By Nick Creely
The stories about the impact Marc Holt has had on local footy are about as endless as the amount of goals he’s sailed through the middle of the big sticks.
Lion-hearted, powerful, loyal, and skilful, fans have come out in the droves for well over a decade to catch a glimpse of his greatness.
Put it simply, Holt bleeds gold and blue, and is building a legacy that will carry further than his time at full-forward for Cranbourne.
Holt currently sits on 987 goals for his beloved Eagles, and is within touching distance of a rare 1000-goal feat.
As the build-up looms for what will be an historic event, long-time opponent and Pakenham champion Nathan Brown, former Cranbourne president Shane Baker, as well as good friend and 2011 premiership coach Doug Koop spoke to the Gazette about a loveable power forward who has made an impact beyond just his goal tally.
Brown admits Holt gave him plenty of sleepless nights, predicting he played on the big Eagle at least 20 or more times.
“He’s been a bloody tough opponent over the years – you always knew when you came up against Cranny you’d be lining up on him and it’d be a tough day at the office,” Brown said.
“There was always that thought of ‘how do I play him this time?’, whether he’s working up the ground or staying deep – a player like me knew not to get body on body, he’s one of the strongest players going around.”
Brown – who played on countless champions in the region – bestowed his highest praise on Holt.
“He’s the best player I’ve played on, without a shadow of a doubt,” he said.
“There’s times where I specifically remember him leading up and it was a relatively good kick to him, and I thought I had him covered, and the ball doesn’t move out of his hands. His marking was quite special.
“I think he’s always been that strong body where he can sit in the square if he’s injured, and beat anyone one on one, and when he was up about and running he was on the wing and putting them in forward 50, he’s so versatile.
“He just kicks bags either way.”
And Brown has a message for young forwards coming through.
“A lot of forwards should be looking at him, they should want to play like him – they should watch him and understand what he does to get himself in the best position,” he said.
“Ultimately, the young forwards should be watching him, because he’s one of the best players in local footy going around.”
And he’s certainly given plenty of reasons for former Cranbourne president Shane Baker to smile, including this story from his record breaking goal fest six years ago.
“This is how freakish he is – in 2012, he needed eight goals to kick his 100th for the year, and we played Hampton Park,” he said with a chuckle.
“This was the game he kicked 22 goals mind you. I was coaching the reserves that day, and I was sitting in the selection room, and I said to him ‘when are you going to kick your 100th goal?’
“He said, ‘time on in the first quarter’. I had a bit of a chuckle at it, and sure enough in the 24th minute mark of the first quarter he had kicked his eighth goal.
“He just knows, and wills himself to get to things, and that’s not a fluke on his behalf.”
While Holt has been a towering presence on-field during his extraordinary career to date, Baker lauded his off-field impact too.
“He epitomizes our footy club, he’s one of the most selfless people I know, just in the way he gets around the club – he’s loved to death around our club,” he said.
“And he’s clearly universally respected; he’s everything to us and our club that you could imagine.
“Every club probably would love to have someone like Marc Holt – Narre probably has Collo (Michael Collins), and Marc is that for us, he gets people together and gets them up about.”
An example of his selflessness – according to Baker – came in the midst of grand final day only a few years ago.
A premiership player in 2011, Holt missed out on the 2016 glory with the Eagles after missing the grand final due to a broken leg that nearly ruined his career.
“He could have wallowed around in self-pity that he couldn’t play, and deep down he was hurting, and we had chats about it, but he was there for the boys, and it didn’t matter as long as the club has success,” Baker said.
“That typifies the guy – even after the 2016 grand final, he was one of the first players to hug me, he couldn’t have been happier, and that was him in a nutshell.
“He would have had his moments during the game, but in front of the boys he couldn’t have been any happier.”
Baker – similarly to Brown – hasn’t seen a player quite like Holt. He simply draws people to the game.
“I haven’t see anyone come near him, in saying that, players play different positions, but when it comes to freakish ability, he turns the game on its head when needed, and I think that’s the most obvious thing for us,” he said.
“For me, I haven’t seen a player be able to do the things he can do – he has his good and bad days, but to kick nearly 1000 goals in 230-odd games is incredible.
“He has such a big heart and wills himself – his presence around the game is massive, he lifts everyone around him.
“We’re a bit biased, but there are only a couple of blokes people will actually pay to watch, and just to go to a game to know Marc Holt is playing.
“I think the crowds have dropped off a bit, but people still know when Marc’s playing, and they go to watch because they know he’ll do something special.
“I think that’s the legacy he leaves in this competition – in the times that got tough, and when the ladder was predictable, he kept people coming through the gate.”
Holt’s 2011 premiership coach, Doug Koop, recalls a day where he simply marvelled at his ability to turn a game in a matter of moments.
“There was an interleague game a couple of years ago, I think we were up at Hampden or somewhere like that, and the game was really close at about half time,” Koop said.
“Holty kicked about four in the third quarter, and went over on his ankle, but managed to blow the game apart.
“Unfortunately, for us, he carried that ankle right through the finals series, and probably wasn’t the player we needed, but that was Marc Holt to the letter, he played with passion and enjoyed the interleague spotlight, and stood head and shoulders above the others.
“That was special, just seeing him in full flight.”
Koop – who praised Holt for having vice-like hands and an accurate kicking technique – also spoke about his deeds as a selfless, team orientated leader during his golden years at Casey Fields.
“We put him through a kicking program a couple of years ago, and it provided great dividends to him – he kicked 150 goals one year at about 80 per cent, which is almost unheard of,” he said.
“But as a leader, Holty’s one of the blokes that doesn’t say a lot, he leads more with his actions, rather than his words,” he said.
“Single handily, he won many games off his own boot, not just kicking goals, but by taking better players and allowing other players to get a little bit of freedom.”
And as his great mate nears his 1000th goal, Koop explained that Holt was one of those blokes that simply loves the game, and never wavered in doing everything he could to win.
“He’s got just rewards, his outstanding attribute is that he’s got genuine passion to go out there and give everything; he leaves nothing on the footy field,” he said.
“He’d agree – like a lot of people would – that he could have been better, but he’s got everything he could out of his body, and he gives everything in every game.”
Cranbourne’s next three games are against Narre Warren, Berwick and then Tooradin-Dalmore, and fans will wait in anticipation as one of the great characters to ever grace local footy makes history.