by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
If Matt Peck ever asks you to play footy, be sure not to confuse it with footsie.
He is not flirting.
The Australian student-athlete is talking about the sport of Australian Rules Football...a sport he used to play and "absolutely misses" since moving to Canada three years ago, enrolling at Lakeland College and suiting up for the Rustlers in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference men's volleyball.
"It (Australian Rules Football) was a tradition to play it in high school," said Peck, a native of Melbourne. "I don't know why it hasn't caught on elsewhere. In Canada it is too cold to play and in the (USA) they are too obsessed with American football (NFL)."
Peck was also an outstanding cricket player growing up.
"I played a lot of cricket when I was younger," recalls Peck, who was an opening batsman. "I was pretty good at it but around 15, I started to focus on volleyball."
Part of that focus was sparked by two former Melbourne volleyball players - Paul Sanderson and Luke Reynolds – who had played U Sports volleyball for the University of Brandon Bobcats.
"They went to the same high school as I did but they were six years ahead of me. During the Canadian summer they would come back to Melbourne and help coach. They talked about the team environment at Brandon and told me that there was a chance for me to possibly be on a team in Canada. A team that was even closer as a group to that of my high school team."
Following high school graduation, Peck attended Greater Melbourne Volleyball Academy, "where we trained every day for six months," with the goal of one day "playing overseas" and attending a post-secondary school.
"I sent out about 40 emails and video of myself playing out to Canada schools to see and Lakeland gave me the best offer," said Peck, who had on his resume, being a member of Australia's National Junior Volleyball team and later playing men's club volleyball "Where the standard was really good.".
"I had decided in Grade 8 that this is what I wanted to do...to come to Canada. When it happened with an offer from my (Lakeland) coach (Austin Dyer), it was one of the happiest days in my life."
It would later become one of the coldest days in his life.
"I knew absolutely nothing about Lloydminster. I knew it was a smallish town compared to Melbourne. I did not do much research on the weather but being Canada, I knew it would snow.
"Looking back...I came blind into it. It was cool experience to start and then it got scary when it got to negative 40 my first year at Christmas, which was not much fun."
Things did heat up on the court for Peck as in his first year (2016-2017) at the libero position, he appeared in 24 matches 81 sets while recording 160 digs.
The following season (2017-2018), he would move to the outside where he notched a team high 176 kills, 17 aces and 190 digs in 24 matches and 90 sets.
Standing 6-feet even (1.82 metres), with a running vertical touch of 10 foot 7 inches (3.26 metres), Peck was accustomed to switching positions.
"I played left side until I was 16 and when I made my first Australian Junior National team I was put in as a libero. When I was recruited by Lakeland, I played libero my first year.
"Last year our coach wanted to put our other international, Abner Jean Carlo Funez Raudales, who was on the Honduras Under 21 team, on the court as the libero and I was switched back to the outside. I started hitting again. Hitting is much more fun."
Peck said his future dream is to "Work in a finance department for a sporting team," adding that he is, "Toying about staying in Canada. My life is here now. It is tough not being home but I think I will have a good life over here."