Honour boards around Victoria remain empty as even 100 senior games for one club has become a rare occurrence.
For Mulwala Football Netball Club this coming week marks a significant achievement, as a third player within 12 months plays their 200th senior game.
For Nathan Parker this was an achievement that had almost eluded him as he finished the 2015 season on 196 games after returning for one last shot at a premiership.
The failed finals campaign that year appeared to be his last as he called time on his decorated career.
Even as round 1 came and went in 2017, Parker was still unsure if he could make a comeback.
The defining moment came on a blustery April night when he shuffled out the door in a 15 year old Bulldogs jersey and joined the main group.
It took all of 15 minutes before he assumed the role he has played for the better part of 12 years, leading from the front and using his voice to demand the best of those around him.
He was back, just like a John Farnham farewell tour, not quite ready to sit idle in retirement.
As a junior Nathan showed enormous potential and after playing Fourths for Mulwala, he crossed the river for a year with Yarrawonga before joining the Murray Bushrangers for three years of footy in the elite Under 18 competition.
The full package, he dominated in the air and showed promise as both a key forward and backman. With an unbelievable set of hands, his marking prowess saw him make it all the way to the AFL reserves with games for Carlton back in 1998, staggering, considering that some of his current team mates were yet to be born.
After a trip to Perth for a year, Parker returned to country Victoria and spent a season with Shepparton United, famously kicking 12 goals straight as a full forward.
That may well have been his last time in the forward half as he started at Full Back the following week, and as been there ever since.
After a year with Yarrawonga in 2003, Parker returned to where it all began and has called Lonsdale Reserve home basically ever since.
At the end of 2007, as one era ended at Mulwala after four losing preliminary finals, a new one began under Parker as coach.
Current President and long term committee member David Rose said the choice for a new coach was simple.
“We knew that we were looking at a complete rebuild with half our team moving on, the only man for the job was Parks,” Rose said.
“In my time at Mulwala there has been no player or coach that has been so admired, liked and respected by his team mates.”
It’s a common sentiment with players coached by Parker who, eight years on, still speak glowingly about his time in charge.
Four time best and fairest winner Sean Robinson described the year he spent playing under Parker as his most enjoyable.
“It was easily my favourite year of football, the team improved every week and off the field we stuck tight as a group,” Robinson said.
Parker’s unique ability to build a player’s confidence yet demand nothing but their very best was the definition of a great coach.
His character and devotion to Mulwala Football was seen on a weekly basis when he would show up at Fourths training to help out or run water for the Thirds, he knew every junior by name and was responsible for many of them becoming senior players in the years that have followed.
At the end of two years as Senior coach, his choice to hand the job over yet remain as player and captain reflected his selfless attitude.
As a result Mulwala soared to the top of the ladder under Tim Hargreaves as a couple of recruits joined the promising group of younger players that had been developed in the previous years.
As a captain he retained the respect and admiration of every player, a voice of support with a quiet word or a dose of honesty when someone stepped out of line.
Standing at 6 feet 5 inches his size and strength was, and still is, a formidable force; not content with spoiling to the boundary line, he has always preferred to take the grab, a skill that has seen him dominate the backline, with a 15 mark game considered just an average day out.
With the foot skills of a midfielder, his favourite move is too gesture that he is about to go long down the line before a pin point pass cuts the opposition apart through the middle.
What truly makes him great however, is not his skills on the field but his presence as a leader of young men.
Desire, courage and fierce determination to win has meant that Mulwala players have always walked taller with him on the field.
Through the agony of two grand final loses and countless promising finals campaigns that have ended too early, Nathan Parker has stood tall in every sense of the word.
As a coach, captain and player, he has created a legend, a revered figure whose legacy will live on at the Mulwala Football Club for years to come.
Lions roar againMulwala has returned to the winners list after a hard fought 24 point victory over Rumbalara.
Mulwala took control of the match early with a dominant first quarter.
Two goals to Ash Froud and midfield dominance saw Mulwala jump to a five goal lead.
Sean Robinson starred during the opening term and showcased his class with a 60 metre pin point pass to find Hamish Hosking to extend Mulwala’s advantage.
Damien Cook was once again playing the quarterback role and continued his terrific form as he continually set up the play.
Adam Rouel was another who was in sparkling touch, his defensive acts combined with some razzle and dazzle through the contest was singled out at quarter time by Coach Michael Tout.
Mulwala lost its way through the second quarter as poor decision making and some loose checking let Rumbalara back in the game.
Mulwala were suddenly chasing tale as Rumbalara’s running brigade capitalised on every error lack of concentration.
