THE differences between the football journeys of Timboon Demons pair Paul Fowler and Andrew Blake become obvious soon after meeting them.
Fowler, 41, played a season each at Ecklin and Panmure before joining Timboon Saints and is still chasing his first premiership.
Blake, 30, was with Heytesbury Demons in his early days and has two flag medals to his name.
But it’s the similarities which say more about their character traits and value to the merged club, 52 kilometres from Warrnambool. Both are the heart and soul of the red-and-blue army, the kind of loyal footballers that bush clubs in towns with dwindling populations love.
Timboon Demons will celebrate the careers of Fowler and Blake when they take on Allansford at Allansford Recreation Reserve today.
Fowler, these days a reserves player, will line up for his 350th game for the club while Blake, a key defender in the seniors, reaches 200.
“I suppose when you look at it that way, it is a quiet achievement. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another game and we roll on,” Fowler said. “When I retire a few years down the track, that’s when I’ll go ‘geez, I did do all right to play that many games’.”
Fowler debuted 1989 and joined Timboon in 1991. He has played 190 senior games and 159 reserves games during an era of much change.
“Back in the early days you had to be a man to play footy,” he said.
“I’m not being rude but there doesn’t seem to be as much (physicality) out there, which I think is better for the kids coming through. If they’ve got the ability they can step up to senior footy and ply their trade and not worry about what’s coming over their shoulder.”
He and Blake were involved when Timboon and Heytesbury merged and entered the Warrnambool and District league in 2003.
Their recollections are the two clubs acknowledging the bigger picture and the benefits which would come from a merger.
“From where I sat, I was an ex-Timboon boy. I thought the transition was relatively smooth. I thought both parties had a say in what went on,” Fowler said.
Blake agreed, despite being initially reluctant to unite with a long-standing rival.
“There was always a big rivalry with Timboon. It was something you didn’t really want to do but once it all happened. It was second nature,” he said.
“We were all mates. It helped a bit that we all went to school together, I felt.”
Blake has played 155 games in the seniors and 44 in the reserves. He is the second-oldest in the seniors, behind Dean Whitehead. His first flag came when Heytesbury won the Heytesbury-Mount Noorat league flag in 2002, the last year of the now-defunct league.
The second was in 2008 when a talent-laden squad outlasted Kolora-Noorat in a history-making WDFNL league grand final.
“It’s something you look back on and think you’ve had some pretty good times and some downs. The good times outweigh the downs, that’s for sure,” he said.