Matt Rowell warms up before the round five match between Gold Coast and Hawthorn at People First Stadium, April 13, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

WHILE the numbers show Matt Rowell is arguably the best inside midfielder in the competition this season, the Gold Coast bull judges his output on far more than disposals, clearances and tackles.

Rowell has had a blistering start to 2024, leading a host of statistical areas that are often used to assess the AFL's elite ball-winners.

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Entering round seven, he had won more contested possessions, clearances and centre clearances than any other midfielder.

More than Patrick Cripps. More than Christian Petracca. More than Marcus Bontempelli. And more than runaway AFL Coaches Association MVP leader Isaac Heeney.


And when he doesn't have the ball, Rowell is just as involved, leading the league in pressure acts, and recording the third most tackles.

However, the 22-year-old said he and Suns midfield coach Shaun Grigg look much deeper than statistics when assessing how he's performed.

"We don't really look at numbers at all," Rowell told

"It's more about the preparation phase – how did you set yourself up? How was your running from contest to contest? Did you give yourself an opportunity to get to those contests?

Matt Rowell is tackled by Josh Weddle during the round five match between Gold Coast and Hawthorn at People First Stadium, April 13, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

"We look at my footwork around stoppages, body work, did I give myself a chance to win that and compete?

"It's those sort of things I look at."

Rowell said his exit meeting following last season with incoming coach Damien Hardwick reinforced what he should focus on.

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Hardwick told him to keep working on his strengths.

"He said there's a reason you're in the side and on a list and that's because of your strength and what you bring, so if we can get that out more, it's best for the team and best for the club.


"That's been a huge thing from 'Dimma'.

"I've got the freedom to just go hard at the footy and play to my strengths.

"I love getting in the contest and doing that stuff. I'm a pretty physical sort of player. If you're in the middle, you have to have a level of physicality or it's not going to be for you.

"That's my role for the team, being that physical presence in there, and I enjoy that side of the game."

Although Rowell continues to work relentlessly on what he's good at, he also attacked a sprinting program during his off-season to help his acceleration from stoppages.

Matt Rowell and Tom Liberatore during the round two game between Gold Coast and the Western Bulldogs at Mars Stadium, March 24, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

He said that, in combination with improved footwork and continuing to be "on the move" had seen him more regularly wheel out of congestion and deliver the ball by foot as much as hand.

Every game is a combative one for the former No.1 draft pick.

On Sunday, it'll be resurgent Elliot Yeo leading West Coast's midfield to People First Stadium.

Last week it was Taylor Adams, Heeney and James Rowbottom in Sydney's engine room.

But perhaps the most engrossing duel for Rowell this season came in round two against red-hot Tom Liberatore, where the pair went toe-to-toe for four quarters.


"I always know when I go up against 'Libba' it's going to be a ferocious contest.

"I respect him a lot as a player.

"When you're coming up against someone like that you know you've got to be at your best. I think it probably brings the best out of me and probably out of him as well.

"I love the physicality and I love the contest."