250 games later, it?s still just a game for ?JP
By DARREN MONCRIEFF SOME blokes just don't know when to give up. But when you're on a good thing, why would you want to?
That's the dilemma facing evergreen Byron Magpies utility John Porritt, who will play his 250th game for the club he joined as a spritely 20-year-old waaaay back in 1992.
The Magpies host Casino Lions at Shultz Oval, Bangalow, today in Round 8 of the Summerland Australian Football League (SAFL), a week after pushing league pacesetters Ballina to within 22 points.
Porritt tried giving the game away ? twice ? but was cajoled into kicking on and is back lacing up his moulded soles for another season with the black-and-whites.
In a one-club career that's spanned 15 years, Porritt has been the Magpies' club president, coach, captain, best-and-fairest winner and a leading goalkicker. He has also played representative football for the SAFL.
The key to Porritt's longevity, it seems, lies in his genuinely enjoying the game. He also has an unconventional pre-game 'warm-up' routine that is more at home at the local watering hole than on the footy field ? sinking one or two lights.
"We play in the SAFL, not the AFL, so you have to enjoy the game by having a kick and beer or two afterwards," he said. "I've always enjoyed playing footy but you see some teams going to 'war' over a game, which is silly.
"The milestone doesn't mean a huge amount to me at the moment. I just want to play in another grand final.
"Eight (premierships) is not enough! I mean, I'm happy I got there (250 games) but footy's more of a team game than an individual one. I've made some great friends and have a lot of good memories here."
Success came early for Porritt, with the Magpies winning three flags in succession from 1992.
He has played in 10 of the club's 12 grand finals and has shared in eight Magpies premierships.
But the year 2000 was the ultimate.
"We went through that season undefeated and won the flag. I was the playing coach and it was just the perfect year," he said.
Club president George Pike said it was blokes like Porritt who embodied what country footy clubs were all about.
"With JP, it's one of the those things you can't put a price on," Pike said. "It's invaluable to have someone like him around. He's taken on those positions within the club when no-one else would.
"He's never been reported or sent off in a game. And in this league, it is rare that players have played this long considering how transient the population (in our region) is."
The Magpies are in a rebuilding phase this season. They have missed the past couple of grand finals but have a new coach and several youngsters breathing new life into the club.
A premiership in his twilight would be the perfect send-off for Porritt.
"The beauty about the SAFL is that you can hit your straps two or three games out from the finals," he said. "Success is only just around the corner."
In the other game today, Nimbin Demons host Ballina at the Nimbin Showground in another test for the hinterland club.
Despite a 208-point loss to Lismore Swans last Saturday, the Demons showed patches of competitiveness but will need to pull out all stops if they're going to be any chance of an upset.
Both games start at 2pm.