As a premiership player in Hawthorn's Grand Final win last year, Matt Spangher achieved the ultimate goal as an AFL player.
Spangher's career is a story of perseverance and personal strength. In his first professional year at West Coast in 2006, Spangher suffered an early injury and missed the entire season. Despite some stand out moments in later seasons, he only played a handful of games for the Eagles and was traded to the Sydney Swans in 2010.
Both West Coast and Sydney won premierships during Spangher's time with the clubs as he watched from the sidelines. He then found himself traded to Hawthorn for the 2013 season, where he again watched his team win the flag while he sat out with an injury.
It was only in 2014, with a string of excellent performances and a clean bill of health that Spangher played in his first Grand Final and took home a premiership medal.
At a recent Sports Symposium, hosted by La Trobe and AFL Players' Association, Spangher spoke about his journey. 'Don't get discouraged if something doesn't work first up,' was his advice to young athletes. It's clearly the philosophy he has applied on and off the field.
The Symposium was delivered to athletes, sports industry professional and students wanting to learn more about developing a career beyond playing sport and the many opportunities available in the industry.
As a La Trobe student, Spangher took his time to find the right course to study. 'I started off at La Trobe as a podiatry student – that didn't work for me,' he said. 'Then I tried a financial planning degree, which wasn't for me either.' He eventually settled on a business degree.
Spangher's unique perspective and experience was well received on the night. "Don't be afraid to take the next step – that'd be the one thing I could offer."
His courage to keep trying something new and to make it work will set him in good stead as his career transitions off the playing field.
Watch an interview with Matt Spangher and Brett Johnson from the AFL Player's Association at the Symposium.