FOR Colbinabbin's Hadleigh Sirett you can't beat the bond of mateship and that's one of the key reasons why the ruckman has never left the Grasshoppers.
While he may now be living in Shepparton where he works at the Greater Shepparton Secondary College, Colbinabbin will always be home for Sirett and it's the Grasshoppers who allow him to stay strongly connected with the town.
Sirett's loyalty to Colbinabbin was last week celebrated when he played his 200th senior game for the club in the Grasshoppers' impressive win over the previously unbeaten Lockington-Bamawm United.
Overall, stalwart Sirett has played more than 300 club games with the Grasshoppers since pulling on his beloved green and gold jumper as a young tacker in the then Heathcote District league under-17s
"Colbinabbin is home... any time there has been offers to look at going somewhere else I always come back to the reasons why I play footy," Sirett said this week.
"Firstly, it's because I enjoy the game and secondly, it's the mateship and I'm not going to get that as good anywhere else as I would at Colbinabbin.
"I love Colbo and the club is my way back to Colbo. I'm not getting back there in summer any more, so by still playing footy is my way of getting back home.
"Getting to the 200 senior games is something I can reflect on down the track and be really proud of."
As well as the chance to stay connected with his home town, also driving Sirett to continue playing with the Grasshoppers is the chase of that elusive senior premiership.
The 32-year-old played in a reserves flag in 2015, but would dearly love a senior premiership to cap off his career and hang up his boots content having previously contemplated retirement after 2019.
"Having Lochie (brother) come back to the club last year and play was really good and kept me going," Sirett said.
"And something I've always wanted to be a part of is a senior premiership with the club, so that continues to be a bit of a driving factor."
Sirett has had two cracks at winning a senior flag, but fallen short both times in losing grand finals in 2007 to Elmore and 2019 to North Bendigo.
Approaching the halfway mark of this year, perhaps it will be a case of third time lucky for Sirett, with the Grasshoppers on top of the ladder and now the only undefeated team in the competition.
"Consistency is going to be the key for us, but as a playing group we're all on the same page and pulling in the one direction," Sirett said.
"We've got a list that has played a lot of football together now, as well as some new players who have come in and played their roles really well."
The loyalty Sirett has shown to Colbinabbin was reflected by coach Julian Bull in acknowledging his milestone achievement last Saturday night.
"Being a premier ruckman and a multiple inter-league ruckman, Hadleigh has had some huge offers thrown at him over the years to go elsewhere," Bull said.
"To knock them back and stay at his local club and still be doing what he's doing in dominating against some really good ruckmen is an absolute credit to both him and his wife and kids to be able to keep supporting him.
"Without Hadleigh we'd be in a fair bit of trouble because we fall away in our ruck stocks pretty quickly."
After last week's huge game against Lockington-Bamawm United, the Grasshoppers face another major test on Saturday against arch-rival Mount Pleasant, which is sitting third, at Toolleen.
Sirett's milestone game last week came a fortnight after team-mate Tom Hill also notched 200 senior games for the Grasshoppers.
Saturday's round 9 games - Leitchville-Gunbower v Heathcote, LBU v Elmore, Huntly v White Hills, Mount Pleasant v Colbinabbin. North Bendigo bye.
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