HANGING UP THE BOOTS: After his final home game Lismore Swan's reserve player Shawn Holland is chaired off the ground. Holland will play his final game for his beloved team on August 10.
HANGING UP THE BOOTS: After his final home game Lismore Swan's reserve player Shawn Holland is chaired off the ground. Holland will play his final game for his beloved team on August 10. Supplied

After 600 games in 40 years stalwart hangs up his boots

AFTER a career spanning 40 years, nearly 600 games and three states, one of the Northern Rivers' most passionate Aussie Rules players is about to hang up his boots.

Lismore Swans player Shawn 'Dutchie' Holland, 49, said he's feeling "pretty emotional" about his final ever game against the Tweed Tigers at Pottsville on Saturday.

Particularly after he was cheered off the ground by opponents Ballina and his fellow Swans after his last home game at Oakes Oval last week.

"I almost teared up when (Jason) Ross the coach of Ballina made a speech," he said.

Ahead of his final game at Seabreeze Oval on August 10, Holland who has been a stalwart of the red and white club on and off the field in playing, administration and umpiring roles since 2004, said his heart is still in the game but his body is feeling the mileage.

The nuggety midfielder who started out as a rover and forward pocket, before "getting a bit wiser and shifting to half-back," said recovery takes longer at his age.

"After my last home game at Oakes Oval on the weekend the only part of me that doesn't hurt is my left foot," he said with a laugh.

"When the whistle blows on my final game I'll be very emotional, happy and sad.

"Sad it's all over, sad my body is failing me but happy I have had such a great time playing with the Lismore Swans."

Holland has been a passionate fan of Aussie Rules since he started playing as a youngster in Victoria.

"I was six and played for Thomastown in my age group and then would often play with my two older brothers in their teams as well," he said.

"There was no Aus Kick, then, we just got out and played, then when we moved to Preston I played with the Roosters."

Holland said when he was 23 he took off for the opal fields of South Australia for nine years, where the only Aussie Rules he played were in the sporadic matches with the locals.

"In the mining community Mintabie we had a couple of matches as there were lots of ex-footballers from Victoria and South Australia," he said.

"We played the talented local indigenous communities on red dirt and they played barefoot."

Looking back, Holland estimates he's played well over 500 games and is getting up close to 600.

Known for his accurate kicking and delivery, he said he's always sought to not just enjoy himself on the field but also pass on knowledge to younger players coming through.

Just as his beloved AFL team the Essendon Football Club did with long-time defender Dusty Fletcher, he said.

While quick to point out the world of difference between the Premiership Bomber player and his own level, Holland said he was aware of passing on the knowledge to youngsters coming through.

"Part of our coach Joey Mitchell's directive to me was to guide the younger players and give them instruction, pass on skills and knowledge" he said.

"As many of them have come from other sports soccer, union or league."

For Holland, footy has always been and will continue to be "a massive passion."

"I'd like to stick around on the committee and into the future look at some kind of coaching role," he said.

"I hate running unless I have a football in my hand."

"When I first came up here in 2004 I did not know there was AFL here, then I happened to drive past Mortimer Oval and I was so happy to see them playing, I felt I was home," he said.

"Before picking up a whistle I was always a bit vocal towards umpires, now I aim to communicate with players, not simply hand out 50m penalties."



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