THE unmistakable presence of Jason Mifsud provided an added fascination to what was already an intriguing clash between Panmure and Merrivale.
At age 41, Mifsud was making a much-anticipated comeback, having played his last game in the VAFA for Beaumaris in 2009.
His last game in the south-west was in 2005, the end of a decorated career that included coaching a premiership at Koroit in 2003 and winning a Maskell Medal in 1997.
Misfud, the AFL’s community engagement officer, has joined former Koroit premiership teammate and now coach of Panmure Simon O’Keefe at the Bulldogs.
Mifsud lined up in the Panmure forward line on Saturday and was a handy contributor in a busy first quarter.
His influence on the game was restricted when he suffered a hamstring strain early in the second quarter.
Mifsud returned to the field in the second half and hopes to play enough games to qualify for a finals campaign with the Bulldogs.
“It is the first time in 15 years I have played without being the coach,” Mifsud said.
“It was great to drive into the ground and see the netball playing and the cars parked around the ground. It reminded me just how important country footy is.
“As soon as you pull the boots back on you realise how incredible footy is and I loved playing again. It was great to be involved in such a big game.”
Mifsud was full of praise for the standard of the game, commenting on the skills and discipline of his teammates, with particular credit for O’Keefe. “With Tocka (O’Keefe) you know what you get: a very competitive, well-drilled team,” he said.
“He has the respect of everyone and he has the team playing an uncomplicated but very efficient brand of footy where everyone knows their role.”
While the connection with O’Keefe made Mifsud feel at home, there was also a link to Caramut, the team he coached to the 1994 premiership.
In that premiership year, Mifsud’s chairman of selectors was Trevor White, the father of Panmure key forward Tom.