One of Koroit’s favourite sons is showing no signs of slowing down on the eve of his 250th game.
Saints stalwart Joe McLaren, who turns 40 this year, is gearing up for a career-defining milestone against Hamilton Kangaroos on Saturday.
A former Koroit coach, McLaren also spent time at football’s pinnacle, playing 69 AFL games for St Kilda and North Melbourne.
He then suited up for South Fremantle in the West Australian Football League.
It’s pretty special. Not a lot of players have reached that mark at Koroit.
The dairy farmer said he was honoured to reach the milestone for his home club.
“It’s a pretty special moment, I suppose. Not a lot of players have reached that mark at Koroit,” McLaren said. “To reach that amount of games, on a personal note, is pretty pleasing.
“Koroit is where we play footy. I went away for a while, and I’ve been back 12 years now. It’s just where we play our footy.”
The 2005 Maskell medallist said his goal in the twilight of his career was simple.
“I’ve just been trying to do my role for the team and hope that we’re winning games of footy and contending for premierships,” McLaren said.
“Since I’ve been back, I’ve been lucky enough to play in five premierships.
“There are a lot of blokes here who I’ve played a lot of footy with, also, and that’s a major part for me.
“Going to training twice a week and playing alongside some good mates.”
McLaren believed Koroit was “thereabouts” in the race for finals but was wary of several big improvers.
He said South Warrnambool and Port Fairy were the teams to beat on the back of strong off-season recruiting.
“They’ve improved enormously. South have had another year under ‘Bucky’ (coach Mat Buck) and he’s got them going well,” he said.
Koroit coach – and the milestone man’s brother – Chris McLaren said Joe’s help and mentoring around the club was “second to none”.
“To have a former AFL player come back to your club and give the amount of service he gives us (is fantastic),” the coach said.
“He would’ve probably played over 400 games of senior footy if you add up all his games (at all his clubs).”
The brothers will have a chance to play against former Fremantle Docker Daniel Gilmore under lights on Saturday if he plays a one-off match for Hamilton Kangaroos. The three were teammates at South Fremantle in the WAFL.