THIRTY-three points down, early in the final quarter of last year’s elimination final, Ryan Richardson needed a miracle.
And thanks largely to Al Whitsed, the Kiewa-Sandy Creek coach got one.
The Hawks, who were gone for all money in that game, went on to beat Barnawartha by four points to begin what became their now famous run to the premiership from fifth spot on the ladder.
And while there were numerous contributors in that unthinkable revival against the Tigers, Richardson, who kicked six goals himself that day, said contributors came no bigger than Whitsed.
The likeable tall will play his 200th match for the Hawks at Yackandandah on Saturday.
“He’s one of the most humble blokes going around,” Richardson said yesterday.
“He was a big reason why we won that elimination final, in my opinion.
“He had six or seven shots in that last quarter and his will to get everyone over the line was just unreal.
“He never complains and has been a huge part of the club over the journey.”
While Whitsed’s place in Hawk folklore is no doubt secured for years to come, you can be sure of one thing, Whitsed won’t be the one writing the glowing tributes at the end of his own stellar career.
Not that the end of that career is coming any time soon, according to the utility, 33.
“I wouldn’t say I was the most skilled player or anything,” Whitsed said.
“I guess I’d like to think I’ve been fairly consistent.
“I’ve probably been lucky in that I’m tall.
“It naturally makes you versatile and able to play forward, back or in the middle.”
And while he’s seemingly done it all in his stellar 11-year career with the Hawks, Whitsed said the reason was simple why he intended to play on next year.
“I’ve got no reason to stop,” Whitsed, who left Ovens and Murray power Albury in 2001, said.
“My dad played until he was 37.
“My brother, who is 37, is still playing in Bendigo now, too.
“He’ll probably keep going for a while so I better as well.
“I’ve been pretty lucky with injury but I don’t think I’ll catch him.”
Whitsed, who coincidentally also played his 100th match for the Hawks against the Roos, said plenty had changed in the Tallangatta league since he joined the competition.
Whitsed played three senior games for the Tigers before joining Kiewa-Sandy Creek.
“The speed of it, mainly,” Whitsed said.
“I think there’s a bit more of an O and M influence.
“The game style has changed.
“It’s not as scrappy as it once was.”
Whitsed, who also tasted premiership success with the Hawks under Simon Bone in 2008, said he was hoping to make it third time lucky this year.
The Hawks sit on top of the ladder after 13 rounds.
“Things are going pretty well,” Whitsed said.
“We don’t seem to have too many injuries this year and are playing some good footy.”