STALWART: Rob Price will play his 450th senior football match when he plays for Meringur this weekend. Rob is pictured with his family, left to right, Zoe, 18, wife Jo, Will, 10, Brooke, 6, and Tori, 13. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
LOOK for the word longevity in the Oxford English Dictionary and a picture of Rob Price should accompany the description.
The 47-year-old has played more football games than some players have had disposals for a number of different teams in South Australia and Victoria.
The forward/ruckman will run out for game 450 tomorrow when he pulls on the Meringur jumper to face Bambill at Mildura Senior College.
Since making his senior football debut for Berri in 1989, Price has won three premierships – Berri in ’92 and ’02 and Barmera Monash in ’06 – three club best and fairest and a Riverland Football League best and fairest award. He is a life member with Berri, where he played 210 games. About 120 matches came at Barmera Monash, his junior club, and 56 with his current club, the Kangaroos. He also spent single seasons with Irymple, Nhill, Jeparit Rainbow and Red Cliffs. This total also excludes interleague matches for the Riverland and for an area side combining players from the Riverland, Broken Hill and Mallee leagues to play in the South Australian Country Championships.
Affectionately known as ‘Fossil’ to his much younger teammates at Meringur, Price said he just “keeps plodding along”.
“I didn’t have a number of games in mind but my thinking is that if you can still contribute then why not keep playing,” he said.
“Just seeing where the club was at when I joined (in 2014) and the struggles Peter Lindsey had just to get a team on the park, it shows how far the club has come.
“At training on Tuesday I pulled out my 1993 interleague jumper. It still fitted. When I told them what year it was from, a lot of the boys proceeded to let me know they weren’t born then or were only young.
“They call me ‘Fossil’ out there. There is a great respect though. I was called a veteran in the Riverland in the early 2000s, so that’s become the ‘Fossil’ now.”
The ‘Roos’ last premiership came in 1964, some 54 years ago. While Price gets some ribbing about ‘whether or not he played in that flag’, he said the club is in a good place after coming out of recess in 2012.
Meringur returned to finals last season but were bundled out in the preliminary final by eventual premiers Nangiloc.
“A few of the stories of yesteryear and about the previous premierships are starting to come out now,” Price said.
“Everyone at the club is in the frame of mind that it’s not about yourself, it’s about creating momentum as a club. Everyone knows where we want to get to, but we have to make finals first. Then it’s about performing well in finals and ultimately performing in the grand final.
“It’s been 54 years since the last premiership so just to be involved in something that historic would be special.”
Following a six-month stint at underage level with SANFL club Sturt in 1988, Price returned to boyhood club Barmera Monash to play reserves.
“Berri approached me about playing senior footy the next year,” Price said.
“I was working at the Berri Hotel at the time so there was a bit of pressure from the workmates to join the club.
“I made my debut at 18 in 1989, and we went on to win the flag in 1992. I thought how easy was this? It would take me another decade to win the next one.”
It was playing with Berri when Rob would help the Demons with a huge turnaround in fortunes. After not winning a game in 1999, they would go on to win the flag in 2002. After playing for a host of clubs, in 2013 Price was approached to gauge his interest in joining Meringur.
A big factor in him joining the club was the fact netballers were also included.
“In the Riverland, the football and netball competitions have always been separate,” he said.
“At Meringur I was finding that the girls could be out there and playing netball, and not just having to sit around and watch. Tori is coming through the juniors, and I’ve also watched Jo and Zoe play in the same grade.
“Instead of it becoming just about me and my footy, it has become all about the family.
“I’ve never thought about going back or switching clubs, we’re really settled at Meringur and we’ve enjoyed our time here.”
While Price admitted there wouldn’t be too many games left in him, the big man has left a sizeable impression in country football across three decades.