By Ian Beeck | posted on October 24, 2020
WA FOOTBALL Commission Regional Development Specialist Matt Bishop led a varied life getting to his current role; from wanna-be veterinarian, to agriculture, to being awarded life membership to the United States Australian Football League.
Bishop also coached against Hawthorn star and 1986 Brownlow medallist Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico at the 2011 International Cup.
Dipper had the reins for the Peace Team – a side with players from Israel and Palestine, a humanity story that was made into a documentary.
But let’s get back to the start.
Bishop was born in Victoria and also lived in NSW and Queensland where he finished high school.
He initially wanted to be a veterinarian and commenced university studies before changing to, and completing, an agricultural science degree.
Working for Meat and Livestock Australia, including visiting Fletchers which played a part in his moving to Albany in later years, he relocated to Washington DC with the organisation.
He was then offered a job in Sacramento, California and along with wife Amy, moved west.
“When I moved to the US I was aware that footy was played in places but I had no idea what to expect,” Bishop said.
“I had played club footy since I was young and I always had a footy or cricket bat/ball in my hands from very early on.
“So when I turned up to my first training session in Washington DC, I was blown away to find out there was a competition involving teams from north-eastern cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and North Carolina.
“Full games of footy would only be played against one or more of these teams on a monthly basis.
“In the meantime your local team would be split up into smaller teams to play Metro Footy. This is essentially what AFLX is modelled on.”
A highlight was Bishop coaching a representative side in 2006 that won the Division Two at the National Titles in Las Vegas, commentated by Dipper and Peter Schwab.
Bishop said an exciting aspect of the Nationals was the numerous AFL identities that visited and were fantastic in making themselves available.
Visitors included, Mark Thompson, Kevin Sheedy, Steven Silvagni, Dermott Brereton, Jobe Watson and Nick Riewoldt to name a few.
After moving to Sacramento, Bishop coached the Golden Gate team in 2010-11 and began coaching the USA men’s team in 2009, holding that role until the completion
Bishop also became close with AFL legend Paul Roos, who is married to an American and spent a year in San Diego after finishing his playing career.
Roos coached the first USA men’s team and is credited with growing the popularity of footy in the US when it was in its infancy.
Bishop also assisted in the AFL Combines, to identify athletic talent with potential to play AFL and met those that were successful such as Shae McNamara and Mason Cox (Collingwood), Jason Holmes (St Kilda) and Eric Wallace (North Melbourne).
These events were also attended by several AFL Recruiters such as Stephen Silvagni, Gavin Wright and Jason Cripps.
Bishop returned to Australia in 2017, by then he had two young children and did not want to commit to educating them in the US system.
“And we weren’t ready to endure the Trump regime,” he added.
Bishop’s role covers everything from Auskick, juniors through to senior football, coach and umpire development, league and club support through to working with Local and State governments on facilities.
Bishop said the most exciting development is the interest in female football.
“There is no doubt that female footy is going to explode throughout WA in the short to medium term,” he said.
“In some ways WA is behind the eastern states in this area but it will catch up very fast.
“The GSFLW was very successful in 2020, prior to covid, and the opportunity to establish competitions for girls of all ages is there for the taking.”