The association’s leading wicket-taker says leaving Wodonga remains one of his greatest sporting regrets.
Byron Hales is now a Bulldogs’ stalwart, but played a handful of games at Wodonga Raiders, Tallangatta and Eskdale, when he was playing football at Mitta United.
“I suppose when you’re a young lad and you probably haven’t matured as much and you probably haven’t experienced life, you make a few decisions without thinking through them or talking to people,” he said.
“That was definitely a regret looking back on it now, I probably didn’t handle it the way I would have handled things now.”
Following his time away, Hales became a permanent member of the team in 2010-11.
He’s played in three premierships, including his match-winning 5-29 from 28 miserly overs against Lavington at Tallangatta.
“After the grand final last season, winning the Gary Williamson Medal and Tim Williamson (Gary’s son) presenting that to me, it was a pretty special moment to share with him, he was my first A grade captain,” Hales said.
“Little things like that can put it to bed, but, definitely, I still feel like I owe them something for the way it all unfolded at the time.”
Hales’ grandfather George Priestly was great friends with likeable Wodonga life member Gary Williamson, who passed away in 2009, while he also played alongside another son in Steve.
The 30-year old has been one of the league’s most consistent performers in the past three years, snaring a superb 79 wickets at only 14.58.
He has 16 this season, two ahead of Lavington’s Will Heriot and Matt Jaensch, of Belvoir.
“I don’t have a particular standout reason, but I’m not as heavy as previous years,” he said.
“I’ve played anywhere between 105 and 108 kilograms, but I’m now 98, so I definitely feel the difference.
“Having kids (Jagger and Elsie) and changing eating habits has made a difference, instead of dinner at eight o’clock at night, we’re eating with the kids now at 5.30 and that’s definitely played a role in trimming up.”
Wodonga is still unbeaten after nine rounds, with five wins, two ties against Tallangatta, as well as the two washouts, including last week.
The Bulldogs are away on Saturday to Albury, which has just the one win and must start winning immediately, with enormous pressure on star batsmen Alex Popko and Kade Brown.
“If we let them off with any chances that in previous weeks have gone down, we haven’t been up to scratch with our fielding, they’ll cash in I would think,” he said.