The trend in football at all levels continues to move away from players staying at the one club for their whole career.
But Merrigum’s Dave Matthews is one of the old breed, choosing to remain at the same club through the hard times that eventually led to a jubilant premiership in 2015.
Lining up against Undera on Saturday the star midfielder will bring up his 200th senior game as he nears 300 club matches.
Aside from a brief moment when Matthews considered a change of scenery, the Kyabram resident has remained tied to the blue, red and white.
‘‘I did a pre-season at Kyabram once just to try something different and I think I played one game and I thought Merrigum is where I belong,’’ Matthews said.
Matthews, 33, has experienced almost all of what footy can throw at a player.
From missing the equivalent of two full seasons due to a reconstruction on each shoulder, to enjoying early premiership success and then enduring the long wait between drinks.
During his 65 Kyabram District Football League under-18 games, Matthews won consecutive premierships in 2002-03, captaining the latter.
‘‘We finished with two premierships and I was thinking footy was easy, how good was this?,’’ he said.
‘‘Then I played my first full year of seniors and barely won a game and this continued for the next few years and I learnt footy was a bit more tough.’’
But the same group kept returning with its bond as mates too strong.
Matthews has played nearly all his football with Greg Sullivan who brought up the 200-game milestone in 2016 and is close friends with coach Steve Lawlor.
As a result it was easy to stick tight through the losses.
‘‘A good bunch of mates kept us going and we didn’t think too much about the winning side, but more about playing footy and having a beer with your mates,’’ Matthews said.
‘‘I couldn’t put a number on it, but there’s a good group of us from thirds days still playing, it’s good to see people stick around because people don’t tend to in this day and age.
‘‘After footy we’ll still be good mates regardless, it has just made us stronger mates because we know each other outside of football and have gone through careers together as well as going through a few mates’ milestones in the last few years.’’
In 2015 Matthews finally held another premiership cup aloft when the Bulldogs defeated Stanhope in the grand final, but this time he knew the hard work that went into earning a flag.
‘‘I think we appreciated it a bit more because we lost the one the year before (to Nagambie), so we appreciated winning one that way, I’d rather do it that way and lose one before winning one rather than the other way around,’’ he said.
‘‘Just experience as a group (helped us improve in 2015), I think we knew how to handle the pressure a bit more and not overcomplicate things.’’
Matthews has not lost his pace with age and earned the right to represent the Kyabram District Football League.
‘‘I played interleague last year which was a good achievement, I never thought I’d get a chance being over 30, but it was a good bunch of guys,’’ he said.
The Bulldogs are tracking along well this year and Matthews will continue to savour every moment.
‘‘I’ve been retiring for the last three years, so I might possibly go around for another year, but I’ll be looking forward to easing back and playing golf,’’ he said.
‘‘At the start of the year in pre-season it was looking a long shot to get a win because we were struggling for numbers.
‘‘But watching the young blokes come through makes you seem old, but you appreciate all the wins because it could be your last.’’
Rushworth v Nagambie
Nagambie is on the hunt for five consecutive victories having beaten Ardmona, Violet Town, Avenel and Longwood recently, leaving it in fantastic shape to meet Rushworth.
Having trounced Longwood by 84 points, the Lakers experienced the complete opposite feeling to the Tigers last week who went down by 124 points to Undera.
Managing just three goals, Rushworth will have aims to go beyond that as the reigning premiers start to hit their straps.
But Tim Varigos and Jacob Thorne were each handy in their first game for the Tigers, so may have an element of surprise against their opponents.
Longwood v Stanhope
Nick Brown is celebrating small wins at Longwood as the side gradually starts making inroads this season.
Last week marked Nagambie kicking its smallest score against the Redlegs in a while and this week they will be aiming to hold their head high against Stanhope.
Players who stand up in this game are those that will continue to lead the rebuild after Brad Dowell, Braydon Kearns and Michael Robb put in commendable performances last week.
But the Lions have a well-rounded side that is unlikely to let through six goals as the Lakers did.
League representatives James Fraser and Daniel Flynn were sensational last week and are set to cause problems for Longwood.
Avenel v Ardmona
Ardmona scored its first goal in four rounds against Violet Town last weekend.
That major came in the second term with only another two scoring shots coming the Cats’ way.
Avenel will prove just as tough as the Towners as Ardmona looks to avoid losing its fifth consecutive game by a margin of more than 300 points.
But the standard has been set by those Kyabram District Football League teams before them and the Swans have aims to rebound following a tough game against Stanhope.
Cael McCarthy played his 100th senior game last week for Avenel and the forward will be looking to walk away from game number 101 with a handy haul.
Dookie United v Violet Town
Dookie United did not have the ideal start against Lancaster last week, but pushed through that to gain an important win.
United stayed in the match for its entirety and never dropped its guard, not allowng the Wombats back in and that mentality could result in a big margin against Violet Town.
The Towners were able to gain an easy victory against Ardmona last weeked, but will struggle to counteract United.
While Sean Horsburgh’s side boasts good midfielders they will have their work cut out for them with Will Patone receiving first use of the ball from Matt Crooks.
Brad Cunningham and Ash Hobbs each kicked 10 goals last week, but combining for four goals would make a big difference on Saturday.
Murchison-Toolamba v Tallygaroopna
Murchison-Toolamba gathered an impressive win last week against Girgarre and the challenge does not come much bigger than Saturday.
After Lancaster's defeat, Tallygaroopna remains the only undefeated side in Kyabram District Football League and will be aiming to stay that way.
But Murchison-Toolamba's key players combined in spectacular fashion last week with James Milne, Jamie Jones, Alex Wells and Ashton Cashion putting in the hard yards.
The foursome will be up against a side that never has one player stand up every week, but rather rotates through them.
Tim Belford, Kane Handley and Stuart McFarlane were all particularly handy last week, while former Goulburn Valley League star Clint Edwards continues to hold his own.
Lancaster v Girgarre
Lancaster and Girgarre held their positions towards the top of the ladder early before hitting a more difficult patch of matches.
The Wombats lost just their first game of the season last week going down to Dookie United although with only 10 points the margin the Wombats were not far behind.
They still played well, but just could not convert chances early and will be looking to clean that up against Girgarre.
The Kangaroos lost their first game since round one last week by going down to Murchison-Toolamba although Luke Whykes and Mick Marrett performed admirably.
Given the Kangaroos have beaten tougher opposition than the Grasshoppers this season they will be keen to show their worth against Lancaster.