WHEN Daniel Mendes moved to Ararat for a year in 2014 he thought it was only natural to have a run with the Ararat Rats.
Initially he only spent one season at the club before relocation back to Melbourne but the enjoyment he had in that one season saw him return in 2016.
The 30-year-old has been with the Rats ever since.
“Everyone at the club has always just been so accommodating and welcoming,” he said.
“We train and play hard on the field but the social aspects of the club off the field are just as important.”
In 2017 he was able to coax his brother, Nicholas, into making the weekly trip from Melbourne alongside him.
Mendes said Nicholas had considered giving up the sport before he joined the Rats.
“We’d always played at the same club growing up but hadn’t really played a lot of footy together because there is a five year age difference,” he said.
“I told him how much fun I had had at Ararat and how good the standard was in the Wimmera league so he followed me up.
“We train together down in Melbourne and then travel up each weekend which makes it all a bit easier.”
Mendes grew up playing for Vermont in the Eastern Football League where he made his senior debut as an 18-year-old.
He tasted plenty of success at the club including a premiership in 2009.
“I had played all of my footy there since I was 15 until I came to the Rats,” he said.
“There was a lot of really good players which helped the club have a lot of success.
“I played in a number of grand finals but it has dried up since then.”
Ararat’s form has continued to impress and sometimes surprise Wimmera league followers this season. Mendes said he had expected the side to continue to improve but the club and its senior players had to continues readjusting its goals.
“At the start we were aiming for finals, then we wanted to break even and now we are looking at trying to secure a place in the top three,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of young players continue to develop and it has been exciting to see those guys take the next step in order to take on more responsibility.”
He said young players such as Tom Mills, Adam Haslett and Riley Taylor had played big roles this season.
“We’ve also been able to add some good experience to the squad as well,” he said.
“The influence Shane Fisher has had as senior coach can not be understated either.”
Mendes said despite the weekly travel he was committed to the club for the long haul.
“I feel quite invested in the club now and I want to see what this group can achieve,” he said.
“It would be a shame not to see it through and I don’t want to be anywhere else.”