CALGARY, AB — Every young lacrosse player dreams of one day being drafted into the National Lacrosse League.
For many, that dream falls short. But for Matt Symes, that dream came true on Sept. 26 when the Calgary Roughnecks drafted him with the 21st overall selection.
“It was honestly a dream come true,” admitted Symes. “It was one of the closest teams to my hometown and it was a team that I wanted to go to.”
Joining Symes in Calgary will be Maple Ridge Burrards teammates Spencer Evans and Frankie Scigliano. Also, he will be reunited with Burrards head coach Rob Williams, who is now the defensive coach with the Roughnecks.
“I know a few of the guys on the team, so it’s where I’ll feel welcome right away and I’m excited about that,” said Symes.
“It helps me transition into the NLL and going to camp, it’ll help me be relaxed and ready to go. I won’t have to worry about it and it’ll be a huge help for me.”
Prior to being drafted, Symes spent three years playing for Whittier College and one season with Maple Ridge of the Western Lacrosse Association.
With the Poets, Symes scored 61 goals and 13 assists in 36 games played from 2013 to 2016. After finishing up his third season with Whittier, the attackman made the jump from field lacrosse to box lacrosse as he made the Burrards roster in his rookie season.
Over 13 games in the regular season, Symes netted 11 goals and 11 assists for the Ridge. He added another 11 points (8g, 3a) in the playoffs, helping the Burrards win the WLA Championship and earn a spot in the Mann Cup.
Although Maple Ridge fell to the Six Nations Chiefs in the Mann Cup, Symes was able to suit up for three games, where he scored a goal and got invaluable experience.
“It was huge to be honest,” Symes noted. “Besides the Mann cup, the year was a huge year for me. Just because of the guys I was playing with, moving from junior to senior. I learned so much from my teammates, especially the offensive guys who are already in the NLL.
“Obviously the Mann Cup was huge exposure for me. I don’t know where I would have landed in the draft without it. That was huge, I was able to play against some really amazing players on the Six Nations team, which allowed me to prove myself and get that experience that I’ll need to do well in the NLL.”
Learning from players like Ben McIntosh, Dan Taylor and Riley Loewen was big for the youngster, but now he’s going to get the opportunity to play with some players he’s looked up to for years.
Specifically, Curtis ‘Superman’ Dickson.
“Curtis Dickson is a player that I’ve looked up to for a long time,” said Symes. “To be able to play with him, practice with him, just to know who he is and learn from him, I’m very excited.
“Guy’s like Wesley Berg, I’ve played lacrosse and hockey with him since childhood. I’m excited to play with him. Robbie coached me one year in junior, so being able to keep learning from him and maybe even get to play with him.”
With star players in place, the Roughnecks are looking for some young players to come in and play in complementary roles on the offence. That’s where Symes can help.
“I would say that I’m the guy that’s not afraid to get into gritty corner battles,” explained Symes. “I like to shoot the ball, but I love that stuff, I love the grinding and being in the dirty areas.”
But playing alongside the talented Roughnecks’ forwards is not guaranteed.
Sykes will have to battle other rookies and veterans for a spot on the roster. With training camp only a couple of weeks out, Symes has been working hard to make sure he is ready to go after a long summer season.
“Hitting the wall a lot, trying to get out to the box as much as I can,” said Symes. “Going to the gym and trying to get physically prepared for training camp and trying to get back into shape after the end of the WLA season.”