The league has been handed a potential Wangaratta-centric blockbuster start to next year with Daine Porter set to claim the Pies’ games record after ending his retirement.
The two Wangaratta teams are favourites to grab the spotlight early after confirmation of former Wodonga Raiders’ coach Daryn Cresswell’s stunning move to Wangaratta Rovers.
Porter retired after the Pies’ upset flag against Albury in 2017, citing family commitments after travelling for a decade from Melbourne.
However, he relocated home shortly after the decider in his role as a teacher.
The three-time best and fairest joined Tarrawingee, where he won the best and fairest, as well as best on ground in the club’s premiership.
But the urge to return to his junior club proved too strong.
“When I retired, my life situation was different, living in Melbourne, travelling back here,” he said.
“I really did miss playing at ‘Wang’, I played there the last 15 years or more so I was really keen to get back in there.”
Porter admits after clocking up around 100,000kms in travel from Melbourne, the short trip out to Tarrawingee made a difference to his football.
“Yeah, I think it did because I was able to train with the group all the time,” he said.
“I got a bit of continuity with the football rather than the one session a week in Melbourne with a smaller group.
“I haven’t been able to do that at the Maggies for 10 years.”
Porter, who turns 33 in April, has battled a degenerative knee complaint for most of his career.
“If it’s still holding up, I might as well squeeze one more out if I can,” he said.
I really did miss playing at ‘Wang’, I played there the last 15 years or more so I was really keen to get back in there.Daine Porter
Porter has played 264 games, just one short of Brett Keir’s games record.
The long-time midfielder, who played forward for much of his last year at the Pies, will therefore look to break the record in round two.
North Albury’s Dan Leslie broke Hopper Stan Sargeant’s record (289) in last season’s corresponding round, adding excitement to the club’s strong recruiting campaign.
In fact, Porter will become the third player in the past two seasons to claim a games record after Yarrawonga’s Xavier Leslie passed Ken “Pascoe” Ellis’s mark (265).
But the modest Porter says the record wasn’t behind his return.
“No, not really mate, obviously it would be a big one if I can chalk up two more games, but I was keen to get back,” he said.
While next year’s draw hasn’t been released, the prospect of Rovers hosting Raiders in a season-opening grudge match, followed by Porter’s record, would provide a tremendous buzz.
It would come on the back of the league naming its Team of the Century and Team of the Past 25 Years in football, as well as netball’s best outfit, in early March.
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