There is no doubting the imprint Travis Brighton has made on the Churchill Football Netball Club, but the man himself is convinced it’s the other way around.
The reality seems to rest somewhere in the middle, with the two parties bringing the best out of one another for more than 15 years.
This weekend Brighton becomes only the second player to play 300 senior games for the Cougars, behind the late great Gary ‘Woosha’ Welsh.
The 34-year-old remains the driving force in the Cougars midfield and said he was fortunate to be able to call Churchill his home club.
“It’s testament to the footy club that it continues to create the sort of environment that people can succeed in and want to be part of,” Brighton said.
“The three premierships I’ve played in and won have definitely been highlights but definitely the camaraderie of the Churchill Football Club that has been there the whole journey stands out.”
The association began in 2002 when Brighton arrived at Gaskin Park as a fresh-faced teenager, just as the Cougars were emerging as a powerhouse of the North Gippsland Football Netball League.
Success came quickly with the 2002 under-18 premiership as a top age thirds player, but then came the challenge of breaking into the club’s senior team, which had just secured its first senior flag since 1983.
It proved the making of the player he would become.
“It was challenging at the start going in as a 19-year-old at a time when the club had just won a premiership,” Brighton said.
“To continue to play week in and week out you had to put in a lot of hard work at training and tick all the boxes.
“It’s also about preparing your body as best you can and doing what you need to do, whether that’s icing sore spots during the week or a pool session.”
It’s that sort of meticulous and dedicated approach that perhaps best characterises Brighton as a player.
He not only broke into the premiership-winning senior side, but stayed there and was part of the group that went on to secure back-to-back flags in 2003.
It marked the beginning of a glittering career that, in addition to the 2003, 2008 and 2014 premierships, has included a club record six senior best and fairest awards and the 2014 Sel Burley Medal as league best and fairest, which he shared with Heyfield’s Josh Stubbe.
Understandably, the three premierships provide the fondest memories, but perhaps surprisingly it was the 2014 flag that stood out above the rest.
“It sounds a bit strange because I went down early with injury and didn’t contribute much but we were touted as a team to drop off a bit that year and so to get to the pointy end and beat Heyfield in a grand final upset and be part of that team was great,” he said.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, with a lean patch between the 2009 and 2014 grand final appearances, but that the club only missed finals once in that period and came out the other side to win a flag says plenty about the leadership of players like Brighton.
“The way we’ve always been coached is that everyone has an opinion and a voice,” Brighton said.
“To see young guys that have come up through the club and stamped themselves as senior players has been a highlight.”
One of those is current senior coach Chris Williams – 10 years Brighton’s junior – who said the milestone man’s achievement was testament to the his class, consistency, dedication and durability.
“He’s a fierce competitor, super courageous and a great ball winner,” Williams said.
“He played something like his first 200 senior games in a row and he’s basically been the heart and soul of our senior team for 10 years.
“Trav’s a guy that all the young guys look up to. He’s a super loyal guy, he’s stuck around the club through great times and tough times and he’s probably the best player I’ve played with.”
Williams took over from Brighton as captain six years ago and following the former’s appointment as coach this season, the latter was voted to stand alongside Jordan Fenech as joint captain of the senior side.
While there may be more vocal leaders in the game, Brighton’s actions speak louder than words and his drive and commitment to training and on match day ensure the 34-year-old remains one of the most influential players in the competition.
The Cougars will be hoping to celebrate Brighton’s milestone with a similar result to game 299 in which they produced one of the most impressive performances of the season to defeat Sale City by 47 points, when they host Rosedale at Gaskin Park this weekend.
Categorised in: Churchill FNC
This post was written by Michelle Kyle