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Central salutes a champion

Saturday, 6th August, 2011

TRUE LEADER: Central Captain Justin Heath will celebrate his 200th league game today. TRUE LEADER: Central Captain Justin Heath will celebrate his 200th league game today.

By Darrin Manuel

The Central Football Club may be out of finals contention, but today they take the field for what must be considered their “must win” game of the season.

Club champion Justin Heath will celebrate his 200th game when Central clashes with league leader North. A win for their Captain would be a shining light in a season that has been otherwise ruined by injury.

The 27-year-old midfielder has bled black and white since his family moved to Broken Hill from Burra in 1990 and he began playing junior football with the Magpies.

He made his senior debut for the club in 2000 under then coach Wayne Walker and went on to enjoy a remarkable senior career that has yielded three flags, a best and fairest, club captaincy, and the coveted Lionel Johnston Medal in 2006.

Heath will now join another elite group when he takes the field for his milestone game but he said the Magpies’ recent past players’ reunion celebrations had kept his mind off the looming achievement.

“I haven’t really thought about it as we’ve had big weekends the last few weeks at the footy club but I’m sure during the week it will hit home that it’s 200,” he said.

“It’s a good honour to play 200 considering we’re out of towners. To get 200 up is really good.”

Heath has had the unenviable task of trying to lead a desperately undermanned Central outfit to victory throughout 2011, and admitted it had been a challenge at times.

While the club’s poor win-loss ratio has attracted some attention throughout the year, the effort of the playing and coaching group has never been questioned.

“Being Captain for five years it’s just about helping the young blokes out and getting to know some of the coaching methods,” he said.

“It can be pretty hard to get the boys up when we’re losing like we are but we’re doing our best. It’s a week by week thing.

“When you select the side it’s pretty hard. There’s changes every week and you can’t keep a solid side together.

“But the coaching staff and footy club are doing their best every week.”

Heath’s determi-nation on and off the field drew high praise from coach Jarrod Hinton who said the on-baller’s distinctive style - and shape - made him a valuable asset to the team.

“I think he’s an absolute champion. He’s tough, courageous, and he’s got a leg that’s just a lethal weapon,” said Hinton.

“He’s an absolute freak - he’s 4ft 1 and 200kgs, he’s not built to play football but his first five steps are awesome and he’s just got all the skills.”

But while the coach was happy to share a few friendly jibes about his good mate’s nuggety build there were no jokes when it came to discussing his standing within the Central Football Club.

Hinton and the entire black and white faithful hold immense respect and admiration for their Captain, and the coach is desperate for a win.

“He’s all you could ask for in a Captain, and I think he’s now the longest serving Captain in the history of the club,” said Hinton.

“A lot of captains do their job through their talk but he goes out and leads with his actions. He’d do anything for anybody and expect nothing in return.

“He’s a damn nice bloke on and off the field and I think he’s respected by the whole football community.

“Hopefully we can get up and get win for a him. It will be a very special day for our club. We can’t say enough about him.”

Heath said he wished to thank his coaches, family and girlfriend Maggie for all their support throughout his career.

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