IT could all have been so different had it not been for a few stern words from St Patrick’s stalwart Chris Wighton.
Heath Naughton had arrived in Albury from Barooga in 1997 to play football for the Tigers and soon found himself working with Border business Wighton Hire.
But there was a catch.
“I guess I wanted a change of lifestyle and came here to play footy, but I happened to start work at Wighton Hire with Chris Wighton who was president of St Pat’s at the time,” Naughton said.
“He just said you wouldn’t be playing for New City, who were playing at the Albury Sportsground, you will be playing for St Pat’s.
“That was pretty much it.
“I knew the Arendarcikas boys a bit and met my wife Narelle who was the canteen lady back then and I haven’t left the place.”
Thank goodness, say the Patties.
Naughton has played in two first-grade flags, taken 365 wickets at a staggering average of 16.13 and will captain St Patrick’s for the 100th time in today’s preliminary final against East Albury at Alexandra Park.
“I have played for a fair few different footy clubs, but only the one cricket club here,” he said.
“I have loved it.
“It’s been great playing with people like Kane Arendarcikas, Dean Carroll and Furzey (Cameron Furze) and then the young breed coming through like Braedon (Hensel) and those sort of blokes.
“Why would you want to leave?
“Above the shoulders is going all right, but below the shoulders is slowly letting me down. I haven’t got that much left in me, but when I do give it away I’ll still be around the club.”
Naughton played in first-grade premierships in 2003-04 and 2010-11 during his time at Xavier Oval and would dearly love another.
But that won’t come easy with the Crows, Wodonga and Lavington still in the race.
The Patties failed to fire with the bat against Lavington last weekend and Naughton said they would need more runs to get over East Albury.
“We will need to bring our best game,” he said.
“Our top order let themselves down last week and they are eager to make up for that.
“East Albury finished on top and is going to be hard to beat.”