A versatile player, Pavlich is widely regarded as one of the premier AFL centre half-forwards of the modern era, achieving All-Australian selection six times in the years between 2002 and 2008, twice representing Australia in the International Rules Series and representing the Dream Team in the 2008 Hall of Fame Tribute Match.
Pavlich has played his AFL entire career at Fremantle where he is a six time best and fairest winner, eight time leading goal kicker and was the club captain between 2007 and 2015. He is the first and only player from a Western Australian-based club to play over 300 AFL games. Born in South Australia, he made his AFL debut in 2000 and wears guernsey number 29.
Pavlich was born in Adelaide, South Australia, grew up supporting his home town AFL team Adelaide Football Club and is a fifth generation Australian. His mother is of Scottish and German descent and father Steve is of Scottish, Irish and Croatian descent. Steve played along with Matthew's two uncles at the West Torrens Football Club, coached at junior and reserve level, and was made a life member of the club in 1980.
Pavlich was recruited by Fremantle with the fourth selection in the 1999 AFL national draft. Pavlich had nominated for the 1998 draft, but was overlooked by all clubs. Most notably the Adelaide Crows instead drafted 17-year-old Ken McGregor who went on to play 158 games between 1999 to 2008, and cross town rival Port Adelaide who instead chose 17-year-old Adam Morgan who played only 3 games between 2002 to 2003 for Port.
Pavlich warming up prior to a game during the 2006 AFL Season
With the 2001 AFL season and the WAFL starting earlier than normal due to the 2000 Summer Olympics later that year in Sydney, Pavlich only played one game for South Fremantle in the Westar Rules before making his AFL debut in round 5 2000 against Melbourne. Pavlich achieved the rare feat of kicking 2 goals with his first 2 kicks in the AFL. He went on to play the remaining 18 games for the season, earning himself a Rising star nomination in Round 17 while contributing consistently and finished ninth in the club's best and fairest award.
The 2001 Season saw Pavlich spend more time in the Forward line. He managed to underline his potential with some eye catching performances including two 4-goal hauls against the Brisbane Lions which earned him 2 brownlow votes, the first of his career. Pavlich went on to play 21 games for the season, finishing with a respectable 28 goals. In an otherwise disappointing season for Fremantle, Pavlich was the shining light as he started to realise his true potential.
2002 was the season that would set up Matthew Pavlich for the rest of his career. In a widely unexpected move, new Fremantle coach Chris Connolly moved Pavlich into a defensive role. Playing against some of the power forwards of the competition, Pavlich underlined his versatility and talent as a footballer, as he displayed a smooth transition into the role. He showed the uncanny ability of shutting down opponents, while gathering plenty of possession and setting up play further up the ground. This saw him earn his first All-Australian selection at fullback at the age of 20.
Pavlich flies high for a mark against Melbourne in 2008
In the 2003 season he was again called upon to play a different role, Pavlich was this time thrust into a midfield role, while also pushing up to half forward. This allowed him to gather multiple possessions forward of centre and develop into a strong goal-kicking midfielder. Playing all 23 games for the season, including the club's first final, Pavlich finished off averaging 18.7 possessions per game, and executed his damaging midfield role perfectly with 37 goals. He was rewarded with a second selection in the All-Australian team for the 2003 season, this time named on the Half Forward Flank.
The 2005 season saw Pavlich moved to centre half forward, with Fremantle focusing on a taller forward structure. The move paid massive dividends for the team, as Pavlich topped Fremantle's list of goalkickers, with 61 goals for the season. He also took more marks than any other Docker and won his second Doig Medal as Fremantle's best and fairest player. In the 2005 Brownlow Medal count, Pavlich was tipped as a contender, but like Tredrea in 2004, the power forwards did not get the votes of the umpires and Pavlich finished equal ninth; receiving more votes than any other Fremantle player.
He has been selected in the All-Australian Teams six times: in 2002 (fullback), 2003 (half forward flank), 2005 (centre half forward), 2006 (interchange), 2007 (full forward) and 2008 (interchange). He was a member of the Australian International rules team in 2002 and 2003, and was a Rising Star nominee in 2000. On 13 December 2006 Pavlich was named the captain of the Fremantle Football Club, succeeding Peter Bell.
Matthew Pavlich kicks for goal during the AFL game between Fremantle Dockers and Geelong in 2010, which Fremantle won
Despite the additional burden of captaincy, Pavlich performed well throughout the 2007 season, leading an otherwise disappointing Fremantle side. He kicked a club record 72 goals, came second in the Coleman Medal and was named full-forward in the All-Australian team for 2007.
On 14 August 2007 Pavlich signed a new, 3-year contract with the Fremantle Football club, which ended speculation that he may join the Adelaide Crows or Port Adelaide. The contract is rumoured to be worth $2.5 million.
2009 saw Pavlich, under coach Mark Harvey, move into the midfield. He had a strong year averaging 21.7 disposals and leading the goal kicking for Fremantle with 28 goals from 19 games.
Pavlich spent 2010 rotating between the midfield and forward line, averaging 18.9 disposals and leading the goal kicking for the Dockers with 61 goals, helping his team make the finals for the first time since 2006.
Pavlich was forced back into the midfield for the 2011 season following a number of significant injuries to the Dockers. He had another successful year averaging 23.5 disposals and kicking 21 goals from 20 games. This saw Pav end the year with 9 Brownlow medal votes, the second highest for the Dockers and win his 6th club best & fairest, narrowly beating Nathan Fyfe.
In round 7 of the 2012 AFL season, Pavlich kicked his 500th career goal in a four-goal effort which lead his team to victory against Port Adelaide, becoming the first Fremantle player and the 51st player in VFL/AFL history to kick 500 goals. Following a permanent move to the forward line in the second half of the year, Pavlich kicked 55 goals in his final 13 games. Fremantle's late season resurgence was mirrored by his own form, the highlights being an 8-goal haul in the Round 19 Western Derby and 6 goals in an Elimination Final victory against reigning premiers Geelong at the MCG.
Pavlich had a frustrating start to 2013, playing the early games with injury, which eventually kept him out for 12 weeks.
However upon return Pavlich returned to good form, helping his team reach their first Grand Final in which he was the top scorer for Fremantle. Though poor kicking at goal from Pavlich and his team mates left Fremantle 15 points short of victory in what was their most successful year to date.
Pavlich married his long-time girlfriend Lauren O'Shannassy in December 2010. In March 2013, their daughter was born. During their arrival at the 2014 Brownlow Medal they announced that they were expecting a second child in February 2015.