LEIGH Matthews, who was named Footballer of the Century in 1996, has the Midas touch.
Add successful racehorse owner to the eight premierships as a player and coach, eight best and fairests, a Coleman Medal and footy comments expert to his impressive CV.
Matthews is part-owner of boom Queensland colt Sizzling, which was narrowly beaten in the recent Magic Millions.
For Matthews, horseracing was a welcome distraction from the controversies that plagued footy in the lead-up to the start of the season.
There was the Melbourne tanking saga and then accusations Essendon players used banned supplements.
There was also major unrest about the widening gap between the rich and poor clubs.
‘‘ The mess around the onfield game is quite disturbing, to be honest,’’ the Channel 7 footy commentator dubbed ‘‘ Lethal Leigh’’ says.
‘‘ There seems to be an enormous amount of angst around the industry — the poor clubs versus the rich clubs and the coaches versus the rules.
‘‘ We are seeing teething problems around the national competition’s growth.
‘‘ Just because you’ve got big television rights (money) doesn’t mean everything’s going to be hunky-dory.’’
The growing disparity between rich and poor clubs is of major concern to the former Hawthorn champion and Collingwood and Brisbane coach.
Richer clubs have poured millions of dollars into other areas including facilities and sports science to gain an edge.
‘‘ How can you cap player payments and not cap nonplayer payments?,’’ Matthews says. ‘‘ Someone has to say, ‘ We have got to stop this’.’’
Now the season is under way, he hopes many of the issues will take a back seat to some on-field brilliance.
‘‘ We have an incredibly exciting competition to come,’’ Matthews says.
‘‘ Any of the top 13 sides would have a lot of optimism about what they can do this year. (Hawthorn star Lance) ‘ Buddy’ Franklin is the most exciting individual player. You shake your head (when you see some of the things he does) and go, ‘ how did he do that?’.
‘‘ I think we should be celebrating the spectacle they (players) are providing.’’ AFL, Channel 7, Thursday, 7.30pm