Showing the way
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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