Dempster’s double century
Saturday, 24th July, 2021
By Emily Ferguson
Matt Dempster today plays his 200th A Grade game for North Football Club, a milestone he says has been a long time coming.
Dempster said he is both excited and relieved to finally be playing, “After Saturday just gone, it sort of started to really hit because that was the one hurdle I had to get over and now it’s sort of all downhill towards it from here, so I’m pretty excited."
A Grade football began for Dempster back in 2004, “I can’t remember what round exactly, but I remember debuting at the Memorial against Central, and I’m sure in typical Memorial fashion it was probably freezing cold,” he said.
“It was an eye-opener for me. I have a soccer background and ’04 was my first year of playing and I was still getting my head around all the traditions and how everything worked.”
Having grown up on the North side of town, Dempster said playing for North was a “natural progression” for him. “I’ve always been a Northie in the area, grew up around the corner from the North School and had a lot of mates at school who were playing for North… Much to Dad’s dislike, he was a Central player back in the day, which I never really knew about, but it was mainly due to being in the area really.”
Dempster said the mateship of everybody at the Bulldogs is what makes the club so special to him, “We’re a pretty close-knit group. It doesn’t seem to matter who you go and sit with at the footy or at the club, everyone will pull a chair out for you, they’re just a real welcoming bunch of people.
“They just sort of take everything on board and take it as it comes - just a great bunch of people to be with,” he said.
With five premierships to his name, Dempster is proud of those achievements and a few, in particular, stand out as highlights of his career. “The premierships are obviously up there. There’s probably 2012; that’s a real good one in the memory, coming from a long way behind at three-quarter time and we ended up getting up for the win,” he said.
“And even though I didn’t end up playing due to injury, 2007 was another big one that hits home because of the way I was kept involved and stuff like that. Getting hurt late in the season, everyone still made sure the people who couldn’t play were still really involved and felt a part of it, which was great.”
Dempster sang the praises of his current playing coach, as well as his former captain, as some of the best players he’s played alongside.
“Our coach at the moment Brett Johnson, he was always a star and still is. But you never knew with him, you’d always think that you’re nowhere near getting the ball and then he’d rocket this handball to you to put you on the spot. He’d always bring everyone into the game and knows how to lift you up,” said Dempster.
“Another one was our old skipper Codie Howard, just the way he presented himself on and off the field. He had the respect both ways - he respected everyone and got the same back. You could definitely tell when he wasn’t there on the field helping you out, it’s definitely a big hole that he left.”
“Opposition wise, there’s a lot of good ones that have been getting around, especially as a backman they always keep me on my toes. Cody Schorn at the moment is probably the dominant one getting around, he’s always a challenge to play on.
“And in past years, the likes of Loccy McGregor and stuff like that, they were tough little opponents to play on but they were fast and could jump and you can never give them any room whatsoever otherwise they’d just tear you to pieces,” he said.
Dempster said playing his 200th game on North Old Timers weekend, makes it even more special. “Old Timers behind the Grand Final if you make it, is the biggest game of the year for us, that’s for sure. To have the extra numbers and extra sets of eyes on you, it sort of puts the pressure on you a bit but everyone stands up to the challenge.
“It wasn’t planned to be on Old Timers originally, but, through injury at the start of the year and with work and everything, that’s just how it fell. So it had to be on Old Timer’s or I knew it wasn’t going to happen at all,” he said.
“It does make it that bit extra special - and to share it with Mat Garrick - he’s one of my backline blokes and I couldn’t ask for a better bloke to share it with.”
Dempster extended a “big shout out” to the North Football Club and his family, “To the footy club - just to thank them for all the years and everything with how they’ve looked after me injury-wise and however else. And, of course, the wife and kids for letting me still go out there and run around as the old bloke that I am.”