Wangaratta Rovers’ captain Shane Gaston will play his 150th match against Corowa-Rutherglen on Saturday – 11 years after his debut.
Gaston’s career has been littered with season-ending injuries, including stress fractures in both legs and a stress fracture in his back in 2012, the year the Hawks went within a Barry Hall kick-after-the-siren of playing its first grand final in a decade.
He underwent hip surgery in the one year away from his home club at South Adelaide in 2010, and will play his first game this year against the Roos after a shoulder reconstruction.
The 28-year-old also carried osteitis pubis for a long time and while he didn’t miss any football, it severely restricted his output.
But he never considered retirement.
“You look around the lockers, with all the great names with 200 and 300 games, and you just wonder how they play those,” he said.
“But I’ll just keep on keeping on, see how far I’ll go.
“It’s definitely an honour to get 150 at such a great club.”
The ruckman has received a stack of offers over the years, from both district and Goulburn Valley outfits.
“But I always wanted to play at Rovers and get us to where we want to be, because it means more to you if you can get success,” he said.
“Anyone can travel out to any club, particularly Ovens and Murray players, and have a premiership so I see when players do that, it probably doesn’t mean as much to them, as if you go through the bad times.
“If you can get the good times, it’s obviously more rewarding.”
Gaston’s noble attitude is just one of the reasons he’s so highly respected at Rovers.
“He carried his shoulder through most of last season,” co-coach Sam Carpenter said.
Anyone can travel out to any club... and have a premiership so I see when players do that, it probably doesn’t mean as much to them, as if you go through the bad times.
“It’s good to get him back in as we’ve been missing his influence on games, that’s for sure.”
And the inspirational Rovers’ leader’s return coincides with the Hawks’ biggest game in five years.
The Hawks and Roos are winless after three rounds, and while both are coming off massive losses – Yarrawonga smashed Rovers by 137 points, while Albury produced a club-record 209-point hiding – there’s few who would rate Corowa-Rutherglen as favourites.
However, if it can cause an upset, at Rovers’ WJ Findlay Oval, it would cause enormous angst for the Hawks.
“It’s massive, it’s absolutely massive, they’ll be treating it as their grand final, and rightfully so should we,” Gaston said.
The Roos have lost 23 successive games, stretching back to round 17, 2015.
And as well as chasing their first win, Rovers will also have a double cause to celebrate, with the reliable Dale Martin playing his 100th game.