Matthews a student of 'The Axe'
Sam Thaiday didn't know what hit him and Anthony Milford is still picking his ribs out of Jubilee Oval's surface having dealt with the powerful shoulder of heavy-hitting Dragons back-rower Will Matthews last Friday night.
With Matthews earning man-of-the-match honours against the Broncos, in what was also his first NRL game for season 2015, the 27-year-old credited former Gold Coast assistant coach Trevor Gillmeister – the man known as 'The Axe'– as the one responsible for honing the former Titan's defensive technique.
Such was the impression Matthews made, the nickname made famous by the Queensland Origin legend Gillmeister was thrown around in the Dragons sheds post-game with Trent Merrin especially having no qualms labelling his teammate 'The Axe'.
Even so, Matthews has taken plenty of confidence from his time north of the border having come through the Titans' under-20s system to play 33 of his 60 NRL games at the club.
"Being originally from the Titans, Trevor Gillmeister was our defensive coach and I think I learnt a lot off him and his technique has rubbed off on me," Matthews told NRL.com.
"'The Axe' was renowned for his defence and just simple textbook tackling. It's a matter of hitting them through the middle and just driving people. It's just one of those things which you can draw upon in a game.
"I just try and hit the player around the ball, because it was obviously greasy when we played Brisbane, so I thought if I could hit blokes in the middle then maybe I could pop a ball out and luckily it panned out that way a few times."
Making his way into the Dragons team in place of the suspended Tyson Frizell, Matthews has had to deal with a frustrating run of incidents so far this season.
After breaking a metacarpal in his right hand in the Dragons' annual Charity Shield clash, Matthews made his return in NSW Cup in Round 2 with the Illawarra Cutters only for him to be suspended meaning he had only made three starts before returning to first grade.
"I felt like I had a good pre-season and was probably in a good position to get a spot in first grade, even to get a spot on the bench," Matthews said.
"Obviously then [Frizell] was suspended and that gave me my opportunity. I knew I had big shoes to fill because he's been awesome for us so far with his huge workload in attack and defence."
Matthews went on to discuss how great the feeling is in the Red V camp at this stage of the season.
Riding high with five-straight wins to their name, Matthews said the influence of coach Paul McGregor – who Matthews has played under since coming to the club in 2012 when McGregor was Cutters coach – has been massive.
"Everyone is getting along really well and everyone is working really hard for one another. It shows in our defence, we're not crisp in attack currently, but our defence has been winning us games so that's all you can ask for really," Matthews said.
"'Mary' is the main reason why the boys are all heading in one direction which is important for him to be doing. He's played a massive part in us going well."