Geelong full-back, Yarrawonga born and bred Tom Lonergan is concentrating on his next AFL match, against West Coast Eagles over in Perth tomorrow night.
But it’s only natural he thinks a little about Round 16 on Saturday July 8, against Brisbane at The Gabba. All going to plan, that’s when the recently turned 33-year-old will play his milestone 200th game with the Cats.
“Whenever you’ve got a milestone in a season you look at it somewhat,” the modest champion told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“Two-hundred games was always a long, long way for me. When I came back, obviously from my injury, it was so good to get to 100 games because you get your name on a locker. To have got there plus another 100, I’m very proud of the achievement. It’s been a long time coming.
“I was talking to Tommy Hawkins who became the 47th Geelong player to have played 200 games - that’s out of 1000 players who have played for Geelong. It is a good achievement.”
That injury to which Tom referred was in just his seventh game with the Cats, courageously backing into a marking contest - the most feared action on a football field. It was a life-threatening, with Tom losing a kidney.
For the past seven years, Tom has owned the full-back position with Geelong which in itself is a remarkable feat for the star who can certainly play extremely well at both ends of the ground.
Last week he was back in Yarrawonga with wife Kim and nine-month-old baby son Bobby, staying with his folks Trish and Bernie (Stump). “Mum and dad love seeing Bobby and it’s always good coming up here,” Tom said.
As a 16-year-old, Tom played full-forward in the seniors for the Pigeons and one outing, at Wodonga Raiders ground, booted six goals. He also booted plenty of goals for Geelong, after a long lay-off following the terrible accident, repeating the bag of half-a-dozen and best afield in the VFL premiership Geelong team before again advancing to the seniors.
He wouldn’t mind playing at the more exciting, goal-kicking end of the ground. But the cool, calm and collected champion loves being in defence.
“It’s good to be in the back six. It’s a team within a team. We’ve all jelled together.” he said.
Tom’s biggest highlight, of course, was the premiership victory in 2011 against Collingwood, in which the Cats full-back starred, being switched onto a rampaging Travis Cloke and beating him hands down.
“I’ve been lucky. One of my most exciting times has been playing the Hawks, with Buddy and Roughead where we won 11 or 12 games straight against them,” he said.
“It was always an enormous game and I reckon I played pretty well on Buddy. I feel I beat him, and helped the team.”
Teams, including Geelong last year, have moved players on because of age but not Tom. “At this stage I want to get through the second half of the season,” he said. “When it does come, it won’t be a shock, I know the system.”
Tom has always appreciated the support from Yarrawonga, starting with his parents, Stump for his introduction to football, the various coaches and grades of football and moral support from people including relations such as Uncle John (Pop). “Yes, he likes to tell me how he used to do it in his day,” nephew of the staunch Western Bulldogs supporter said.
Yarrawonga Football Netball Club legend Glenn Brear said the only other locals to have notched up 200 games have been Peter (Crackers) Keenan, Ben Dixon and Joel Smith.
“I’d say Tom’s going to appreciate it more because of that awful injury he copped. He got over it, working hard to get back and then really went on with it,” the club life member and record serving president said.
“Tom is a great news story. He’s an excellent footballer and fellow - a modest champion who never forgets his Yarrawonga home.”