COLIN Hetherington remembers a time when South Rovers’ first clubrooms started with “a couple of railway huts from Dennington”.
Hetherington played 248 games in an era when handballing was rare and just seven sides played in the competition.
Six decades on, Hetherington, 79, is one of the most renowned people at the Walter Oval club.
He made his debut as a 20-year-old in the early 1950s and has been ever-present since — as president, a committeeman, goal umpire, barman and handyman.
The Warrnambool and District league recognised his unwavering commitment this week, awarding him the Logie Watson Memorial award for volunteer of the year.
Hetherington said the award was an honour.
“This is quite overwhelming because there are a lot of volunteers at each and every one of these clubs,” he said at the J. A. Esam Medal night on Monday. “To get picked out of all of them, it’s a great honour. I thank the club for nominating me.
“Russell (Gleeson) from Merrivale came up to me yesterday and said ‘I’ve been nominated for that too but I’ve got another 25 years to catch you’.”
Hetherington said he followed his brother Gus to South Rovers and soon earned a game in the ruck.
He also had stints at South Warrnambool and Warrnambool but always found himself drawn back to the Lions.
“There was no junior footy then, no reserve footy,” he said. “There were only seven clubs in the league going back then.
“It wasn’t very hard to get a game, especially for a bloke like me who had a bit of height in the ruck.”
His family was also involved in the club, a legacy that continues to this day.
His son Philip played football in the 1980s, while his granddaughter, Sarah, played in the 15 and under netball side this season.
Hetherington said the pace of football had been the biggest change since his time on the ground.
“There’s a lot more handball to start with. I think it’s better. It’s a faster game now,” he said. “When I played it was mostly mark and kick. You only handballed if you got in trouble.
“But now they come out of the backline handballing, which was a no-no in my day.”