Show­ing the way

The Cobram Courier - - SPORT - By An­drew Mole Con­tin­ued on page 23.

Foot­ball is not life or death for Co­bram’s Mark Lam­bourn.

It’s far more im­por­tant than that.

Which ex­plains why a ca­reer that be­gan in Co­bram in 1984 has ex­tended to 2017 and the AFL Masters car­ni­val in Gee­long.

He might be push­ing the bounds of age but the 50-year-old did enough to help his Vic Coun­try side to vic­tory he was also named the di­vi­sion’s best and fairest and se­lected in the Al­lAus­tralian team.

It capped a stel­lar week of foot­ball, with his side de­feat­ing Vic Metro, Queens­land and Tas­ma­nia on its way to the cham­pi­onship.

In re­cent years Lam­bourn has been in­stru­men­tal in run­ning the GV Giants Masters team based in Shepparton, which prompted his se­lec­tion in the AFL Masters Vic Coun­try team.

Af­ter start­ing his foot­ball ca­reer aged four with the Co­bram ju­nior ‘Ele­phants and Ants’ foot­ball com­pe­ti­tion back in 1972, he con­tin­ues to play the sport he loves.

And he is al­ready talk­ing of com­pet­ing at next year’s AFL Masters Car­ni­val, which will be held in Coffs Har­bour.

Lam­bourn said he had a hugely en­joy­able week at this year’s Masters and met lots of peo­ple, in­clud­ing for­mer Co­bram team­mates Mark Mad­dox and Gerome Raco, who played for Vic Metro.

‘‘This was my first car­ni­val and the ca­ma­raderie, the spirit in which ev­ery­one in all teams played, it re­ally ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions. It was fan­tas­tic,’’ Lam­bourn said.

He en­cour­aged any­one who loved play­ing foot­ball in the past to ‘have a go’ as he was liv­ing proof you could play on and on and still en­joy it.

‘‘We started a Masters’ team in Shepp two years ago, for 35 and older, and it has gone re­ally well,’’ Lam­bourn said.

‘‘We train, we kick the footy around and we play a se­ri­ously mod­i­fied ver­sion of the game.

‘‘We have guys who just train and never play, we have guys who play and never train. But there is a real sense of team.

‘‘It’s a bit like a men’s shed, but with a footy. If you think you are too young for the shed but want to have a good time, just have a chat, come and join us.

‘‘Our orig­i­nal pur­pose was to pro­mote men’s health and now we have oc­ca­sional nights when we have some­one along to talk about men’s health and it has all worked so well.’’

That sounds pos­i­tive but even Lam­bourn, col­lapsed on his bed in Shepparton as he spoke, ad­mit­ted three games in one week had been a lit­tle more than his body was up to — although win­ning made it feel a bit bet­ter.

How­ever, it wasn’t help­ing the strained mus­cles and as­sorted aches and pains, he said.

It was a much younger Lam­bourn who pro­gressed through the ranks at Co­bram, play­ing in the 1995 pre­mier­ship side and col­lect­ing the best and fairest award in the same year, be­fore adding three more in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

He would fin­ish with four pre­mier­ships, eight grand fi­nal ap­pear­ances, a league best-and­fairest and an amaz­ing 10 club best-and-fairests in a se­nior foot­ball re­sume that started as a teenager with the Mur­ray Foot­ball League’s Tigers in 1984.

‘‘I de­buted at 15 and played six to seven games be­fore I got dropped. Co­bram went on to win the se­nior pre­mier­ship un­der the leg­endary Les Mogg — but I played in the re­serves’ flag that year,’’ Lam­bourn said.

His prow­ess soon at­tracted the at­ten­tion of VFL clubs and he linked up with the Syd­ney Swans’ un­der 19s.

‘‘At that time zon­ing was start­ing to fade out and be­cause Co­bram was in the Mur­ray league, which had NSW clubs play­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion, the Swans had ac­cess to play­ers from those leagues,’’ he said.

Lam­bourn com­muted from Co­bram to Mel­bourne, where the Swans’ re­serves and un­der 19s re­mained based, de­spite the se­niors hav­ing moved to the har­bour city.

‘‘Dad used to drive me down and for a young kid from the coun­try it was a real eye-opener,’’ he said.

‘‘We would train at the Lake Oval with the re­serves and some se­nior guys who hadn’t moved to Syd­ney.’’

Lam­bourn spent the 1985 sea­son in the un­der 19s, but Syd­ney’s de­ci­sion to re­lo­cate en­tirely in 1986 had him re­turn home to con­tinue his hor­ti­cul­ture ap­pren­tice­ship at Co­bram-Ba­rooga Golf Club.

‘‘Be­cause I was do­ing my ap­pren­tice­ship and be­ing a coun­try boy, I stayed at home and joined Ber­ri­gan,’’ he said.

Ber­ri­gan was a mem­ber of the Mur­ray league and Lam­bourn spent two sea­sons at the club, win­ning the 1987 se­nior best-and­fairest, be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to Wodonga in 1988 when he landed a po­si­tion as su­per­in­ten­dent of the Wodonga Golf Club.

‘‘I was 19 go­ing on 20 and get­ting that job op­por­tu­nity was enor­mous,’’ he said.

One night af­ter get­ting home from work, Lam­bourn turned on the tele­vi­sion and set in course a sur­prise series of events.

‘‘I was watch­ing the news and there was a big story with Wayne Hen­wood and David Bolton sus­pended for be­ing in a fra­cas,’’ he said.

‘‘The good doc­tor Ge­of­frey Edel­sten was prop­ping the Swans up at that time.

‘‘I was ac­tu­ally go­ing down to watch Gee­long play Syd­ney, so I rang the club and said that if they were look­ing for some re­serves play­ers that my form had been rea­son­able and I could help them out. So they said ‘leave it with us’.

‘‘An hour later the phone rings and they said ‘bring your gear, you’re in’ — so I went down played in the twos, we won and I got in the best.’’

Lam­bourn had ex­pected it to be a one-off game, but a chat with club of­fi­cials af­ter the match soon changed that.

What a ca­reer: Mark Lam­bourn with his Masters medal af­ter win­ning the cham­pi­onship at Gee­long.

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