FOOTBALL has always been a big part of life in Warracknabeal for Peter Jess.
More than 40 years after starting his junior football at Anzac Park, Mr Jess has hardly missed a match.
He described himself as a ‘social footballer’ whose off-field contributions outweighed those on-field.
“I’ve cleaned the toilets, been the president and secretary and cut the oranges – all those sorts of things that you do when you’re involved in a footy club” he said.
Mr Jess was president of the club in 1996 and 1997, just a few short season before Warracknabeal merged with Brim to become the Warrack Eagles prior to the 2001 season.
He said he had seen a number of great changes at the club during his time.
“In 1994 we moved from the old footy sheds on the northern side of the ground into this great new building,” he said.
“It was a really old dilapidated building over there so we needed to move.”
He said watching great players come and go through the club was always exciting.
“There are a number of born and bred Warracknabeal players that have gone on to play league football that have been great to watch,” he said.
As he watched Saturday’s first round encounter against the Southern Mallee Giants he was thrilled to see Jeremy Clayton back at the club.
“He was a always a little champion,” he said.
“If he had been another foot taller he really could have been anything. It was in his blood – his dad and his grandfather were champion footballers who both won Toohey medals.”
He said family connections made the club great.
“Children get dragged along from an early age when their family is involved,” he said. “We have good families and good stock.”
A number of talented juniors who were playing senior footballer while coming through the ranks at the club were a source of pride for Mr Jess.
He sparked up when Charlie Wilson kicked two goals in the second term.
“It used to be that the juniors who would go away to play football for the Rebels weren’t encouraged to play for their home clubs when they had a weekend off,” he said.
“We would have had talented players like Jeremy Clayton or Nick Peters just sitting on the sidelines watching.
“It’s great to see the likes of Charlie Wilson and Josh Bibby get the chance at a higher level but still play for Warrack.”
He said he hoped the side would improve again this season under the guidance of third-year coach Ryan McKenzie.
“When Ryan first came as coach he was a bit rough and raw,” he said. “Now he’s a very good thinker and he’s become a much better talker.
“I remember his first speech had a lot of adjectives in it but he gives the group much more instruction now.”