SOUTH Mildura Sporting Club (SMSC) veteran Hayden Cook says getting to his 300th club game this weekend is an “absolute privilege”.
Cook says it was “ending up at a training session in 2002 and never leaving” that has seen his longevity and loyalty to SMSC span almost 20 years.
“There were a few connections between South and my previous club at Loxton North,” Cook said.
“Through those networks, I ended up at a South training session and never left.
“Very few of the original players are still around but Denny Fox, who I played with then and over the years, is pulling the boots back on to take the field this weekend with me.”
After eight seasons with Loxton North, Cook made the permanent move to Mildura in 2002 and the rest is history.
“I have played 16 or 17 seasons in the seniors, and am into my fourth season in the reserves,” he says.
“We played in a few finals over the years, but didn’t have any luck with winning a flag in the seniors.
“But in 2018, it was great to get hold of an unexpected premiership in the reserves.
“I’ve had a great football journey at South Mildura and luckily I have had very few injuries.”
When it comes to memories that stick in his mind, Cook says breaking the South Mildura senior club record tops the list.
“It was a real honour to play the game where I broke the South Mildura senior club record,” he recalls.
“It was my 224th game, we lost by seven points against Mildura at Mildura but it was a special game nonetheless.
“I’m sure this record will get broken by some of the younger players coming through, like Dom Scullino, who has been playing senior football from an early age. It will be great for the club to have some more milestone players.”
But Cook admits not all of his football memories are pleasant.
“I have had many inspirational coaches over the years at South, probably 10 or so,” he says.
“But Tony Berry was the toughest.
“I remember we lost a game over at No.1 Oval. I don’t even think it was by much, but he made us train for an hour afterwards in the dark over at No. 3 Oval – I’m sure we won the following week,” he said with a laugh.
Cook says the aim was now to play next season with his son.
“I would like to think that I could possibly play with my son next year but we will see how things unfold,” he said.
“Otherwise, I will enjoy to continue to be involved with the club after I finish playing and help out with the juniors.
“It’s good to be involved in a sporting community – there are many families that we have become very close to over the years.
“All of the kids grew up together around the club and now the kids are involved playing and it’s enjoyable watching them develop their love for sport.
“It’s been a privilege to be able to play all these games and I’m looking forward to playing my 300th at home.”
Story and photos courtesy of Sunraysia Daily