Wodonga Raiders’ favourite son Mark Doolan will celebrate his 200th game away to Yarrawonga on Saturday.
The five-time best and fairest, who turns 33 on Monday, returned to the club this season after three years at Chiltern.
“It’s been challenging, I’m definitely not contributing to what I was when I was here before, but my role has obviously changed a bit,” he said.
Doolan was one of the finest midfielders during his initial 11-year stint.
He debuted in 2002, although he also spent a year at West Perth in 2008, where he broke his ankle.
Since his return, Doolan has either played forward or behind the ball in defence.
Raiders joined the O and M in 1989 and one of their league Hall of Famers says Doolan deserves to be rated in the club’s elite.
“I think it’s really his work ethic more than anything else,” Stephen Clarke said.
“He trains the way he plays mate, he just gets the best out of himself.
“He’s a real honest person and that’s how he plays.”
Doolan says the O and M changed enormously in his time away.
“Teams are starting to play a bit like the AFL, where they’re up and down the ground,” he said.
“No matter what position you are, even as a forward, you’re expected to defend to the half-back line basically and then when the ball comes back, you’ve got to be back in the forward 50.”
Doolan is Raiders’ veteran as the youthful outfit looks to claim a top three finish.
Remarkably, the club has used 39 players, with 19 of them aged 19 or under.
If the visitors can topple Yarrawonga, it would go some way to grabbing the double chance.
Both teams have made three changes, with the pacy Nick Lawless returning for his first senior game since injuring a knee.
Co-coach Chris Kennedy spoke recently about still experimenting in the run home.
“Yes and no, we’re getting close to our list,” he said.
“I think every game you probably don’t experiment as much, but you’re looking at different things all the time.”
One of those was starting former VFL player Brandon Symes on the bench.
“We’re mindful of getting him right, Lach (Howe) and Brandon, he’ll be playing a fair bit from the bench and getting more run in his legs,” Kennedy said.
It should be a crackerjack match and Raiders will also be determined to grab the win for Doolan, with the club producing a caricature of the popular number 12.
“My missus already says I don’t shave enough, they’ve done the ears a bit big, I think I look a bit like James Hird,” he laughed.