Mitrovic takes long road to 100 games

MILESTONE: Wayne Mitrovic in action for Sandhurst in 2007. The key forward will play his 100th senior game for the club on Saturday.
MILESTONE: Wayne Mitrovic in action for Sandhurst in 2007. The key forward will play his 100th senior game for the club on Saturday.

When Wayne Mitrovic left Sandhurst in 2008 his one regret was that he was two games shy of playing 100 senior games for his beloved Dragons.

Mitrovic, captain of Sandhurst’s 2004 premiership team, loved the Dragons and was desperate to get to 100 games,  but the lure of playing footy with friends and family at his home club Macorna was too great and he resigned himself to the fact that he’d be stuck on 98 games.

The best part of a decade later, Mitrovic is back with the Dragons and at the age of 39 will play his 100th senior game with the club on Saturday when they host old foe Eaglehawk at the QEO.

While some people might think 100 senior games is no big deal, it’s the fact that it’s 100 senior games with Sandhurst that makes Mitrovic proud.

“I thought that ship had sailed,’’ Mitrovic said on Friday.

“Coaching and playing at Macrona, while living in Bendigo, takes a fair bit out of you. I love footy and I didn’t really want to give up…so I thought I’d do pre-season with Sandhurst and see how I go. I got through the pre-season okay, played reasonably in the practice matches and then was picked in the seniors for round one.

“I did a slight tear in my hip flexor in round one and that put me out. After a couple of weeks in the reserves, I’m lucky that we’ve got a few players out this week and I’m back in the seniors.

“I’ll finally reach that 100 games. I love that it’s on the QEO against a club like Eaglehawk.”

When Mitrovic first moved to Bendigo from Macorna as a 19-year-old, he was told by plenty of people not to sign with Sandhurst. He’s glad he took no notice of their advice.

“When I first came to Bendigo to play VFL with the Bendigo Diggers I was told that it would be a good idea to align with a Bendigo league club as well,’’ Mitrovic said.

“I had meetings with probably four clubs, including Sandhurst. While Sandhurst told me about where they thought the club was heading, the other clubs spent most of the time bagging Sandhurst and telling me why I shouldn’t go to Sandhurst. Best decision I made was going to Sandhurst.”

The 2004 grand final win over Gisborne remains Mitrovic’s career highlight.

“We let a flag slip in 2001 when we lost to Golden Square,’’ Mitrovic said.

“We were the best team all year, but Square rolled us in the grand final. After feeling the pain of losing one, it made the 2004 flag even sweeter.”

David Collins was coach of the 2004 flag. On Saturday, Mitrovic will run out on the QEO alongside Collins’ youngest son, Andrew.