READ MORE - Cameron Skinner first Magpie to 300 games
IN an ideal scenario Cameron Skinner would spend his afternoons at the football enjoying a cold beer as a Maryborough spectator - not still pulling on the boots at the age of 43.
But he's not one to leave the Magpies in the lurch when they need all the numbers and experience they can muster and that's why Skinner is still pulling on the Maryborough jumper each week.
And on Saturday he will do it for the 400th time when the Magpies' games record-holder reaches another milestone in his lengthy career that began with his senior debut in 1996.
Having been elevated into the line-up, Skinner's 400th will also be in the seniors for the Magpies in what shapes as a testing afternoon at home against Strathfieldsaye.
Skinner being the first to play 400 club games for the Magpies comes four years after he was also the first Maryborough player to 300 senior games in 2015.
"Not much has changed since my 300th senior game; I've only played another 20 or so senior games since and mainly been just plugging away and helping out the young players in the twos given they are a bit short," Skinner said on Friday.
"I don't do much training these days; just turn up on game day and have a kick with the boys. Ideally, I'd like the club to be in the position of the reserves winning and me being up on the balcony watching and having a beer.
"But at the moment we're a fair way off that, so I just keep helping out while I can and doing my best."
Skinner has certainly experienced the wide spectrum of highs and lows during his 20 year-plus career with the Magpies.
Ideally, I'd like the club to be in the position of the reserves winning and me being up on the balcony watching and having a beer.Cameron Skinner
While wins have been few and far between for Skinner in recent years, his debut season of senior football coincided with the first step in the Magpies becoming a power of team of the BFNL.
In Skinner's first four seasons of senior football - 1996 to 1999 - the Magpies won 58 of 73 games, finished on top of the ladder each year and he was part of the back-to-back premiership teams of 1998 and '99.
Yet Skinner also endured more than 70 losses in a row before he was part of the Maryborough reserves team that beat Castlemaine on Good Friday this year.
"It had been 57 losses in a row for the reserves before the win that day, but because I had been playing some seniors as well, it actually worked out to 72 losses in a row I had played in," Skinner said.
"I suppose you fall into a bit of a trap of forgetting how to win, so it was obviously great to have a win that day.
"I filled in for the seniors a couple of weeks ago because they were short against Kyneton and that was my first senior win for quite some time (since 2014) as well, so that was another great feeling."
The constant struggles the Magpies have endured since 2010 when they won the reserves premiership, which Skinner was part of, and last played senior finals are in stark contrast to the late '90s when Neville Massina coached Maryborough to consecutive grand final wins over Sandhurst in 1998 and Castlemaine in 1999.
That's right - an all-country BFNL grand final featuring Maryborough and Castlemaine, which came shortly after Kyneton had won the 1995 and 1997 flags.
What the BFNL would give these days to have its country clubs having such a dominant impact on a competition whose past 12 premierships have been won by only Golden Square (five), Strathfieldsaye (three), Eaglehawk (three) and Sandhurst (one).
Dual premiership coach Massina recalls Skinner's versatility as his greatest strength, albeit without the same level of self belief in his ability as what his coach had in him.
"He was a terrific player for us through that period," Massina said this week.
"He was unbelievably athletic, but probably didn't have as much self belief as his talent allowed him.
"He's one of the most talented sportsmen I've been involved in. He's a bloke who goes out and makes hundreds in cricket even though he only plays now and then these days .
"He could play full back, centre half-back, half-back, on the wing; he was a great kick of the footy, had terrific skills and sure hands.
"He's been a fantastic clubman and just a terrific bloke and the fact he's still playing senior footy in his 40s is testament to just how good he was back when he was 21 and 22 when I coached him."
Skinner agreed that he struggled for self belief in the early days of his senior career, describing himself on the eve of his 300th senior game four years ago as: "someone who has been able to stay reasonably fit, play a role for the team and be half-decent at most things without being great at any of them."
But Skinner's early lacking of confidence was as much a result of the calibre of opponent he regularly lined up on during one of the halcyon periods of star forwards in the Bendigo league.
"I was playing on some pretty big names back then," Skinner said.
"I used to get the big jobs on the guys like Steven Oliver, Steven Reaper, Phil Hetherington, David Lancaster and Derrick Filo... they were all superstars of the competition.
"It's not easy to be confident when you're going up against blokes like that."
If reaching 400 games with the one club isn't a remarkable achievement on its own given club loyalty isn't what it once was, it's all the more meritorious given Skinner had been told as a 13-year-old he would never play contact sport again after breaking a hip when he missed a landing mat while doing a backwards somersault at school.
As well as Skinner's 400th match, the clash with the Storm will also double as Luke Bucknall's 150th senior game for Maryborough.
SATURDAY'S ROUND 9 BFNL GAMES:
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