BY the time you’ve read this, chances are Justin Koschitzke and Adam Schneider have already left the icy winter waters of Port Phillip Bay and finished their traditional breakfast and swim together before a game.
They’ve done it for as long as they can remember, pretty much as soon as Schneider arrived at St Kilda, and will treat this morning’s outing in Brighton no differently to any other as the pair of veteran Saints warm up for their final-round clash against Fremantle.
The thing is, though, it is different.
It’s the last time they’ll do it.
As both prepare to play their 200th AFL match at Etihad Stadium this afternoon, Koschitzke will wrestle with a range of emotions as he also gets ready to call curtains on a career that all and sundry in the football world have had an opinion on since he was drafted.
For the Brocklesby-raised big man, it seems like only yesterday the Saints called his name out behind close friend Nick Riewoldt in the 2000 national draft.
But some 13 years, a Rising Star award and 247 goals later, it all comes to an end just as quickly as it began.
“It’s been a weird week,” Koschitkze admitted.
“I don’t know whether to celebrate playing 200 games or to start reflecting on that emptiness of retirement.
“It’s pretty cool and ironic me and ‘Schneids’ are playing 200 together.
“We started this little tradition for probably the last 100 games or so of going out for breakfast on game day together.
“Then we go down to the bay and make each other jump in.”
Schneider, meanwhile, wants to keep things as normal as possible.
Who can blame him?
In a day and age of meetings, warm-ups, rub-downs and then more meetings, footballers have become creatures of habit that are trained to the minute.
There is comfort in routine.
But the classy left-footer from Osborne, who plans to play on next year, can’t hide from the fact that today is one he won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
“It’s definitely something both of us will remember for the rest of our life,” Schneider said.
“You’re happy to play one game, let alone get the opportunity to play 200 of them.
“It is a huge honour.
“It will be something to look back on once you finish your career but not right now, right now, it’s just another game of footy.”
Despite growing up less than an hour down the road from each other, Koschitzke and Schneider never really had a great deal to do with the other until the latter was recruited by St Kilda at the end of 2007.
Sure, they knew of each other, and had your typical sporting battles at junior level, but Koschitzke is the first to admit they were rivals, more so than friends, in those formative years.
“Nothing really, other than playing footy and cricket against each other,” Koschitzke said when asked how much he had to do with Schneider as a junior.
“Then he went away to boarding school and was drafted to Sydney and that was sort of it.”
But things changed pretty quickly once Schneider was sent south in a deal alongside Sean Dempster that saw the two premiership Swans traded to St Kilda in the lead-up to the 2008 season.
“We hit it off pretty quick once he got to St Kilda,” Koschitzke said.
“He’s become one of my best mates.
“He’s one of the best people I know and a mate for life now.”
Schneider said he was naturally drawn to the likeable big man when he first arrived at Moorabbin.
“As you do in small country towns you hear of a lot of people, so I knew who he was,” Schneider said.
“We both grew up in the country and there’s not a hell of a lot of country boys playing at the same club.
“It was good to have that to lean on when I first got here.”
They’ve played more games at the highest level between them than the population of their home towns combined but neither has ever forgotten where they came from.
The opposite, in fact.
Koschitzke said he hoped he and Schneider had proven to future AFL hopefuls from the bush that anything was possible.
“It’s a good story for country people,” Koschitzke said.
“You don’t really need the facilities.
“It’s all about getting out there and enjoying your sport, whatever it is, and embracing the country town.
“If you grow up in the city you’ve got all the Auskick programs and all the age groups to go through and the private schools and the facilities and the good grounds but I think ‘Schneids’ and I are a pretty good example of a couple of bush kids who just love getting out with their mates and having a kick each week.
“We used to use the verandah posts as goal posts but we’ve still managed to live our dream.”
Schneider, who played in three senior Hume league premierships as a teenager, said those humble beginnings had undoubtedly helped him survive in the big time for so long.
“I think it might have helped fast-track my football playing against the bigger bodies,” Schneider said.
“Growing up in Osborne, I’d sometimes end up playing three games of footy in one day.
“You’d play and then back up again because we didn’t have enough players. But that’s just what you do in the country.
“I was just a kid that loved playing footy and that’s what I’m going to do on the weekend.”
After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?