NATIMUK United skipper Jono Lovel was dealt a rough hand as a teenager, but pushed through to become an integral part of the senior Rams’ set-up.
As a 17-year-old Lovel was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. When he was 19 he fell out of a back of a ute, severely damaging his head and leaving him with short-term memory loss.
“I think I was playing seniors for Horsham United when I was diagnosed with cancer,” Lovel said.
“It’s hard for a young kid to understand what cancer can do to you. As soon as I found out I thought and knew I could beat it, but you never really know what can happen.
“I think I was pretty strong to think like that as a 17-year-old and it’s been 12 years since I’ve been passed it – I did all the radiation and had check ups after that for a while.
“Then I fell off the ute when I was 19 and had a really bad head injury. I was out of footy then for a while. I fell to the bitumen and can’t remember anything from it.
“I had short-term memory loss and I still forget things now very quickly. Maybe that’s how I get through all the losses, just forgetting them all.
“The doctors told me to wear a helmet but I only wore it for three games because I couldn’t hear anything and it was too hot. I put the parents through a fair a bit of stress back then. You can’t wait around for something to happen, you just have to move forward. Even now you still live life a bit on the edge.”
When Lovel’s father Bill bought the pub at Natimuk it was clear he would be sticking around at the Rams.
“I reckon I started a year before my dad bought the pub,” he said.
“It was my dad’s dream to live at Natimuk and own a pub, and he did that.”
Lovel and his Natimuk United teammates have endured a fair bit throughout the past decade, with plenty of big losses.
“We’ve been thumped quite a bit,” he said.
“The thing is when you win that one game for the year it felt like you won a premiership.
“It felt like a grand final – everyone was clapping when you came off and it’s always been good out there just for that reason. It was always pretty special for the volunteers when we had a win.”
Fortune has turned for the Rams in recent seasons, playing finals last year and on track to do the same this season.
“One of the best wins I would say I’ve had was last season when we beat Edenhope-Apsley to get into the finals – that was fantastic,” Lovel said.
After going through ups and downs with the club, Lovel said the people at Natimuk felt like family.
“The people out there that run the show are genuine and they are all basically like your family,” he said.