Matt O’Keefe has been through the highs and lows at Seymour.
A tough initiation to senior footy in a battling side as a teenager in 2003 was directly followed by being part of one of the most successful eras in Goulburn Valley League history.
Luckily for the popular Lions defender, his 200th game tomorrow is coming in a strong period for the club.
Seymour will travel to Deakin Reserve to face a youthful Shepparton United side still buoyant about a breakthrough win over Tatura before the interleague break.
The Lions skipper is just about the heart of Seymour, playing a handful of under-18 games at the club when he was not tied down by his commitments at Assumption College.
After a difficult first season, the Lions shot up the ladder in 2004 before breaking through in a famous grand final victory over Euroa in 2005.
Seymour won the next two after that and fell agonisingly short of making it four in a row in 2008, but was brought undone by a gutsy Rochester team in the decider.
‘‘I was in Year 10 or 11 when I played my first senior game, but I was playing a lot of school footy and we were pretty average in my first full year of seniors after school,’’ O’Keefe said.
‘‘I played in a winning one (grand final) in my third year of senior footy, but you would speak to the older guys at the time like Shane Schottner and we’d been in the doldrums for a long time before that.
‘‘Looking back now, to have played in those sides was a massive privilege and being the hunted every week was such a great challenge.
‘‘It would’ve been nice to get four in a row, but Rochy got it from us ... in saying that, we stole one from Euroa in 2005, so it all works out.’’
O’Keefe is still based in Seymour and couldn’t imagine living in the city, with his travel into Melbourne for work and study enough for him. ‘‘Essentially the footy club is the heart of your town and it was an honour to play in a few flags there,’’ O’Keefe said.
‘‘If I didn’t love the place, I wouldn’t be there and there wouldn’t be a year here that I haven’t enjoyed.’’
O’Keefe’s milestone should have come in round four at home against Mooroopna, but a niggling injury ruled him out.
The league will recognise O’Keefe’s achievement tomorrow, but the club will hold official celebrations for him during his next home game.
Seymour playing-coach Brent Colbert played in premierships with O’Keefe in 2006 and 2007.
‘‘He’s the most respected player I’ve ever played with and in 200 games he’s nearly always played on the best forward available,’’ Colbert said.
‘‘Nearly every game I’ve played in at Seymour, Matty O has been out there as well and you certainly feel a lot safer with him out there.
‘‘He’ll get plenty of accolades over the next few days and he deserves every one of them.’’
The undefeated Lions will take on United without star midfielder Brett Meredith, who is injured and will be away for eight weeks after round seven because he is heading overseas.
Fellow onball gun Andrew Sturgess is unavailable through VFL commitments, but Brent Ryan’s inclusion with O’Keefe will bolster the Lions’ back half significantly.