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Marty makes it
by LES EVERETT
HE was born in England and grew up playing soccer
but Marty Atkins took to the game of his adoptive home very quickly.
Glance through the records of the Sunday Football League and you'll see the young
Atkins won the Blackburn Medal as the colts competition's fairest and best player
The high leaping youngster from Kwinana was spotted by South Fremantle and late
in 1987 he began the first of 16 consecutive preseason training campaigns with
the Bulldogs. When the 1988 season arrived it was decided the raw young
Englishman would benefit from a season in the South colts. That year he finished
third in the voting for the Medallists Medal (now Jack Clarke Medal) for the WAFL
On Saturday Atkins will play his 258th league game for South Fremantle equalling
the club record set by Tom Grljusich.
Such an achievement in modern football requires remarkable persistence and quite
an amount of luck. In an attempt to highlight the endurance aspect of Atkins'
feat the Herald scrolled through the names of the other 150 or so players who
received votes from the umpires in the 1988 WAFL colts season. Just four are
still playing at WAFL league level or above - Glen Jakovich (West Coast) and
Matthew Burton (Kangaroos) are still going in the AFL and Perth pair Stephen
Pears (a Bulldogs premiership team mate of Atkins in 1997, now with Peel) and
Russell Thompson (now with East Perth) are still creaking around in the
Atkins has also missed just a handful of games through injury - a combination of
luck and extreme fitness can account for that.
When he spoke to australianrules.com.au this week Atkins said equalling the club
record will mean more to him than actually holding it in his own right. "Just to
be placed in the same company as Tom Grljusich is an honour."
Atkins said he felt for Grljusich as he knew what it was like to see records
fall, he set a few high jump marks at Kwinana high school and once was actually
there to see one of them beaten.
But records won't be the only thing on the mind of the South captain on Saturday.
A win will see the Bulldogs move back into four, lose and they'll be a
considerable margin outside. "It's probably our most important game of the year,"
Tom Grljusich at Fremantle Oval for last week's interstate game. His South Fremantle games record will be matched on
Saturday by Marty Atkins. Grljusich also played three seasons with Central
District in the SANFL. Photo by Les Everett