WHEN St Kilda’s Justin Koschitzke played his 200th and final AFL game last month, his football season wasn’t over just yet.
He still had his beloved Brocklesby-Burrumbuttock Saints to worry about.
Born and bred in Brocklesby, Justin’s allegiance with his old club is not just about the friends and family who will be taking to the field for tomorrow’s grand final against Holbrook at Walbundrie, it’s about the football legacy of the Koschitzke family and the hope of Brocklesby winning a grand final for the first time in 55 years.
When Justin’s great-grandfather moved to Brocklesby from Warracknabeal in 1921, joining the local football team wasn’t about getting off farm or keeping fit, with a name like Koschitzke it was considered a good way to fit into a new community.
And fit in he did.
In the past 90 years, the senior side has seldom been without a Koschitzke and of the 20 life memberships ever given by the club, a quarter of them were to Koschitzkes.
The legacy is bittersweet with Justin.
His brother Jarod and father Greg (having played more than 400 senior games for the club combined) never tasted the sweet victory of a grand final win.
Justin remembers his own football hardships but he doesn’t want this win for himself.
He wants it for his family and community.
“When I was growing up it was such a lean patch for the club,” Justin said.
“We’d be lucky to win one game a year.
“The finals at Walbundrie were just a few kilometres down the road but it felt so far.
“It was such an unachievable goal.”
Greg, his brother Ron, and cousin David Koschitzke all played in Brocklesby’s last grand final in 1984 when they lost to Henty by 20 points despite having been up by 22 at three-quarter-time.
“It takes so much passion to keep the club alive during those rough years, all those old farmers who held the joint together for so long, I want this win for them,” Justin says.
It was Justin’s grandfather Bill and great-uncle Maurice who played the last time Brocklesby won a grand final in 1958 and they’ll all be there on Saturday to cheer on the now amalgamated Brocklesby-Burrumbuttock Saints.
It is in regard to the past players that Justin finds another similarity between his childhood club and St Kilda.
“All these old blokes, they’re just desperate for another win so they can pass on the cup,” he said.
“St Kilda last won a premiership in 1966 and they’re sick of going to club functions and being the last premiership side.”
Justin recalls the disappointment of St Kilda legend Kevin “Cowboy” Neale after the St Kilda-Collingwood grand final rematch in 2010.
“Neil was selected to present the trophy at the end of the game and he reckons not being able to do so was the biggest disappointment of his entire football life.
“My family are the same, they just want to pass on the pride.”
There has been one reminder of Justin’s frustration in the Hume league which has dogged him several times a week for the past six years — Adam Schnieder.
His former St Kilda teammate and Osborne junior had a vastly different experience in the league.
They both played roughly the same number of senior games for their home clubs before being drafted but, while Justin only ever won two games, Adam won almost every single one including three premierships.
“‘Schneids’ has the Osborne tiger tattooed on his rump, so when he wasn’t rubbing it in verbally, at least four times a week in the showers after training there it was, his backside would still be taunting me,” he laughs.
Justin’s recent retirement and his homecoming for the grand final has fuelled his passion for country football and he’s sentimental about a potential future role.
“I do want to play more footy and I’m not sure when, but I absolutely want to run out on to the Brocklesby ground again and play with the club,” he said.
Justin and his two brothers last played football together as part of the under-14 side and to this day it’s one of those games which holds pride of place in his footy memories.
Justin’s youngest brother Ryan has spina bifida and could never run well but when playing together on their home ground, Justin handballed the ball to Ryan in the goal square and he kicked a goal.
“I’ll never forget it,” he says.
“It was fantastic.”
Work commitments with Volvo in Melbourne next year mean Justin’s unable to commit to a team for the entire season, “but I do want to play”, he says.
“I’m just not sure how many games.”
This weekend however, all eyes will be on Mitchell Koschitzke, the present ambassador on the field for the family, and son of Saints’ president Steve Koschitzke.
“Steve and Dad had such decorated careers with the club,” Justin says.
“I just want this so much for them.”
If you are at the game tomorrow and you happen to see one of several dozen tall Saints supporters with dark eyes and a look of stoic dedication, chances are you’re looking at a “Kosi”.