Bamford’s true definition of club loyalty

May 04, 2018

Bamford (centre) celebrates a magical goal in 2008.

Bamford (right) embraces Andrew Doxey after a win against Seymour in 2012.

Craig Bamford will pass the Euroa games record mark this weekend, taking the honour from club president Scott Watson.

Commitment is a complex word, but no-one in country football embodies its definition quite like Euroa legend Craig Bamford.

Twenty-three years after his debut, Bamford equalled the Euroa senior games record of 365, level with club president Scott Watson.

With his next game — this weekend against Echuca should he get through training unscathed — he will pass Watson’s mark and move to second all-time in Goulburn Valley League games, behind Rochester’s 400-game legend Anthony ‘‘Tank’’ McPhee.

Watson — simply thrilled to pass over the record — said Melbourne-based Bamford’s desire to return to his home club and play every weekend spoke to his great love of the Magpies.

‘‘Craig’s a Euroa boy born and bred,’’ Watson said.

‘‘He’s been located in Melbourne since finishing Year 12 and travelled back for 20 years, which is amazing.

‘‘We speak about commitment in country football — Craig has no peer at all in that regard.

‘‘I remember trying to calculate it for his 350th game; 350 games multiplied by 300km minimum for a round trip and that’s not including any training, it’s just amazing commitment to the club.’’

Bamford made his senior debut in 1995, but after leaving Euroa in 1997 for university has never let his connection with the club fade.

‘‘He drew alongside my record last weekend, but I still consider myself a blow-in to Euroa,’’ Watson said.

‘‘To have Craig Bamford take over that mantle means the world to me, to be able to pass the baton on to someone Euroa born and bred.’’

Bamford brings plenty of experience to a young side, but is certainly not being gifted games, his full-on fitness regime helping him stay in tip-top shape.

He really has no excuse to not be just that, running gyms in his role as fitness and aquatics co-ordinator at Melbourne University Sport.

‘‘I had the pleasure of playing alongside him and coaching him in the under-18s in the mid-1990s,’’ Watson said.

‘‘His fitness is unbelievable, he’s still right at the front of the pack in our time trials.

‘‘His strength and conditioning over 20 years has gone to another level, early on he was a pretty skinny kid and now he’s a beast.

‘‘He loves his basketball and that helps him handle the ball well and shift it around quickly.

‘‘There wouldn’t be too many games where he hasn’t kicked a goal, he could have 800 or 900 goals as a small forward.’’

Bamford was part of Euroa’s 2005 grand final side, kicking two goals in the first five minutes against Seymour before the Lions would steal an 11-point victory, his only trip to the decider.

Dropping down to play reserves last season, the forward starred in nine matches, kicking 17 goals and running second in the Abikhair Medal, just two votes back from the eventual winner.

In somewhat of a role-reversal, it is young JD Hayes who coaches the Magpies, with the wisdom of Bamford the perfect balance to help drive the emerging side forward.

‘‘The side we’ve got out there at the moment, if you added up the games of everyone else in the side last weekend he’d probably still have them all covered,’’ Watson said.

‘‘How many times would a 22-year-old playing coach like JD be able to run out there with someone bringing 365 games of experience?

‘‘It’s unbelievable and I know from a team perspective he brings coolness and calmness.

‘‘We had an under-18 player (Andrew Crosbie) debut last weekend; Craig has probably done more pre-seasons than he’s had years on this planet.’’

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