Dan Overeem’s senior AFL debut occurred just as the Internet got exciting and fomented the gush of congratulations for the trivial, much of it self-generated.
It was 1998.
And now, 20 years later, Overeem is about to accomplish something truly noteworthy.
At No.1 Oval on Saturday, the 37-year-old forward will play his 300th game, becoming the first AFL North West player to do so. And if he kicks two goals, he will also become the first player to reach 1000 goals.
Watching as usual will be his wife, Sarah, who grew up following rugby league and rugby union but became an AFL convert after she met her Tasmanian-raised husband when he moved to Tamworth with his family two decades ago. Beside Sarah will be the couple’s children, Abbey, 6, and Jack, 5.
“We’re very proud of him,” Sarah said. “He plays because he enjoys the sport, and we encourage him to play as long as his body allows him to play.”
“He always has been very driven,” she added. “… He’s starting to slow down now in the drive, but that’s understandable.”
After playing junior footy in Hobart, Overeem debuted in Tamworth in the second season of the then Tamworth-based competition, when the Roos were known as Nuttsy’s Bulldogs. He was there when the Bulldogs became the Cargill Kangaroos in 1999 and the Tamworth Kangaroos in 2002.
He was also there when the Kangaroos won the 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2011 premierships – Roos life membership bestowed on him. And he will be there when the side bids to keep their season alive against the Tamworth Swans on Saturday.
He's rightfully proud of his football resume, and “very excited” about Saturday’s game.
“It’s an achievement,” he said. “I’ve had good feedback from the family and friends, saying that it’s an amazing effort just to get to that point and that the body’s allowed me to play that many games.”
Being a one-club player makes the milestone even more special to him. He has “grown to love” the club, where he has met “so many great people”.
Lifetime friendships have been forged. The boy became a man, a husband, a father. And throughout it all, the backdrop to his life has been coloured blue and white.
The strong bonds formed over those years are more important than ever, as the side endures a torrid season.
“It’s been a tough year,” Overeem said. “I’ve been involved [with the club] for 20 years and it’s probably one of the toughest struggles of a year playing footy.
“And my coach, Tony Bishop, has never coached a team with the Kangaroos who haven’t made finals, and he doesn’t want to be the first [Roos] coach to not make the final series [in almost two decades].”
For the Roos to stay alive, they must first beat the fourth-placed Swans, before finishing the regular season against the Narrabri Eagles at No.1 Oval next week. Overeem believes that the Roos must win both matches to advance.
“The Swans have beaten us twice this year but we’ve got a pretty strong side going into Saturday, from what I’ve heard,” he said. “And I’ve got a couple of old mates and teammates of mine that are gonna come back and play on the weekend, who are still fit enough to play, and I’d love to run out there with them.”
Whatever happens, expect to see Overeem line up for the Kangaroos next season. His “love of the game” has a strong hold on him. “I’ve got the desire to just keep on going. I never thought I’d get to 300 games … But it’s there, and I’m proud of it.”