AS A FRESH-FACED 20-year-old, Julian Claridge didn’t immediately embrace the enormity of his first senior premiership.
Fast-forward a decade, and his role in South Rovers’ 2007 triumph is beginning to sink in.
The 30-year-old, who earned his stripes as a junior at Rovers, is set to play his 200th game for the Lions against Panmure on Saturday.
He’s been ever present since debuting in the club’s under 12s, barring a two-year stint at Hampden powerhouse South Warrnambool.
However, playing senior football at Walter Oval was always Claridge’s goal – and on the eve of his double ton milestone – it’s one he has well and truly achieved.
“I’ve always been a big believer in that you play footy where you enjoy playing,” Claridge told The Standard.
I’ve always been a big believer in that you play footy where you enjoy playing.Julian Claridge
“I’ve never had a reason to want to leave, it’s such a strong family club.”
Claridge, a half-back, highlighted the club’s 2007 premiership as his most precious memory in maroon, blue and gold.
“I was lucky enough to be a part of the ‘07 premiership and that’s probably the memory that stands out to me of my time here.
“But I was only 20-odd and I probably took it for granted a bit. Playing over the last 10 years, you learn to appreciate being involved in something like that.”
With South Rovers’ abundance of young talent, Claridge believes the group has the potential to be a force in years to come.
“They’ve either come back to the club, or they’ve decided to stick around,” he said.
“If we can get them to stay long term, hopefully we’ll be successful.
“We’re just wanting the young guys to improve at this stage. Premierships are why you play footy, but if it’s not this year, hopefully it’s next year or a couple of years down the track.”