IT is perhaps fitting Matthew Wines will carry some battle wounds on to the field for his 150th Hampden league game tomorrow against Cobden.
Last Saturday the North Warrnambool Eagles onballer was left needing seven stitches above his eye after his team’s 70-point loss to Warrnambool.
Since the Eagles came into the competition in 1997, there have been few better warriors than Wines, who week after week for 149 games has put his body on the line.
Wines made his debut as a skinny 17-year-old under Leigh McCluskey at a time when the Eagles were struggling to be competitive.
McCluskey kept faith with the group of youngsters at the club and the arrival of David Haynes in 2011 gave the club the marquee player it was looking for to complete building a team capable of playing finals.
After 107 games of senior football Wines played his first post-season game for the Eagles in the 2011 elimination final, which the Eagles lost to Terang Mortlake by two points. Since then the Eagles have played in finals in 2012 and 2013, with Wines’ finals games tally now up to seven, with two preliminary finals in the list.
While those outside the club doubted if the Eagles would ever emerge, Wines said he was always sure of the path the club was taking.
“It was pretty hard losing all the time but I never doubted we would get there in the end,” he said.
“It was always just a matter of getting that experience into us and getting a bit stronger and mature.
“We were all good mates on the field and also outside of footy so that made it easy to keep everyone together in those tough times.”
It is not only friendships that have created such a strong tie to the Eagles for the 26-year-old, with his family also heavily involved.
His teammates in the senior team include his brothers Adam, 21, an exciting forward, and Luke, 18, who is making his mark after coming up through the junior ranks.
The boys’ father Ken Wines is also a highly-respected football figure in the region, having played more than 250 games with Koroit and a premiership player for Northern Districts, the club which spawned the Eagles.
Ken was also a star performer for Hampden at interleague level and Matthew is hoping to emulate his father and get a game for the Bottle Greens.
He is in the interleague squad and his form to start 2014 indicates he will be a chance to make the selected team this time around.
First though, Wines will help his team try to get back on the winner’s list tomorrow as it hosts an unbeaten Cobden line-up.
“We have had to change our style of play a bit after losing some big forwards from last year,” he said.
“We have to concentrate and lift our eyes a bit more going forward so we make sure we hit up our moving targets.”