges for autograph seeker Sage Hocking. Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd obliges for autograph seeker Sage Hocking.

By Ben Sheffield

Former Essendon great Matthew Lloyd has revealed that a serious injury he sustained in Essendon's 1996 Preliminary Final against Sydney very nearly cost him his life.

Lloyd ruptured his spleen in the third quarter of the match and ended up spending 10 days in intensive care at a Sydney hospital.

Initially, club doctors were unable to diagnose the problem, but as tell-tale symptoms began to appear, he was rushed off to hospital.

He says that he was fortunate his parents were staying with him the night of the game.

"If my parents hadn't been in the hotel room with me, I mightn't have been so lucky.

I remember it was extremely painful.

"I lost a litre and a half of blood. It wasn't good."

His comments came yesterday during a visit to Broken Hill for promotional commitments.

Lloyd retired at the completion of the 2009 season aged 31 - relatively young compared to many AFL players.

He said at the time that he would prefer to retire a year early than a year too late and that he had never regretted the decision.

"When I was 28 I signed a three-year contract and thought then that at this stage this would be it.

"I've been to a lot of football this year and not once thought I wish I was playing," he said.

From his milestone-laden career, which included five All Australian selection, winning the Coleman Medal three times and being Essendon's most prolific goalkicker ever, Lloyd says that several moments stand out as highlights.

"The 2000 premiership, definitely, from a team perspective.

"The two times I reached 100 goals in a season was special too, just because of the sheer elation when you get there.

"Captaining the club was a real privilege, again in an individual sense," he said.

Another highlight was the miraculous 'back heel' goal from a pack of players in the goal square that was named the 2007 goal of the year.

He said while it was a memorable moment, it certainly was not a style that he practiced.

"It was the only one of those I ever did in a game. It was just instinctive and pretty unique and I was lucky enough that it went through."

A far more controversial moment came in Lloyd's final match in 2009, when a high hip and shoulder left Hawthorn's Brad Sewell unconscious.

An all-in melee ensued and in the aftermath of the match, Sewell's teammate, Campbell Brown, accused Lloyd of being "one of the biggest snipers in the game" and declared that "his time is coming."

Lloyd was suspended for four weeks but denies that it was an act of sniping.

"It was a hip and shoulder that went high. I copped the suspension for it. The waythe rules are today I probably would have got more time for it.

"But it definitely wasn't a sniping act."

Since his retirement Lloyd has been involved in the media, working on Channel Nine's The Footy Show, commentating for Melbourne radio station 3AW and penning opinion pieces for The Age newspaper.

He said he is enjoying his media commitments and has no plans to shift into coaching or an alternative career path.

"I'm contracted for the next three years with my media positions anyway, so I'll be doing that for at least the next three years," he said.

He has become known for offering forthright opinions on the game and demonstrated that honesty by suggesting that the time of Essendon Fitness Coach, Dean Robinson, who has gained a cult following as 'The Weapon', is up.

Essendon have had 18 players succumb to soft tissue injuries this season, which Lloyd believes explains the club's freefall, having lost nine of their last 12 games, including the last six in succession, after winning eight games in their first nine rounds.

Lloyd described the most recent injury, to Alwyn Davey against Richmond on Friday night, as "the nail in the coffin" for Robinson.

As for the AFL's biggest question right now - who will be at the helm of Carlton next year - Lloyd was quick to nominate Mick Malthouse as the successor to Brett Ratten.