After being nominated for Sports Dad of the Year, Matt Ballin's lovely family open up about what makes our very own 'Mr Nice Guy' so special to them.
Partner’s name: Shannan
Children’s names: Fletcher (5), Murphy (3) & Mackenzie (2)
Matt Ballin is closing in on 200 games for the Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL, where he has won premierships in 2008 and 2011. Matt is regarded as one of the hardest working players in the NRL, and an integral member of the Sea Eagles juggernaut which is surging towards another NRL title.
Matt has also played one Origin game for Queensland, where he has been a long-time understudy to Kangaroos and Maroons captain Cameron Smith. Away from football, he has his hands full with three children aged 5, 3 and 2. “My kids and wife are what motivates me, inspire me, keep my feet solidly planted on the ground and provide me with a sense of confidence to be a strong person,” Matt said. “We share the finest moments, as well as the most disappointing moments of my career together.”
Shannan says: “Even though Matt is often exhausted from a big day either at training, his personal training or uni, he still has the energy to rumble with the kids when he gets home. The kids get a thrill out of him involving them in his footy and game day routines. The boys love going to training with him and he also gets them all to write on his boots before a game, it’s very cute!”
How hard is it spending so much time away from the kids during the season?
The commitment to prepare for and play a rugby league season is extremely demanding. Continual sacrifices have to be made to stay fit, healthy and fresh for the 11 months of training and playing. It is particularly difficult to find time to spend with the kids during the year. However the short supply of time has helped me appreciate the rare times that I do get an opportunity to spend with my children and wife. – Matt
What is your favourite activity with the kids?
I love to take the kids for a babychino and chat after school, pre-school or day care. It is great to have them all together, screaming and laughing at their milk mustaches. Or one on one giving them the individual attention they love and need. We have a small cubby house in our backyard, which has housed numerous cups of tea, baby chinos and biscuits and interesting conversations! – Matt
Do they take an active interest in your career?
Yes! All three kids are rugby league and Manly Sea Eagles members. They come to as many games as possible and watch the replays when it’s not on too late at night. Fletcher is my oldest son and he is in his second year of league, playing for the Mona Vale Raiders Junior League team. Murphy and Mackenzie, also love watching and playing some type of backyard footy by themselves or with me. – Matt
Have you ever been asked to attend their school/day care for "news"?
Yes. I ran a rugby league-coaching clinic for Fletcher’s pre-school last year. I have also attended Fletcher’s school this year to read with his class about my childhood and rugby league. – Matt
Have you ever heard your kids tell stories about you to their mates?
Yes. When I pick Fletcher up from school, all his mates come over and talked about the game from the weekend and specifically about a tackle or run I made. All my children refer to me as ‘Matt Ballin’, to their friends at different times. Fletcher talks about the try I scored in the 2008 Grand Final to his mates and me from time to time. – Matt
On game day, do you like to relax with the kids or do they understand to keep away from you?
Before kids I would have a set routine, which I would abide to strictly on game day. However since having kids I have realized best made plans go out the window in a heartbeat. I love to spend time with the kids on game day doing activities such as coffee and playing in the park. I also include them all in packing my footy bag and drawing on my footy boots to wear during the game. I love them being involved in my career and I know they enjoy sharing these special times together. – Matt
Besides their birth, obviously, what is your most memorable moment with your kids?
My children have strong and different personalities that provide different memorable moments with all of them. I recently got to run onto Brookvale Oval with my eldest son Fletcher before we played the West Tigers in round 19 of the 2014 season. This was incredible for Fletch and I, because he loves footy and the Sea Eagles and I love involving him and Murph and Kenz in my rugby League. Murphy is often up quite late at night and doesn’t need as much sleep as my other two children, which allows some quality one on one time for us to enjoy. He also loves a cup of tea and biscuit while talking, playing or watching How to Train your Dragon. I just love to sit, talk and listen to Murph’s stories. We often fall asleep together, or me first, and I know he loves and thrives on this special time together as much as I do. Mackenzie is very sure of herself at 2 years of age, and is not afraid to voice her opinions! – Matt
Favourite family holiday?
We all went to Bali together in October 2013, which was a fantastic family holiday. We had a ball walking around the local markets with the kids buying toys and playing with the Balinese people. We have also done a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane to visit family which turned out to be a great family adventure. We would stop and explore different towns on the way such Port Macquarie, the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, fishing at Yamba and swimming and exploring Scotts Head. It was great just driving and stopping whenever we pleased to check out new areas. – Matt
What is his best asset as a father?
He adores the kids so much and misses them terribly when he’s away from them. He loves spending one-on-one time with each of them and always puts in the effort to let them all know how much he loves them. He knows how to make each of them feel special. He has always been a really hands on dad, from simple things like nappies to baths and playing a lot with them. – Shannan
How do the kids keep in contact with him when he's away ... phone/internet/skype?
Matt spent four days in NZ when he played the Warriors so we kept in contact via viber … lots of messages and photos to each other. We try to talk a few times a day but sometimes it’s hard with the kids, messages and video message are often easier. – Shannan
Do they recognise him on television?
Absolutely!!! They all LOVE seeing him on TV… even Mackenzie will yell out “Daddy Daddy” when they see him on TV. They all look for the number 9 when he’s playing. – Shannan
What makes your dad so great?
Because he plays the wrestling game with me and jumps me down on the trampoline, it’s so fun – Fletcher
What is the best thing dad does for you?
He plays footy and runs out on the field with me (referring to him and Matt running out together at Brookvale a few weeks ago) – Fletcher
Do you watch him on the television?
I love watching him run on the field – Murphy
Yes, on da TB! – Mackenzie
Yes, I love watching him on the TV and on the real field – Fletcher
Do you want to be like dad when you grow up?
Yes, because I want to be bigger than him – Fletcher