By Kath Gannaway
To be honest … “I’m the bald guy with two shoulder straps” doesn’t narrow it down a lot when you’re looking at a photo of the Marysville Villains Veterans footy team.
Or, any other of the six Yarra Ranges veterans teams that kicked off the season on Saturday, 8 April.
Marysville went down by 100 points to the Bloods in a match that saw Healesville field a veterans’ team for the first time in 16 years.
The Villains rose from the ashes of the Black Saturday bushfires and remain the town’s only football team.
It’s hardly a level playing field and they did it tough with injuries including a knee, shoulder, broken rib and fractured collarbone.
Healesville has only once been out of first division and has a pool of former players to draw on, some barely out of the league record books.
The Villains’ recruiting area includes Alexandra, Thornton and of course Marysville, with a lot of their players coming into competition football for the first time as veterans.
Why do they do it?
Healesville playing coach Dean de Munk didn’t have to think too hard.
“Basically, you’re satisfying an addiction to football,” he said.
Is it sensible?
He hesitated a bit on that one. The average age of players is around 40.
“Probably not. You pull up just as sore as senior footy, but you get two weeks to recover and by the time two weeks comes around … is it sensible? That’s a good question.”
Marysville playing coach Brodie Arnott is third youngest in his team at 38.
“The rest are old boys,” he says.
His ‘Why” is pretty much the same.
“I just love the game,” he said. “I’ll play for as long as I can.”
Keeping fit, doing a few laps and playing with mates you grew up with are all drivers for veterans footy, and for the Bloods, it’s also about supporting the senior football off the field.
Arnott says he tries to keep it fun for his boys.
“We don’t have the senior teams and don’t have the winning cultures of clubs that come from that,” he said.
“I still rev them up at half time … ‘play to win’ and all that, but we’re not too disappointed when we get flogged every week.
“They’re a good bunch of mates.”
Both clubs are looking strong in terms of numbers. Healesville’s into the high 20s at training and it’s the first time in four years that Marysville has had a full team on the ground … with players to spare.
The Villains will be living up to their moto “Never Give In”, when they meet the Bloods again at Marysville’s Trevor Harrow Oval towards the end of the year.
And praying for rain.
Arnott said the season starter was called off six minutes into the last quarter when lightening started getting bad.
“I would have been happy to keep playing,” he said.
“The rain slows them down a bit.”
2017 Veterans Clubs are Healesville, Marysville, Wandin, Mount Evelyn, Emerald and North Croydon.