NICOLE Dwyer is a rare commodity. In an era where involvement in team sports is often measured by success and selfishness, Dwyer breaks the mould.
The 34-year-old today notches up her 250th A grade game with Port Fairy, earning her life membership of the Hampden Football Netball League.
While Dwyer is proud to reach the milestone, the fact she has achieved it at the one club means more to her.
The Seagulls coach grew up on a property at Bessiebelle and discovered at an early age the meaning of loyalty.
Her father Anthony played 610 games of footy with Bessiebelle, he held all sorts of voluntary positions including president. Her mother Bev played and coached netball for years and she too worked behind the scenes in a number of roles, including secretary.
In her 15th season with Port Fairy, Dwyer is yet to win a premiership with the club.
This year her young side is anchored at the bottom of ladder but the fiercely competitive Dwyer said there was more to a career than wins.
“I would have loved to have had more success at Port Fairy,” she said.
“But before I came to Port Fairy I had played a lot of netball and enjoyed success. You get selected in different sides, you get the taste of success playing in rep sides whether it was with Glenelg, South West Spirit or the Hampden league.”
Dwyer said the closest she had come to a premiership with the Seagulls was in her first year, 1998, when Port Fairy, coached by her mother, was beaten in the grand final by Warrnambool.
“I would have loved to win a flag at Port Fairy,” she said.
“I know I do question why I have stuck it out for so long but it comes back to my grass roots and what I was brought up with. You see your mother and father sticking it out for years at the one club. If a town provides me with somewhere to live, a job and a sense of community, I need to give something back.
“I feel I owe it to the town and club to stick around. If we all had the attitude of running when you are getting beaten what would happen? I’m trying to instil that in juniors now because it is a different generation.
“You have to take the good and the bad. It happens at every club. There is no point running when something bad happens.
“You are going to upset someone. I’ve been upset before over the years but you just have to get over it.
“To win 10 or 15 flags, which is what some people can say they have done at Warrnambool or Koroit, at least I have stuck through thick and thin. Probably a lot of people wouldn’t have stayed.”
Dwyer becomes the first Port Fairy netballer to play 250 A grade games solely with the club. Rachel Pevitt was the first Seagull to reach the milestone but she started her career at North Warrnambool. Dwyer joins her husband Dean who played 250 senior football games with the club in a career underpinned by loyalty.
Dwyer described herself as being “a little bit” obsessed with netball and loves the game she grew up with.
“I was a bit of a tomboy as a kid. Back at Bessiebelle there were only so many kids and things to do.
“After the game the boys would have to come and have a throw around of the netball and the girls would have a kick of the footy.”
She started in the under 15s at Bessiebelle and played her first A grade game at 14.
She won two South West District league best and fairests, one in the under 17s and the other in A grade where she won the first of two senior premierships in her 20-year career. She also played in the same side as her mother Bev and sister Sharni — an experience she treasures.
“It’s not every day you get to play with your family ... there wasn’t any arguing with the umpire, there were arguments between teammates, mother and two daughters,” she laughed.
Bessiebelle went into recess and during year 12 studies at Hamilton’s Monivae College she played with Hamilton Imperials in the Western Border league, winning a club best and fairest award.
The following year she moved to Melbourne to study but her mother, appointed coach at Heywood, lured her back each weekend to play.
In 1996 she won the Western Border league best and fairest, a club best and fairest and more importantly, the premiership — the first by a Victorian-based club.
After two seasons at Heywood, the long drives home and to matches as far away as Millicent took their toll.
With Bev taking on Port Fairy’s coaching position in 1998, she made the trip back up the highway on Saturdays, being part of the Seagulls’ runner-up year and starting an enduring relationship with the club. In 2000 she moved to Port Fairy.
“I’ve just enjoyed every minute. You want to bottle those moments.”