RUNNING onto Coughlin Park to play his 200th game for the Horsham Saints seemed a long time coming for veteran goal sneak Matt Combe.
Prior to the start of the season he was well aware the milestone was just around the corner but a calf injury saw him miss nearly two months of football.
Two matches later he celebrated the milestone in a comfortable win against Nhill.
“It was a big honour for me and a really special moment,” he said.
“I love the club and I call it home. When I was injured it played on my mind that I was only a couple of games away – I just wanted to get it out of the way.”
After playing all of his junior football at Noradjuha-Quantong, Combe was lured across to the Saints as an 18-year-old.
He said a desire to play with some of his mates at the club was a driving factor as he swapped his allegiances.
“I noticed the jump up in the standard of football and how hard we trained pretty quickly,” he said.
“My first ever training at the club was doing runs up and down Mt Arapiles – that was my first pre-season as a senior footballer and I’d never experience anything like it before.”
After two lean seasons to start his time at the club, Combe played in the Saints side that was beaten in the decider by the Horsham Demons in 2008.
“When I first came to the Saints I only expected to play there for one or two year before going back to Noradjuha-Quantong,” he said.
“Once I got there I could never leave. It’s one of those clubs that once you’re there you love it too much and you just want to stay – I’ve never wanted to be anywhere else.”
He played played in two more losing grand finals before claiming the flag in 2015.
“Losing the won in 2014 hurt the most for me given we were probably odds-on favourites before losing by six points,” he said.
“At that point I really thought I’d never win one but then there was some relief the following season.
“The amount of training we did in 2015 to win that grand final was huge – we were sometimes down there seven days a week but in the end it was worth it.
“The feeling after winning the grand final was unbelievable and it lasted pretty much through to the start of pre-season.”
Another flag followed in 2016 when the side overcame Minyip-Murtoa in a thriller at Horsham City Oval. Combe said former coach Brendan Broadbent had managed to have a big impact on his career.
“He just knew how to push me and get the best out of me,” he said.
“Shayne Breuer was obviously another great coach I thrived under.”
During his time at the club Combe has not ventured too far away from the forward line for long.
“I had a bit of a stint in the backline for a couple of years but I found my way forward again,” he said.
“There was another couple of years where I was swapping in the middle but they worked out I probably wasn’t quick enough, so the only place they can hide me is up forward.”