The mind is willing. The body is, for the most part, holding up. But the knee is starting to say, ‘slow down’.
That’s how Timboon Demons stalwart Paul ‘Chook’ Fowler assesses the state of play heading into an incredible 400th game at the club this Saturday.
The reserves footballer has been a Demon since merger, and lined up for the Timboon Saints prior, following a one-year stint at Ecklin before it folded and another short stay at Panmure.
Racking up the milestones has become habit for Fowler, but the rare privilege of playing alongside his sons has made the latter stages of the lengthy career even sweeter.
“At this stage, it (the 400th) just feels like another game,” he said. “But I suppose when I retire, I’ll look back on it (fondly).
The big highlight has been playing with my sons.
“Probably the big highlight has been playing with my sons. With the 350th, I got to play with both my sons on the same day. That was a great achievement.”
On Saturday, Fowler’s elder son Cody, 20, is also set to celebrate a mini-milestone, playing his 50th reserves game, while 16-year-old Jordon could be a chance to also line up for the occasion.
Fowler describes himself as “one of the unlucky ones” on the premiership front.
Despite reaching his quadruple ton, he is yet to win a flag, though he has played in a few losing grand finals over the years.
He had intended to join the Saints earlier than he did, but detoured via Panmure, arriving at the old Timboon club a year after its senior and reserves sides both played grand finals, winning in the earlier timeslot.
“We cracked a couple of years of finals without going all the way,” Fowler said.
“I’ve never won a premiership, but played in a few grand finals.”
Fowler has been there through the strong years, and the lean years, and now after a quiet patch, he can sense the club is slowly building towards something special again.
“Hopefully this year or next we’re back in finals,” he said. “The young (footballers) – I believe they’re the heart of our club – they moved on to other things, like uni or Melbourne (for work).
“But we’ve had a few kids the last few years who’ve stuck around, and that’s made a difference.”
Demons vice-president and under 17.5 coach Brendan Hickey said Fowler had made a huge contribution to the club on and off the field.
“The 400 games is a great reward and and a great effort, but there’s probably a lot of other things he’s done behind the scnes that makes it a pretty all-round effort,” Hickey said.
“He’s coached the reserves for a couple of years, coached the under 14s for a couple of years – he’s runner for under 17s at the moment – he’s been on the committee, footy manager at one stage.
“He’s been fully involved at the club.
“He was a bit part, when the two clubs Timboon and Heytesbury merged, he certainly embraced the new club and he’s probably embraced it as well as anyone and made sure the two clubs coming together was as seamless as possible.”