Brookers in their blood

Matt O'Neil, Dean Allcott, and Daniel Pantorno had a milestone day to remember at Gembrook on Sunday. 183036 Picture: RUSSELL BENNETT

By Russell Bennett

Never has a club-first mentality or the spirit of mateship been more on display than it was at Gembrook on Sunday afternoon.

Three favourite sons of the Gembrook Cockatoo Football Club each marked significant milestones in their footy journeys as they took their place in the Brookers’ veterans’ side that ran out to face the Marysville Villains.

But there was a catch – none of them were actually marking a milestone on the day.

Dean ‘Hawk’ Allcott is a dual senior premiership player and Con Licciardi medallist at the club, and also won the league’s Division 1 reserves best and fairest in 2006, and club best and fairests in 2006 and 2017.

Sunday was supposed to be his 300th game for his beloved club… only it was his 301st. His actual 300th came on Saturday in the AFL Yarra Ranges Division 2 reserves – a 104-point win over Kinglake.

But on Sunday, he was able to mark his milestone alongside two of his great mates – Daniel ‘Little Pants’ Pantorno, and club legend Matt ‘Creepa’ O’Neil.

Prior to this season, Pantorno last played for the Brookers more than a decade ago and – little did he know at the time – finished up with just three games to go until his 200th for the club.

“I thought I had to be close to 190,” he said on Sunday, just prior to the vets’ clash.

“I thought I was probably in the 180s, so that’d be a full season, but I was really just a couple of games away! (from 200).”

Sunday was technically Pantorno’s 202nd game for the Brookers.

He said the club meant the world to him in a footballing sense.

“I spent my whole (footballing) life playing there – from when I was eight years old,” he said.

In 2000, he, O’Neil, and Allcott were all Brookers premiership players. Pantorno tasted success as part of the reserves flag-winning side, while O’Neil and Allcott were in the seniors.

Steve Pantorno, Daniel’s brother, has played well in excess of 400 games for the Brookers and became the club’s games record holder after surpassing their uncle, Len Ure.

Work commitments have meant that Daniel – now in his late 30s – hasn’t been able to string a full season of footy together since 2004.

But he would like to ideally keep playing for the vets beyond this season.

“At this point, everyone here is just one injury away from retirement,” he said on Sunday.

“If I did something bad enough where I had to miss work, I’d probably have to hang up the boots.

“There’s not a great deal of skill out there.

“The fitness and skill dissolves over time, but this is stress free – and to a certain extent – bruise-free footy with your mates.

“Blokes don’t go the knuckle or anything like that.”

O’Neil is the current senior coach of the Brookers, while Allcott is the coach of the veterans’ side.

O’Neil paid tribute to his great mate just before they ran out together on Sunday.

Allcott was taken aback – clearly unaware for the tribute that was to follow in front of the group.

“You’ve become the 12th member of the 300 club, Hawk, and a couple have gone on to play over 400,” O’Neil said.

“It’s a big effort, not just by what you’ve done for the senior club over the years, but also around the junior club.

“You’re team manager of the seniors now and you’ve really put back into the club over a long period of time.

“In the 2004 grand final over at Woori Yallock he had a really good day and kicked three goals, but we get to Mad Monday and it’s somehow turned into six goals and he was best on ground!

“But, Deano, you pull those colours on and you love playing for the club – not just footy, but cricket too.

“Fantastic effort, and I’m rapt to see you reach 300 games and run through that banner with you.”

Whether Sunday marked 300 or 301, it really didn’t matter. What mattered most was the mateship, and love of the jumper.