Community Sports Dad of the Year 2016
Matthew Pavlich - AFL

Partner’s name: Lauren
Children’s names: Harper (3), Jack (1)…& expecting!

Matthew Pavlich recently played his 350th game for his beloved Fremantle Dockers, but not before announcing this season will be the last in a glittering career which has the towering forward labelled one of Western Australia’s best AFL players of all time. After being a number four draft pick in 1999, Matthew has played his entire career for the Dockers and is the first player from a Western Australia based club to play more than 300 AFL games, kicking almost 700 goals along the way. Matthew is a six time best and fairest winner at the Dockers, eight time leading goal kicker and was club captain between 2007 and 2015, leading the Dockers into the 2013 Grand Final where they lost to Hawthorn. He is also a six time All Australian team member. But despite his remarkable on-field success, off the field his children Harper and Jack remain his greatest achievements. “When you go home for the first time from the hospital as a family it changes your day to day activities and your outlook on life,” Matthew said. “Importantly for me, it very quickly became my greatest achievement in life and it opened up feelings and emotions I didn’t think existed. It has its fleeting challenging moments, but it truly is the greatest gift in the world.” Lauren says: “Matthew’s greatest ability as a father is to prioritise the kids and play with them doing everything from throwing balls, having cups of tea in a cubby house, drawing, reading books and playing chasey! He is also very good at helping out with cooking, throwing on a load of washing and helping us to function as a family unit.”

Have you found it hard spending time away from the kids during the season? Absolutely! Being based in the West means a significant amount of travel. We travel for a minimum of two nights away every second week of the season - which I have now done for 17 seasons meaning more than 160 times - it has always been a burden, but not seeing the kids during this development phase of their life makes it even more challenging! - Matthew

What is your favourite activity with the kids? As simple as this sounds – breakfast and play time mid-morning. I am usually out of the house of a morning before 7am and this means I don’t normally have breaky or morning play dates with the kids. So breakfast followed by a walk to the park for a coffee and play are great! The other time I really love, is immediately post game when both Harper and Jack come into the change rooms for a stretch and play – after giving so much of yourself both mentally and physically for two hours and putting family life on hold, it’s so nice to see them and just to have that perspective kids give you as soon as the game is finished. - Matthew

On game days, do you like to relax with the kids or do you try to keep away from the family? I am more than happy to relax with the kids – it gives me time to build my focus and intensity for the game and not get too worked up. - Matthew

Where you there at their births? What was it like? I would not have missed them for the world! With Harper’s impending due date and the start of the footy season fast approaching, we discussed the pros and cons of inducing the birth. We assured Lauren’s obstetrician that her health and the health of the baby were paramount but if possible, we needed to get this thing happening. Subtlety has never been a strong point! So on Wednesday 6th of March, Lauren and I made our way to the hospital nonchalantly as if we were heading off to have our morning coffee together. As the chaos and significance of the day later became apparent it was hard to not sense an out of body experience. Dads will appreciate how insignificant and helpless you feel during labour. It is as if you are constantly in the way, no help at all and a hindrance to the entire process. That annoying pebble in your shoe, the thorn in your side or defender constantly bumping your every move – it’s a contrasting kind of experience. At 4.07pm though, as the last of my pandemonium was being calmly taken care of by Michael (OB) and the brilliant maternity nurses, we welcomed a beautiful little girl, Harper Rose Pavlich into our world. Harper’s birth was without doubt the best moment of my life. Words can’t sum up the emotions and the feelings involved with the process of having a child for the first time. I had always wanted to be a father and once you have that little child in your arms, it somehow immediately changes everything. It wasn’t until later that night when it occurred as I was coming down from the natural high and the anxiety of the whole birth, and the three of us were just sitting there in a quiet moment, it dawned on me – this bundle of joy is ours and has changed my perspective on what I truly value in life – it was incredibly special.

