For a VFL stalwart such as Ben Moloney, it’s not hard to imagine the prospect of their 100th league game becoming the focal point in their life as it approaches.
It seems even easier to imagine for Moloney specifically when you hear him speak of the way he has set his sights on the achievement through a near nine-year career that has taken him to Werribee, Collingwood, and Geelong before landing him back at Avalon Airport Oval this year.
“It was something that two or three years ago I really set my mind on,” Moloney recalls.
“I figured at that point that I’d played six or seven years of VFL and that there’d be no point pulling the pin without anything to my name, so the 100 games was one I really set a task of.”
But while Moloney is incredibly excited to finally be notching up the milestone this weekend – fittingly, against Collingwood, the club he played 66 games for and won a VFL best and fairest with – it is certainly not the biggest thing in his life right now.
With he and partner Mienna having recently welcomed daughter Isla into the world and currently planning for their wedding later this year, Moloney acknowledges his priorities and outlook on football have changed significantly in the last 12 months.
“You have this feeling of needing to be home all the time to help out,” he says.
“Footy doesn’t necessarily take a back seat, but its importance probably isn’t as great as what it used to be as a 23- or 24-year-old bloke whose life was footy.
“All I thought about and wanted to do was play footy and be the best I could be, and I obviously I still want to play good footy, but my priorities have changed a bit with our little girl.
“She’s a night owl, which is not ideal for us, but I’m loving it. Every day she does something different or interacts a bit more, and she’s starting to smile at us now, which is really cool.”
As much as fatherhood seems to be agreeing with Moloney, it has certainly added a further layer of complexity to an already delicate balance between his home life in Geelong and his football.
His job as a power-line worker with Powercor means he is often working late hours or on call, a situation made easier by the understanding of the Werribee coaching staff but which nonetheless presents a major challenge.
“I was actually on my way to training the other day and got to Little River and got a phone call and so had to go back, so it does make things harder,” he says.
“Werribee fully understands that, and I really appreciate how they’ve allowed me to continue to work around my little family and throughout my whole career.”
As a player with Geelong’s VFL side last year, Moloney had the chance to return to local Geelong Football League side St Joseph’s late in the season and ultimately play a pivotal role in its premiership success.
With his future opportunities with the Cats looking limited at the end of 2017, it would have been understandable and all too easy for a player in his position to make a permanent return to a local-level environment much closer to home and requiring a much smaller time commitment.
In the end, fueled by the motivating words of coach John Lamont and with the support of his family, he chose to continue pursuing that same success at VFL level through a second stint with Werribee.
“That’s something I’ve always wanted, a VFL premiership, because you can go back and play local footy and play in the best teams and win premierships, but a VFL one is very rare to come by,” he says.
“ ’JL’ sort of relayed that message when I sat down with him. He’s a very good communicator and a great coach, and it’s very easy to buy into what he’s selling.
“So in coming back to Werribee, I guess I had that in my sights. At the moment, we’re not travelling too well, but there’s still a chance. The door’s not shut.”
Ultimately, though, Moloney knows there are no guarantees of glory in this game, and when all is said and done, his fierce desire to continue playing the best standard of football possible for as long as he can is enough to make the commitment a worthwhile one.
“It’s probably a bit of a pride thing,” he says.
“I want to be proud of what I’ve done and achieved, and I certainly am and will be when my time is up, whenever that is. I know I’ve done everything I can to play at the highest level I can.
“Ideally, AFL would have been the best standard, but I don’t really have the speed or the skills to be able to play at that level, so I’m more than comfortable in the VFL.”
Moloney and the rest of the Werribee side take on Collingwood at Victoria Park at 11:30am on Sunday.