Long before Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin wore the red and white number 23 guernsey, there was Paul ‘Plugger’ Kirkby.
Granted, he may not be the same ‘Plugger’ that has held the AFL’s all-time goal-kicking record for 15 years, nor as famous as the man who today dons the same colours and number for the Sydney Swans.
But for those who follow the Eden Whalers, a red and white footy jumper with the number 23 on the back is synonymous with ‘Plugger’ Kirkby.
Which is why, although they had managed only one win in the past four years, the Whalers were never going to lose when their veteran full forward celebrated his 400th game in the home clash with Narooma on Saturday.
The man of the hour kicked three goals, amid a chorus of celebratory honks from car horns around the ground, as he led his side to a 98-73 triumph over the Lions.
All this on his birthday; what more can a man ask for?
“Oh, a new knee would be good, but that’s not going to happen,” he joked.
“It’s a good feeling; we beat Narooma a few weeks ago, but to beat them down on our home ground is pretty special.”
‘Plugger’ made his Whalers debut as a high school student some 31 years ago, and remarkably, is still pulling on the boots as a 46-year-old in 2014.
Saturday’s game was most likely his penultimate appearance at the beachside ground, with only just next weekend’s derby with Bega the final home and away match of the season.
“My first year was in ’83 when I was still in high school,” he said.
“I went down to Melbourne for a few years, then came back in 1990 and I’ve been playing ever since.
“It’s a great bunch of blokes, and they’re all good people who are involved with the club.
“And what else would you do on a Saturday afternoon!”
It was a strong start that set Eden up for victory in Kirkby’s milestone match, with five quickfire goals sending the Whalers out to a 31-0 lead in the first quarter.
The home side's forward line combined well at every opportunity as they opened up a 44-6 quarter-time margin.
Narooma had the better of the second term however, with midfielder Joe Nugent inspiring the visitors to reduce the margin to 27 at the main break.
Neither side managed to gain control after the resumption, with Eden outscoring the Lions by just one goal before the siren sounded to signal the start of the final period.
This belonged to ‘Plugger’.
He slotted through two of his three majors in the dying minutes, and despite allowing Narooma 28 last quarter points, the Whalers ran out 98-73 winners.