BALL-WINNING midfielder Xavier Mills remembers the first time he bellowed the North Warrnambool Eagles’ winning song.
The victory over Port Fairy, which he shared with his brother, was the result of almost two years of successive losing in senior football and marked the end of a 50-game club losing streak.
Mills’ loyalty to the Eagles’ cause has paid off.
Almost a decade on, he is set to become just the third player in Eagles history to reach the 200-game mark this weekend.
The 31-year-old said the playing group enjoyed a strong sense of camaraderie.
“A lot of the guys who are now approaching the 200 or 150 game mark have all been there through the hard times,” Mills said.
“Everyone is closer because of it and when you spend time down the bottom of the ladder it makes a bit of success more special.
“With (the milestone), you don’t really think about it until it’s here.
“But to think you’re only the third at the club to reach 200 games, it’s something pretty special.”
The father-of-three, who spent one season at Allansford in 2015, said his ultimate goal was to win a premiership with the Eagles after falling to Koroit in last year’s decider.
“Everyone plays to play in a premiership” Mills said.
“We have guys like Jye Bidmade who played in one with Panmure and you can see even how much it means to him.
“I’ve sat on the hill and watched a lot of grand finals, thinking “jeez, I’d love to be out there’. Last year was a great experience.
“Now, we’ve had the experience of playing on the big stage, with the big crowd, at the big ground.
“It’s hard not to look around to see the crowd and all of that. It’s a bit awe-inspiring.”
Mills said a spread of leaders at the Bushfield club meant veterans weren’t left to guide the way.
“We’re a lot younger than we were last year. I think we have eight different players to last year’s grand final side,” he said.
“Everybody is a leader out here. “I’ve been playing on the wing this year and I’ve been trying to help out a few of the younger guys.”