Dale Powell played an important role as he kept pace and applied enormous pressure which allowed Nath Cook to take several intercept marks.
With only one goal for the quarter Mulwala’s lead had been cut to 9 points at the half time break.
After a tense opening to the third quarter, a misguided kick from the Rumbalara midfield saw the ball kicked the wrong way.
Tom Dow found himself on the end of it and nailed the goal.
Dylan McNamara filling in for Beau Clark at centre half forward was superb and a huge pack mark led to another Mulwala goal and opened up a handy four goal lead.
Costly turn overs put the backline under pressure as Mulwala once again kept Rumbalara in the game.
A classic running goal from Ross Ansaldi was just reward for his hard work as the classy midfielder enjoyed his best game for the club.
In Kyle Archibald’s first game back in Mulwala colours, the football journeyman led the way with his voice impacting the whole team.
Still with a couple of late goals Mulwala held onto a 13 point lead at the last change.
In a game Mulwala just had to win, it was telling that in the last term that Mulwala’s leaders stood up.
Ash Froud kicked the opening goal and Jackson Gash, Sean Robinson and Josh Hammond all had a huge say in proceedings.
Harry Crossley was superb also in the final quarter as his left foot was composed and accurate.
A huge hit on Cam Carling stopped the game as the offending Rumbalara player was sent from the field with young Cam unfortunately taken to hospital for observation after a nasty concussion.
Mulwala did what they needed after that as Rumbalara flooded back into their defensive 50 to bottle the game up.
As Mulwala struggled to score they stayed to the structures and set up behind the ball as the game fizzled out for a four goal win.
ReservesMulwala Reserves lost an epic battle, falling behind in the dying minutes to lose by less than a kick.
Decimated by injury and unavailability, Mulwala headed to Rumbalara with only a handful of players.
With five thirds kids filling in and a couple of old stages in Mick Flecther and Ian Glass, Mulwala scraped together a team.
In a rollercoaster of a game, three times Mulwala kicked clear only to be hauled back in.
With the run of Bailey Scott and Jackson Weir Mulwala looked too classy and skilful for the opposition and went clear by four goals mid way through the second quarter until a nasty shoulder injury to Bailey forced him from the field and left Mulwala with 17 for the remaining of the match.
Even though a man down, Mulwala kept finding a way forward as Jason Sanderson racked up 50 odd possessions, the young boys playing their second game for the day were incredible.
Corey Lindsey was everywhere and tackled with spirit, while Lachie Wood was instrumental down back, Kane Fisher and Tom Tout created opportunities up forward.
The powerful Josh Canty was another youngster who played perhaps his best game of football ever. His intercept marks and one handed pick up were a huge positive and something to build on for the future.
Charlie Magro played with usual courage and strength, brother Joe worked tirelessly in the ruck against a couple of man mountains.
Lachy Orr was full of run off half back and his leadership once again telling.
The veterans in the full forward line held firm all day as Craig Frauenfelder kicked two goals and provided a target and Mick Fletcher dusted off the cob webs to kick one for himself.
Arguably Mulwala’s best player was Zach Moore who moved his way up the ground yet still managed to kick four terrific goals.
Mulwala had no answer for Rumbalara’s full forward Bo Jackson who finished with eight goals including the sealer which he marked over three Mulwala defenders.
He was ultimately the difference as Mulwala lost by a handful of points.
ThirdsMulwala posted a commanding win over Rumbalara on Saturday.
Still with several key personal out injured, the young boys started full of running and were never headed in a spirited and determined display.
Ricky Walker was a stand out with his run and carry a feature throughout the game.
Cody Howard was once again incredible with two brilliant goals while Zach Scott, Kyle Loomes and Robert Wilson led a clinic on how to tackle.
Cooper Chung was another prominent player with two goals and combined with time spent in the midfield.
Ultimately the effort from the entire 22 was enough to run away with an eight goal victory.
FourthsMulwala’s fine young men have triumphed with a resounding 39 point victory over Rumbalara.
In a physical contest it was Mulwala’s class and skill that proved too much for the opposition.
Mulwala’s leaders stood up with J Houghton’s strength a key factor at keeping Rumbalara at bay with S Davis and F Fletcher giving that much needed leg work to set up the little cubs.
C Phibbs was the usual machine in the backline and never stopped all day.
A Psaltiras and D Kirchin were in great form during the final term with two quick goals each to set up the victory.
Best: J Houghton, S Davis, A Psaltiras, C Phibbs, D Kerchin.
Goals: A Psaltiras 2, J Tout 2, D Kerchin 2, F Fletcher 2.