A legend who stayed course

Gembrook 400-gamer Steve Pantorno was all smiles after he walked off his home ground to a round of applause from an adoring local crowd.

The fairy-tale was sadly not to be for Brookers legend Steve Pantorno, with the Gembrook Cockatoo reserves going down to local rivals Emerald on Saturday – his 400th game. But, fittingly, he was one of his side’s best in a gallant 23-point defeat.
MATT O’NEIL, a long-time team mate of Pantorno and himself a bonafide Brookers legend, sat down prior to the game to describe just what ‘Pants’ means to the club.

THE Gembrook Cockatoo Football Club today celebrates the magical 400-game milestone of club legend and dual premiership player Steven ‘Pants’ Pantorno, as he becomes only the second player in the club’s 107-year history to achieve the feat.
Pants was a prolific goal kicker in the under-17s back in the early 1990s and won back-to-back best and fairest awards in 1990 and 1991. In 1992, Pants played his first senior game for the club, and he is still going strong 21 years later.
During the early part of his senior football career, Pants was a tough forward/on-baller who was transformed into a feared defender by the mid-1990s; where he has controlled backlines for the Brookers for well over a decade, barking orders that could be heard from miles away.
His hardness and attack on the football could not be questioned. In-fact on one occasion during the 2000 season, a South Belgrave player tried to clean Pants up at Gembrook one day. I recall hearing a massive crack, when I turned around I saw Pants on the ground and the South Belgrave player was screaming in pain. Pants missed one game with a corked thigh I think, the South player was not so lucky though. Why he tried to smash Pants we will never know, but I’m sure he regrets it to this day as that collision broke his femur and dislocated his hip.
By the time 2001 came around, Pants was appointed senior club captain. He was a fearless leader who led by example and loved to pump the boys up before the game and after half time. I’m not sure if any of the boys actually understood a word he said though. To me it sounded like the continual growl of a brown bear with the odd spit ball of froth flying out of his mouth and landing on the face of players close to him.
He very rarely ventures out of the backline these days, but when he does, he relishes his opportunities up forward and knows how to kick a goal or two.
I popped up to training a few weeks back on a Tuesday night to have a look around. You would have thought that after almost 400 games and 23 years of senior footy, Pants might have some get-out-of-training passes up his sleeve. I asked the old veteran why he was training; his reply was short and simple “because I have to to be a part of the team”.
That’s Pants for you.
Pants has been a one-club player and dedicated team member. He coached the under-18s for two seasons, was senior club captain, is a club and league life member, has held positions on the committee, and is a dual-premiership player. But most of all, he’s a good bloke and great person to have around the club.
You make some great mates and lifelong friends through football, and I can say that I’m proud to count this man as one of mine. We have experienced the highs and lows that football offers over the years, and when he decides to finally call it day, I’m sure he will look back on his playing days and achievements at Gembrook with great pride. Well done, champ.