The world’s changed a bit since Stephen Giles first donned a Caramut Swans jumper.
Australia’s moved to decimal currency, daylight savings was introduced, Advance Australia Fair became our national anthem, and 15 different prime ministers have been elected to office.
In fact, 58 years have passed since a sprightly young Giles first bound across the turf for his local football club in south-west Victoria in 1966.
Giles, a country boy turned city lawyer, still bounds across the turf. Though the spring in his step’s diminished with the years, his passion for the game, and his club, hasn’t.
At 65, he’s the oldest active Australian Rules footballer in the state.
Stephen Giles keeps fit running around the paths of Melbourne between matches in Caramut.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
But you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. Or by the way he attacks the ball.
These days, his appearances are limited to the Swans’ reserves side when numbers are short.
He’s a willing participant, which means his phone runs hot in the lead-up to teams being announced each Thursday night.
“It does seem that they’re short a lot,” he says with a smile.
Very few players can boast a personalised football jumper.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
Bounce that pill
Giles has moved away from Caramut, meaning these days his games are accompanied by a roughly 400km round trip.
The drive there’s a breeze: the excitement of the game mixed with the rolling bitumen is a quasi pilgrimage of sorts now.
However, the trip home’s where things tend to come unstuck.
Stephen Giles is a lawyer by day, footballer by weekend.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
“I can tell you now that three hours sitting in a car post-match is not the ideal warm down,” he told ABC Statewide Mornings.
“When I get out of the car back in Melbourne, it takes me a while to straighten up.”
Giles doesn’t know how many games he’s played; he’s never counted.
He estimated that it’s about 500 or so.
Stephen Giles’s grandfather’s woollen Caramut jumper is one of his prized possessions.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
The secret to his longevity is simple: never stop in the first place.
“You don’t really have a preseason. You just have a continuum because once you stop, you’re in trouble,” he said.
“I jokingly say to my mates that I promised to retire when I lose form. I just didn’t realise it would take this long.”
This season’s been one to forget for the Bloods, though you can’t point the finger directly at the bloke known on field as “Gilesy” for that.
He’s played in three matches before heading overseas for a winter jaunt through Europe, including a stopover at Kensington Palace (personalised Caramut jumper in hand).
The Caramut Football Club is a special place for Stephen Giles’s family.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
The 65-year-old plans to back up again next year for his beloved Swans, as long as he’s still getting a kick.
After that, you’ll likely still find him rusted onto the club, standing near the pavilion that’s been named in his honour.
Life left in the legs
The bumps and bruises of the sport take a little longer to work out these days.
But they’ll never deter him.
“I’m not a masochist. I enjoy it,” he said with a laugh.
Stephen Giles has no plans to retire from community football.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
“I still enjoy the moment, you know. If I can still stay fit then I’ll just keep playing, but I haven’t got any particular age in mind.
“If I can’t get a kick anymore, then I’ll stop. But I’m still able to get a kick, so that’s fun.”
When he does retire, again, it’ll be truly the end of an era for the club that’s served as the state’s oldest player’s home for seven consecutive decades.
Stephen Giles hasn’t lost count of how many games he’s played — he just never started counting.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
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Source: AFL NEWS ABC