AFL legend Leigh Matthews in 2005. Picture: AFL Photos

AFL LEGEND Leigh Matthews has revealed the fear of embarrassing himself in front of his Brisbane players while trekking the Kokoda Trail in 2005 resulted in him breaking down in tears.

Matthews had unexpectedly lost his mother, Lorna, six months earlier and, as a 53-year-old coach, he was preparing to physically test himself alongside elite athletes in their prime. 

"The players were going to do the (Kokoda) Track, which was about 100km up and down mountains in Papua New Guinea, in about four days," Matthews told's Last Time I Cried.

I still don't know why (but) when we got to the camp, they put the tents up and I went to the tent and bawled my eyes out

- Leigh Matthews

"I was so conscious of not collapsing on the side of the track. I thought to myself, 'It doesn't matter that I'm much older than the players' … I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to make it and I'd embarrass myself, in a way.

"We got to the last night and where the camp was on the last night, we were going to finish about lunchtime, they said, the next day.


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"I still don't know why (but) when we got to the camp, they put the tents up and I went to the tent and bawled my eyes out … (it was) some mix of emotions and stress of fatigue.

"We were about to finish, so I guess it looked like I was going to make it."

Matthews also became emotional as a coach in the final matches of playing greats Tony Shaw and Alastair Lynch, at Collingwood and Brisbane, respectively, as well as after his own last game in the 1985 Grand Final.

Tony Shaw and Leigh Matthews in 1990 with the premiership cup. Picture: AFL Photos

He said he had changed significantly in this regard as the years passed by.

"I was a pretty hard bugger as a young 20-year-old, and driven and all those kinds of things and very insular, in a way," Matthews said.

 "Family becomes even more important, when, say, your parents go and your kids grow up and your grandkids grow up. 

"The thing about people; we change a lot. We're the same person, clearly, but, gee, we're different as a 20-year-old, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 – I think that's the journey of life."