ONYA' OLLIE: 200 GAMES

WORKHORSE: This photo from the 2012 grand final against Golden Square is typical of Ollie Messaoudi - in the contest feeding the ball out to his team-mates.

WORKHORSE: This photo from the 2012 grand final against Golden Square is typical of Ollie Messaoudi - in the contest feeding the ball out to his team-mates.

FOOTBALL, it seems, is becoming more complicated each year with evolving tactics, team structures and coaching instructions.

But there’s nothing complicated in the way Gisborne onballer Ollie Messaoudi goes about his football.

Four words sum up the Messaoudi approach - “see ball, get ball.”

Messaoudi has been an outstanding warrior for Gisborne since arriving at the club in 2002, and on Saturday will play his 200th senior game for the Bulldogs against Eaglehawk.

Messaoudi is 34 and has been battered from pillar to post throughout his career, but the hard-nut midfielder - renowned as one of the Bendigo Football League’s best contested players - continues to perform at the top of his game.

And that’s saying something considering Messaoudi’s Gisborne career boasts three premierships (2002, 2003 and 2006); five best and fairests (2002, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011); the BFL inter-league captaincy in 2009; selection in the BFL 2000-09 Team of the Decade; and four top-five Michelsen Medal finishes.

Long-time team-mate and now Gisborne coach Rod Sharp continues to marvel at Messaoudi’s output not only on a weekend, but on the track during the week.

“People who come down to training recognise Ollie immediately because of how well he still trains at the age of 34,” Sharp said on Thursday.

“That’s why he has been able to play so well for so long week in, week out, and he is a great example for the rest of our players to follow.

“He trains in top gear all the time and doesn’t know any other way. You just can’t fault him.

“He knows his weaknesses and limitations as a player, but he has a very smart footy brain and that’s also a great advantage to him.

There’s no doubt he has been one of the best players we’ve had at the club for the past 25 years - Rod Sharp

“He is really strong mentally and just a fierce competitor who never wants to lose.

“You only had to see him against Golden Square two weeks ago when he had 36 touches, nine tackles, nine clearances, two hit-outs and kicked a goal... he does it all and still loves getting himself up for big games.”

Testament to Messaoudi’s mental strength was his ability to fightback from a career-threatening back injury that kept him out of the entire 2005 season - a premiership year for the Bulldogs.

But he returned the following year and played in the Bulldogs’ 2006 grand final win against Golden Square, before adding his second best and fairest in 2007.

“There’s no doubt he has been one of the best players we’ve had at the club for the past 25 years and will go down as one of the absolute greats when he retires,” Sharp said.

“I reckon the best way to sum up Ollie is that every other club would want a player like him in their team.

“That’s testament to the way he has gone about his footy for a long time.”

The modest Messaoudi - a bricklayer by trade - is still as valuable as ever at Gardiner Reserve, with his experience vital as the undefeated Bulldogs bring through their next crop of young stars.

“We’re a young side, so I’m feeling fairly old, but we’re going alright at the moment,” Messaoudi said.

“If all the kids can keep improving, you never know what could happen.

“Sharpy hasn’t put expectations on us, but I just try to do my thing every week and get the footy out to the blokes who are a bit younger and quicker than me.”

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