Severe lung disease won't stop John Cook from coming out of retirement and pulling on the footy boots this weekend, but it might stop him from running around the field.
The 62-year-old has COPD, has outlived the expectations of two medical specialists, and played his last game of footy more than 30 years ago.
None of that is going to stop him taking to the field for the Royal Park Tigers reserves against Harcourt, in the Maryborough Castlemaine District Football League, alongside his youngest son Brett.
John made the decision to come out of retirement to help the team, which is struggling for numbers, and highlight the plight of many country clubs who struggle to find enough players to field a team each week.
Last week, with just 12 senior players and some juniors called up to help out, Royal Park reserves lost to Maldon 61.22.388 to 0, with the margin in three other games in the same competition ranging from 187 to 278 points.
John has a game plan for Saturday's match. He's told Brett and the team he'll play in the forward pocket and they need to deliver the ball to him, on the chest, so he can turn around and kick for goal. "I'm going to have a crack. It will be interesting because I struggle to even run now, but they have a real struggle for numbers so why not," he said.
"You've got to do what you've got to do but at least I'll be a number on the park ... and they've got to put someone on me.
"And if people hear about it and think if he can do it so can I, then it might bring another player or two out of retirement."
Brett is looking forward to being on the ground with his dad, but has doubts about how effective John will be.
"I was a bit shocked when he told me. I don't even think he'll be able to run let alone kick a footy but before he goes, that's what he wants to do," Brett said.
"It will be special just to be out there with him.
"I never played with him and never watched him play so it will be good to play with him, even if he can't do much. And if a 62-year-old that's nearly at the end of his days can do it, anyone can rather than sitting at home."
Brett, who has played most of his football since junior days at Lake Wendouree, has had ongoing issues with concussion and decided to play a few games with some mates in the Royal Park reserves to keep fit and help team numbers.
John said he hoped his comeback might inspire "a few young blokes" to return to football.
"A lot of blokes retire maybe in their mid 30s, and if they can they should go back and put a bit more in to football," he said.
"Every league around Ballarat is facing the same issues of too few players."
"I have COPD but it doesn't matter. I still get up and walk around. I'll be short of breath on Saturday and I might have my puffer in my sock and word up first aid!"
"I'm going to fill up a space and I might might encourage a few other people to come out of retirement and go and help some of the struggling teams."
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