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McGovern-like performance could save Lion Recruit

Buddy's fitness, Jake's future, Heath's call Tuesday Footy Feed with Matt Thompson and Nick Bowen

THE BRISBANE Lions may have unearthed a Jeremy McGovern clone from the unlikeliest of places.

Almost 1400km away from McGovern's Adelaide Oval heroics on Saturday night, a 27-year-old defender without an AFL game to his name played a pivotal role in the Lions winning the NEAFL premiership.

Matt Eagles, a strongly built 200cm unit with long dreadlocks, joined the Lions as a category B rookie last year thanks to winning season two of Fox Footy's The Recruit. Foxtel subsidised his wage as part of the arrangement.

He was a longshot as recently as mid-season to remain beyond this year, but a purple patch of form, capped by a dominant NEAFL Grand Final performance, has given the Lions something to think about.

Eagles amassed 18 disposals (11 contested), 11 marks, 17 intercept possessions – the equal-most in any NEAFL match this season – and five rebound 50s in the three-point triumph at the SCG.

The ex-North Ballarat VFL footballer was particularly important in the final term, when he claimed four of his eight intercept marks, as Sydney sliced a 20-point three-quarter time deficit to one.

Eagles outmarked rookie-listed Swan Toby Pink at half-back in the contest's final play, and narrowly missed out on the Andrew Ireland Medal as best player afield to teammate Ben Keays.

He arrived at the Gabba as a ruckman who could pinch-hit forward, but has thrived in defence. He captained the Lions and featured in their best players in last week's NEAFL preliminary final victory, too.

Eagles' manager, Peter Blucher, of Vivid Sport Management, told he was hopeful the Lions would "find a way for him to continue".

"He'll admit it took him a little while to adjust to the step up in footy from where he's come from," Blucher said.

"But he's come a long, long way and has worked incredibly hard and done a phenomenal job. He was not a bit-part player in the finals – he was a very important player.

"He got an opportunity in an unusual way, but he's made the most of it. Given how far he's come in one year, I'd love to see where he gets to with another year and a full pre-season."

Eagles is a popular figure at the club and has fitted in well, in contrast to inaugural The Recruit winner Johann Wagner.

Port Adelaide delisted Wagner last year after one season and he admitted in a Fairfax interview in May: "I probably never really felt I belonged."