In contrast, Jack’s birth caught Lauren and I by surprise, as he was born a week early on February 16. The day started much like any other when I went to training that morning, got off the track after a 2 hour session and I checked my phone for messages. Lauren had taken Harper for a park play date and then been catching up with some former physio colleagues and had left me a text message at 11.21am saying: “Hi, how was your morning? I think I might be in early labour.! Getting some pretty strong contractions, not super regular yet I don’t think but just letting you know. I have told Mum and will let you know how things progress xx.” I took that on face value because she was so matter of fact – albeit a text message she seemed very relaxed and while she may have been in the very early stages of labour cool and calm about her situation. I replied, “No problems, hope your morning has been good, keep me in the loop.” I went and did my recovery and was having something to eat in our players lounge when I got a call from Lauren at 11:46am. She did without the pleasantries and said, ‘I am on my way home. I think the contractions are getting closer and closer together. Mum is on the way home to meet me and take care of Harper, I think you should make your way home.’ As I drove across the old traffic bridge in Freo I got a call from Lauren’s mum Terese asking me if I was on my way home as yet, because things were rapidly becoming very serious. In the background I could sense some commotion and I realised at that point that I needed to get home pretty quickly, but admittedly still not having thoughts about how imminent Jack’s birth might be. I raced home, left the car running, went inside and grabbed Lauren’s bag that she had packed only to find Lauren with a towel wrapped around her waist. Her waters broken! This was not just the early stages of labour, this was game on and it was going to happen. We raced out to the car, piled in and as I was driving to St John of God Hospital in Subiaco I gave the maternity ward a call at 12:17pm to say we were on our way and to make sure there was a bed ready for us because things were progressing quickly. The hospital was about 15 minutes away from our place and, as you do in an emergency, we caught every red light on the way there, to the point where I started running the gauntlet on a few lights because Lauren was by this stage in a significant amount of discomfort. We were trying to count the time between contractions so as to give the nurses an accurate guide as we arrived. They were getting closer and closer together and more severe, sometimes there was almost no gap between one ending and the next one starting! Lauren jokes that she thinks she may have left finger nail marks in the car seat. We arrived at the hospital where there was no public car parks out the front so I parked in a doctors car park and got Lauren out of the car and escorted her inside the hospital, up the lift to where the nurses were eagerly awaiting our arrival and escorted us in to the delivery room. As Lauren hopped up onto the bed and the nurses began to assess the situation, I wrongly decided to go and move the car from the Doctor’s bay. In hindsight it wasn’t the best move I have ever made, but I was still thinking that there was at least 15 minutes until anything would happen. I ran downstairs, shifted the car across the road and then ran back to the hospital. In the time I was gone they had examined Lauren which showed she was fully dilated. I got back in the room where obstetrician Michael was suiting up and five minutes later we had a son. I remember thinking that my wife was super woman – the way she had kept such a calm and level head when the birth of our child was so imminent. We now had a son Jack to go with daughter Harper. - Matthew

What makes him such a great father? Matthew has a great ability to come home from a long day and the kids are so excited to see him, he drops his bag and chases them around and has a big play with the kids. Unless he is sore or injured, he almost always accommodates the kids' requests and there isn't much that is turned down. - Lauren

How hard is it when he has to be away from home and on game days etc? It's a challenge but we don't really know any different, Matthew has always travelled while we have had the kids so you just adapt and work out processes which make things ideally run smoothly with one pair of hands! The most difficult part is probably when one of the kids are sick and they want a bit more of your attention, or worse, when I have been sick with two active kids! I do remember the first time Matthew travelled after Jack was born and I was thinking, how am I going to manage with a strong willed two year old and a baby who wouldn't let you put him down at all and didn’t really settle at night but we jumped in the deep end and managed to tread water! Game days are just a juggle trying to keep two kids occupied for three hours in a confined amount of space! Harper is so good now and actively watches for Daddy and the other players she knows but Jack needs food, books, toys and general distracting for at least three quarters of the game! I sometimes wonder if it would be less challenging being out on the field?! - Lauren

What tasks does Matthew help you perform with the kids? He is very good at making as much mess as they do sometimes but is happy to help out! Historically, Matthew isn't super patient so settling our unsettled babies was always a bit more challenging for him but once the kids are older he definitely has more scope to be involved in all aspects of the kids daily lives. - Lauren

How does he keep in contact with you and the kids when he's away? The beauty of technology means we frequently FaceTime while he is away and there are always plenty of photos/snapchats being sent to each other to make sure he feels like he's not missing out on too much while being away. - Lauren

Sports Dad of the Year 2016
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