RIVERINA FOOTBALL LEAGUE
FOR MANGOPLAH-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes coach Nathon Irvin, it has been a long time between drinks.
Irvin has enjoyed a decorated playing career that has expanded 25 years of senior football and he hopes it can finish exactly the way it started at Narrandera Sportsground on Sunday.
Irvin was just a 17-year-old schoolboy when he was part of the Goannas' team that beat North Wagga by 52 points at Robertson Oval to claim the 1990 Farrer League premiership.
Not long afterwards, Irvin was drafted to the Sydney Swans and started a career that would take him across different parts of the country.
Irvin went on to enjoy a successful football career but one thing he was unable to add to was the premiership collection.
Irvin's career has now turned the full circle and on Sunday at 41-years of age he will be out to finish on the same note as it all started - a premiership with MCUE.
Irvin admits to having little recollection of the day the Goannas turned the tables on North Wagga.
"We'd lost the semi-final to them by about 60 points then won to get into the grand final," Irvin recalled.
"We ended up turning it around and beating North Wagga, who was coached by Dick Carey, by 50-odd points.
"The thing I remember was being s--- scared as a 17-year-old.
"It felt to me like footy was a lot more brutal back then.
"It felt as though you could get your head knocked off and they would let you know that too.
"From what I remember and have been told, I had a pretty good game and got drafted not long after that to the Swans."
The closest Irvin has been to a second premiership was the 1998 South Australian National Football League (SANFL) grand final in front of 45,000 people.
Irvin was part of the Sturt side that went down by nine points to Port Adelaide in a decider where he played the game out with a broken jaw.
Irvin has had to wait 16 years for another opportunity and he gets to do it at his home club where his father played.
"I don't know how I'd feel if we lose on the weekend," he said.
"I'll certainly be pretty disappointed, but that's footy.
"If we win it then it becomes the perfect story and that would be fantastic."
Regardless of the result, Irvin is glad he has been able to return to where it all started at MCUE.
MCUE has all three football teams through to the grand final, plus A grade and A reserve netball so Irvin is thrilled to see the club in such strong shape.
"Three years ago I kind of wasn't looking to go coach footy," he said.
"The only reason was I wanted to help Mango.
"It was going to be non-playing, I felt too old to be playing but the club was second bottom I think and I just didn't like seeing it.
"I wanted to see the club successful and while it's been a three-year process, it's played out how I had hoped to now."
Irvin will finish his three-year coaching tenure on Sunday regardless of the result.
He never likes to officially announce things like retirement but admits the only games he plays after Sunday are likely to be 'super rules'.
Position: MCUE coach
Juniors to 1990: MCUE
1991-93: Sydney Swans
2002-05: Wagga Tigers
2009: Wagga Tigers