Sanford Wheeler (previously known as Matthew Wheeler) (6 April 1970 – 10 March 2020) was an Australian rules football player for the Sydney Swans.
He is notable as being the first African-American born player in the history of the AFL and one of few players from the United States to play in the Australian Football League.
Matthew Wheeler migrated with his Australian father and African-American mother to Sydney, New South Wales at the age of 5. As a teenager, he began to take an interest in Aussie Rules and played his junior football for the Parramatta Aussie Rules club.
Recruited by the Sydney Swans as a rookie using their zone allocation, the athletic long haired Wheeler frequently exhibited some dash and flair off the wing and as a rugged rebounding defender off the half back flank. His quick run and hard tackling were trademarks of his game. However his disposal skills let him down and he had a tendency to get caught holding the ball.
Midway through his career, he changed his first name by Deed poll to "Sanford".
Up to 1993, he had played 36 games and kicked 6 goals during the Swans' darkest era.
After a serious knee injury and being used sparingly by coach Ron Barassi, he was delisted after the 1994 season as part of a shake up of the Swans list.
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