Sydney University Australian National Football Club stalwart Leigh McWhirter celebrated his 300thgame for the club on Saturday, with a 77-37 win over Western Magic in Division Four of the Premier competition in Sydney.
McWhirter joined the exclusive 300 Club in his 16th season with SUANFC after moving to Sydney from Rosebud in Victoria in 2001.
“Lethal” Leigh started his Sydney University career as a marking, mid-sized forward, but a switch to half back led to more consistent performances and more senior opportunities.
He was a key member of the 2003, 2005 and 2013 premiership teams, also acting as assistance coach of the 2103 side.
And he played in the 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 sides that finished runners-up in the Premier Sydney competition.
He won the 2008 Sanders Medal (for the League Best and Fairest), and at club level was the leading goalkicker in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and club Best in Finals in 2004.
McWhirter was also on the club committee from 2005-09 and is one of the rare players to be made a Life Member of the club while still strapping on the boots.
Fellow SUANFC Life Member and long-time friend Brett Pettersen penned some thoughts about McWhirter leading into Saturday’s historic match.
On his playing ability: “Lethal continued to be a key senior figure in whatever team he has featured. Moving wherever he was needed most, including midfield grunt, decoy key forward, pinch hitting ruck, kicking bags himself, playing loose man floating across half back, he probably won more than a handful of games off his own boot.
“Just the other week, Lethal again did what was necessary, pushing himself deep into the last line of defence to take the winning mark to ice a game. Smarts, uncompromising competitive drive to win, putting his body on the line and just doing whatever his team needs would be the hallmark of a resilient and decorated playing career.”
And Lethal didn’t only excel on the field, as Pettersen says: “Off-field, Leigh has been one of those key glue/fabric/backbone/insert another appropriate adjective here for the club. A Life Member for his service to the club, Leigh has been a key contributor to the administration of the club, club leader, social mainstay, bridge between multiple generations and taking on co-coaching and assistant coaching roles with aplomb.
“Always one of the boys, rarely will a social occasion be missed despite in recent years meaning 70-80km round trips from work and home in Western Sydney and the increasing pressures of a young family, work and finishing Uni. In the mid noughties Leigh was secretary in the days of physical paperwork for every part of the process, he knew every player at the club (across three, then four, then five grades) and made them all welcome and special.
“Again, doing whatever it took, Leigh would often just do whatever needed to be picked up, rarely if ever having to be asked, making sure gear got to where it needed to get to, team manager duties covered, players registered or entered into FootyWeb late on a Friday night, barbecue covered or whatever else it might have been that particular day.
“A rough diamond to begin with, like many young blokes before him, Lethal matured as a man and respected voice amongst his peers.”
Here’s to 400 games.