ONLY the most loyal players in the league reach a milestone of 200 games for their local club, such as Northern Jets defender Ben Prentice.
Prentice, renowned for his competitive spirit and aggression, hopes to celebrate his legacy of 200 games for the Northern Jets on Saturday with a win against Collingullie Glenfield Park.
In 1997, his debut season, he experienced a bitter grand final defeat against The Rock.
The defeat equipped him with a great sense of determination; a drive to play to his potential each week.
While he enjoys on-field success as much as any sportsman, ultimately the relationships he has developed are the most poignant achievement of his footballing career.
Prentice, 35, draws great satisfaction from mentoring young players.
“I try my best to look after the younger, smaller fellas, keep an eye out for them,” Prentice said.
Growing up in Ariah Park, AFL was the natural choice for Prentice.
“In these sort of towns it’s what you do on the weekends, I love the community spirit of the game, how it brings everyone together,” he said.
Long serving Northern Jets committee member Terry Walker said Prentice’s reliability, work ethic and physicality has earned him the respect of his teammates.
“The boys rally behind him,” Walker said.
Walker remembers Prentice was a “hot-headed” player in his early years with the club, and though he has mellowed out he has retained that competitive streak.
“He’s always hard at it; the opposition is very aware of him,” Walker said.
Prentice’s investment in the club has not gone unnoticed.
“There have been times when he could have quite easily given it away; you don't see enough of that loyalty in small clubs these days,” Walker said.
Prentice has been in the running for the best and fairest each season, consistently making the top five, and voted as runner up in 2014.
Each game is crucial to Prentice, who considers last week’s victory against Temora last week as a career highlight.
“We’ve got a new-look side this season, so It was nice to beat a top side and get the ball rolling,” he said.
He enjoys the responsibility of playing in the back line.
“You’re in the spotlight, if you muck up you pay for it a bit more than the forwards,” Prentice said.
Prentice admits he’s nearing the end of his sporting career, but he’s aiming to reach another milestone before he hangs up the boots.
From 2003-2007 he moved to Victoria and played 80 games, so he would play a total of 300 senior AFL games before he retires.
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