ASH Barker simply cannot walk away from Redan – not that he has ever wanted to.
The man they call ‘Chip’ will on Saturday play his 250th senior game for the club, a remarkable achievement that has him up there with the maroon and gold elite.
Even more astonishing than his games tally however, is a club record six senior premierships under his belt.
Barker, who moved to City Oval from North Ballarat in 2000 when he no longer had a senior team to play with at Eureka Stadium, says it is the club culture that has kept him a Lion for such an extended period.
Now aged 32, Barker is in his 14th year of senior football and will play his 250th senior game against Sebastopol at Marty Busch Reserve today.
In terms of Redan, he is second only to Ian Pym, who played 369 games and has surpassed former mayor John Burt, who played 239.
“It’s the sort of club where it is just so hard to walk away from,” Barker said.
“You finish the season and have a bit of time off and you might think about it, but then you just want to go out and play with your mates again.
“It’s more about how you love hanging out with your mates and that’s what you want to be a part of; those nights in the Den.”
Starting as a senior player when he was 17, Barker says his most memorable moment was Redan’s breakthrough premiership in 2002, knocking off powerhouse Sunbury.
Just five years earlier, the club had been on the brink of collapse, routinely smashed by more than 100 points and finishing last in 1997 and 1998 and second-last in 1999.
Even in 2002 they had a horror start to the season, before coach Brett Quinlan turned their fortunes around and the maroon and gold went on to raise the premiership cup.
“That one was pretty special, it probably stands out as the most memorable one,” Barker said.
“The one against Sunbury when we won by two points (2011) was amazing. We looked gone in that one but got up to win, it was actually shock when the siren went and we’d won.”
For now, there is no end in sight for Barker’s dazzling career.
But even he admits another 120 games to break the club record might be a bit out of reach.