PORT Fairy-based Murray Goulburn tanker driver Mark Phillips is on the road to celebrating his 300th club game with Dennington this Saturday.
The 35-year-old joined the Doggies from Port Fairy juniors when he thought the step-up from under 15s to under 18s was too big a jump.
Like so many others, he joined a footy club with a mate. In Phillips’ case he followed Chris Mahony to Dennington.
“I got off the bus at Dennington on the way home from school to Toolong and walked up to training,” he said.
I’ve been there ever since.”
He played under 17s in 1992, then under 18s in 1993 and 1994, lining up in a grand final.
Phillips made his senior debut on his 18th birthday in 1994 under coach Chris Stacey and trained with the senior side all year as Mahony, who was also playing seniors, provided the transport.
He said highlights had been few and far between in almost two decades at Dennington.
“There haven’t been any flags. There hasn’t been a real lot to write home about,” he said, explaining that all his family was originally playing elsewhere but had eventually followed him to Dennington.
Phillips has played 18 years straight with Dennington, only missing games with multiple rib injuries and a broken finger.
“I did step in a pot-hole one Folkie (Port Fairy Folk Festival) weekend, which kept me out for a while. But that wasn’t a football-related injury,” he laughed.
“You’ve just got to try and stop your midfield opponent and put the ball where the forwards can mark it.
“You’ve just got to try and be damaging, get clearances and keep your opponent quiet.”
Phillips also has an interesting take on training and his longevity in football.
“I work a lot of nights, which means I can’t go to training as much as the other blokes,” he said.
“I think that might have helped. I’m not putting the same amount of pressure on my body as them, but you have to keep moving.
“You go along just playing and all of a sudden there’s a milestone.
“It doesn’t feel like I’ve been there that long compared to everyone else.”
Phillips, a father of two, said the Dennington football club felt like a second home.
“You know the people out there and it feels like the team never changes,” he said.
“I love the joint. It’s my footy club.”
Phillips said he would have played at least half of his 300 club games in the seniors.
His most recent stint was in 2010 under playing coach Ben Parkinson.
Phillips is now captain of the Doggies reserves.
“We’re going all right. Hopefully we can get among the finals,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to catching up with a few of the old-timers on Saturday night for dinner. I’m hoping to catch up with a lot more of them at the reunion in July.”
Dennington will celebrate the club’s 60th anniversary in July after the club was reformed in 1952.