DEAN Basham has pulled on the Forster-Tuncurry rugby league jumper nearly 300 times since he started with the club as an under 18.
More than 230 of these have been in first grade and that's thought to be a club record. However, the 33-year-old second rower or prop, who has been one of the best of his era in Group Three, will retire afterSaturday's game against Wauchope at Tuncurry.
The day will be a curtain call for the Basham family. Dean's dad, Mick, the first grade coach is also stepping down as is his nan, Nell (Basham), who has given the club years of service in the canteen.
"Dad thinks it's time for someone younger to step up,'' Dean said.
"It's been a tough time for nan after we lost pop last year. Nan's 84 and doesn't need to be running the canteen now.''
He was blunt when asked why he was hanging up the boots.
"Old age,'' he replied.
"I'm 33 now and 34 in April. I have twin daughters who are seven and it's about time I started spending more time with them.
"They had their first year of netball this year and because of football I've missed watching them play too many times. So I owe it to them and my wife to correct that in the future.''
He's also been a long serving member of the committee but will sever ties completely after the annual meeting.
"I'll always be a proud and passionate Hawk supporter. But the club's been going for 90 odd years, 70 of them without me and I'm sure they'll keep going for a long time,'' he said.
Basham said premierships in 2004 and 2001 have been the obvious highlights. He was player of the grand final in 2004 when the Hawks thrashed Wingham in the decider at Tuncurry.
"Playing at home made that even more special,'' he said.
"In 2011 we beat Port (City) at Port. We'd been up there a few times and fallen short, so to get that monkey off our back was good.''
Basham was also a great advocate for representative football at a time when many players shunned the idea. He rates captaining the first Group Three team in 17 years to beat Group Two as another memorable moment and praises the efforts of former group coach Dave Henry in making rep footy more attractive for players.
He rates Troy Hilder, Matt Finlayson, Daniel Stallworthy, Greg Hill, David Elliott, Dave Elder and Gary Bishop as the best Forster players he's run around with.
"I enjoyed our tussles against the Sullivan brothers and had a season with Scott here at Forster,''he added.
"And I always duels against (Port City's) Daniel Dumas, while (Wauchope's) Rob Trembath is one of the best forwards I've played against and not a bad bloke off the field either.''
He recalls a somewhat surreal momentum in his first grade debut against Cundletown at the Jack Neal Oval.
"I got the call from Greg Hill to come on and I was standing on the sideline waiting to get onto the field,'' he said.
"Then one of characters of Group Three football at the time, Dennis Bungie, came from over the fence, put his arm around me as said G'day and wished me all the best. I didn't know whether to get onto the field or stay there talking to him.''
Basham said he's lost count of the number of times he's been sent off. He was often the villain as far as opposition spectators were concerned but says he had to take on this role years ago when the Hawks had a young and small forward pack.
"I guess I had to try and intimidate,'' he said.
He's also captain-coached the Hawks in the past but has no intention to take on a non-playing role in the foreseeable future.
Basham knows tomorrow will be emotional and he understands the Hawks are going to struggle to beat this year's minor premiers.
"But I know we won't give up. It's been a tough year but we haven't flown the white flag and we've met all our commitments,'' he added.
Basham also knows he's going to miss the game and the involvement.
But he says there'll be no comebacks and a chapter of his life will be over once the fulltime siren sounds on Saturday.
"I've loved it,'' he said.
"But it's time to move on.''