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 told The Catholic Voice, the newspaper of the Canberra-Goulburn diocese.
“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, Bishop of Armidale.
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 southern New South Wales, the youngster is on the road constantly.
“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,” he 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,” Kennedy said.
“I told them that I was going to Mass and a teammate decided that he would come with me, which was really good.”
The 19-year-old and his teammates were in Canberra playing the Richmond Tigers at Manuka Oval on 30 July. It was an important game in the team’s top four aspirations for season 2016.
As part of a 10-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,” Kennedy said recently.
“There are a number of guys at the club who come from either the ACT or the Riverina, so it’s always good to be able to take some of the games there.”
Despite his busy schedule as a professional footballer, Kennedy still got involved in local World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations towards the end of July.
The young Giant gave a talk about faith, family and football at St John the Evangelist parish, Jugiong, on 31 July.
He followed news from Krakow, and said it was “nice to be able to mark the occasion with other young people”.
Despite his travelling commitments, Kennedy is always eager to return home.
“Growing up just outside Wagga Wagga, I always love getting back to the family and the farm.”