It has been a long time coming but Great Western’s Nathan Shalders will finally play his 300th match this weekend.
Injuries and work commitments have slowed down Shalders’ path to the milestone but he will finally get there when the Lions host cross-town rivals Ararat Eagles on Saturday.
“Five years ago I played my 250th so it has taken a while to get here,” Shalders said.
Shalders played his first senior football match for the Lions back in 1993. He has seen a significant amount change at his club since that time, with the Lions playing in three different leagues and going into recess at one point.
“I went to Stawell for a year in 2011 when we went into recess and came back in 2012 when we came back,” Shalders said.
“Going into recess was really disappointing but it was a great feeling to come back into the Mininera league which has suited us well.”
The 42-year-old has experienced many ups and downs with Great Western in his 299 games.
He was part of two “disappointing” grand final losses in 1997 and 1998 to St Mary’s (now Ararat Eagles) and has had multiple surgeries to mend various injuries.
“I thought we were the best team but we didn’t get across the line in either of them,” he said.
He said the positives have outweighed any low moments, with one event standing out as his favourite.
“The biggest highlight would have to be the reserves premiership in 2013,” he said.
“Even though it was just a reserves flag, to win after being in recess was really amazing. I also played alongside my little brother Tim as I have for most of my career which was special.”
It will be a family affair for Shalders in his 300th game, with his 14-year-old son Ajay set to play his first senior football match when he runs out alongside his father in the reserves.
Shalders said the family atmosphere of the club has been a big reason he has been there for so long.
“It really is a family club and that is what we pride ourselves on,” he said.
“I grew up here and started when I was 15 and and now my kids are growing up here.”
The reserves captain will look to extend his milestone match success, winning all six milestone games to date.
“I actually played my 250th against Ararat so hopefully we can get another win,” Shalders said.
Saturday will also be special for senior footballer Shannon Notting who will play his 200th match for the Lions.
Great Western football operations manager Matt Delzotto said both players “encompass what it is to be a Great Western person”.
“They have both been fantastic servants to the club for so long. It is guys like them that keep our club strong,” he said.
“Saturday will be a great way to celebrate all they have done for us as a club.”
Shalders joins a very exclusive club at Great Western, with not many others known to have played 300 games for the Lions.
“I know Butch Brasser did but there would not be any or many others that would have played more than 300,” Shalders said.
Shalders said perseverance and a strong sense of community have been key things has has learnt throughout his football career.
“f I didn't enjoy it I wouldn’t do it,” he said.
“It is a close knit club and the club is pretty much the heart of the town so it is a special place to belong to.”
The eighth-placed Lions play the 11th-placed Eagles in the reserves match at 12pm on Saturday.