Lavington's Matt Pendergast and his father Wayne create history on Saturday, becoming the first father-son combination to play 300 games apiece in the Ovens and Murray Football League. The Border Mail's ANDREW MOIR caught up with the pair.
AM:Well done Matty, what's it mean to you?
MP: It's an honour to be in the company of the 300 club, the motivation has been there for a while with the old man playing it, it's good the in-house competition to get there, it's very humbling.
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WP: It's fantastic for the young bloke to come along and follow in my footsteps, it's a huge honour.
AM: Wayne, what role have you played in Matt's career?
WP: I cleaned his boots all the time (Matt laughs). We dragged him out of bed, it was half past seven start every Saturday and it was good, when he got there, he played his footy and was full on.
AM: And Matty, what about dad's influence?
MP: Your earliest memories are always around the footy club, I remember he used to say, 'in the warm-ups, be careful, the ball will hit you' and it hit me every week (laughs). I've got good friends through his friendships as well, Kade Stevens and a few others at Lavington that started at Lavi Little League in the day. Dad, as well as mum (Jenny died in August, 2005), had a lot of influence on getting me there and getting me involved, but it was always going to be footy. I dabbled a bit in basketball too, I remember it came to a point at 16, they said, I've got to make a decision and I loved the basketball and I said, 'I liked the basketball' and dad said, 'wrong decision', so I started playing football properly.
AM: So what are the similarities/differences in the way you played?
WP: Matt's got a bit more skill than I had, we sort of run the same, he's a bit of a ball magnet, I had to work hard to get it.
AM: Wayne, you were known for your toughness, how do you explain that?
WP: In my day there were a lot of tough blokes around so had to either step aside or join them and that's the way it was.
AM: What advice did dad give you?
MP: My earliest memories are just to have a real crack. I remember the white line fever he used to get and it generated through in your preparation. It was pretty serious from Friday night on here, we'd have our pasta meal, you'd go into combat mode in a way and I probably got that from dad and mum, definitely fire you up in the mornings and get you ready for the game. I used to love the beginnings of games and watching dad, seeing them fire up, especially Lavington, a proud club with a lot of good and tough footballers, including himself, you'd hope to mirror them a little bit.
AM: I reckon when you broke your leg 16 months ago Matty, you would have given yourself no chance of making 300?
MP: I didn't think this occasion would happen, to be honest. It really rocked my life, there's worse things going on, but my life was pretty tough at the time. You go from having a really good run to being rock bottom, so to achieve this and playing at the level again makes me proud, but very relieved as well.
AM: How tough was it?
MP: Rehab's a lonely world as a lot of people experience. You go through the horrors of thinking you are not going to be the same in life again, not just football, it beats you around mentally and physically, but after Christmas, giving it a good rest, I saw a little bit of hope and lucky enough 'Lavi' has given me the opportunity to play a few games and where it goes, I don't know.
AM: How nervous were you when you came back this year?
MP: The first couple of seconds (reserves) games was probably the most nervous I've been for a long time playing footy. You don't realise how many people fall around your feet now I've had an injury like that. But once the ball is bounced you forget about it and go for it. It's a long way back, I'll never be the same, but the end's near and I've just got to make every post a winner.
AM: I take it you plan to finish the year?
MP: I hope to, probably playing 'Wang' on the weekend was a real leveller for myself to see. I'm probably off the pace physically, so I've just got to try and get fit if the body allows it. The next couple of weeks will tell a story, if I'm not up to it, I'll put my hand up and say someone else will have a go.
AM: You would do that?
MP: Yeah for sure, the game on the weekend made me realise that it's still quick and you can't play at that level doing minimum work. I'm hopeful, but we'll get this weekend out of the way and see how I go.
AM: Who is the best team you've played against?
MP: Unfortunately in the era we've played, especially the last 10 years, we've played 'Yarra' and Albury, elite clubs, elite footballers coming through. You've got to admire the culture of the places to sustain it for that long. Being Lavington, I hate everyone on the day, but I've made some really good friends on my journey as well.
AM: What about your best opponents?
MP: You talk about Craig Ednie, Brad Murray, Joel Mackie when you can go head to head, but I've been tagged a lot as well, so you get Danny Cohen, Joel O'Connell and Clint Eckhardt back in the day, I used to cop a fair bit of grief off those boys.
AM: To be able to play to your age (37 next month), you obviously have great support from your wife Aleisha and the three children?
MP: Aleisha's great, we've been together 20 years and married since 2005. You need that love and support, in life in general, but also with the footy. We're a tight-knit family and I couldn't ask for any more.
AM: Your grandparents (John and Betty Pendergast) have also hardly missed a game.
MP: They're your greatest supporters. My grandfather was pretty upset last year when I broke down, he thought I'd probably play until I was 50. Football's big in our family, it's conditioned all our lives and hopefully made us into better people. They wouldn't miss it for the world, he (grandfather) was really disappointed I was playing out at Rennie for a couple of years, he got the s@!#s with me really and said, 'I'm not coming', but he eventually came and watched.
AM: You won him over?
MP: Yeah, but Lavington's his club, he'll watch there until he can't watch anymore. They're passionate 'Lavi' and they're passionate family people, that's for sure.
AM: And Wayne, your parents also watched you play.
WP: When I left Wodonga, he said, 'I'm not following you', but I made the move and he wandered over and followed me.
AM: Will it be an emotional day?
WP: Yeah it will. It's a pity mum won't be around to see it, it's not to be.
AM: And Matty, your mum certainly played a massive role in your footy career didn't she?
MP: Yeah she did, she was my biggest supporter, everyone knew mum was at the footy and she'd be into our players, the opposition and the umpires (laughs). I know Jacob Mollison still talks about it, he's an AFL umpire now, but you knew when mum was around, she was the number one supporter. Nobody was going to hurt her boys, including my brother (Guy). Back in the day I've seen her jump the fence and get right into it. Mum was a passionate lady, I miss her a lot and this is what drives it and motivation. I'll go down to the cemetery and draw motivation from that and try to be the best to make her proud.
Everyone knew mum was at the footy and she'd be into our players, the opposition and the umpires (laughs). She was the number one supporter. Nobody was going to hurt her boys, including my brother (Guy). Back in the day I've seen her jump the fence and get right into it. Mum was a passionate lady, I miss her a lot and this is what drives it and motivation. I'll go down to the cemetery and draw motivation from that and try to be the best to make her proud.Matt Pendergast