By David Nagel
Sharing special experiences is what great friendships are all about – but Shane Brewster and Shane Ingham are about to share something extra special when they run out for the Warragul Industrials at Western Park on Saturday.
Reserves coach Ingham will run out for his 300th club game for the Dusties against Inverloch-Kongwak – while roughly two hours later Brewster will saddle up for the 350th time in a glittering senior career that has secured three premierships and a staggering 10 club best and fairest awards.
We told you…this is something special…even by friendship standards!
Ingham, 37, has been a football tragic since the age of seven, when he began a junior career under legendary coach Frank Ahern that would last for 120 games before making the natural transition to the Dusties.
His mum Linda is a netball life member of the club and was proud as punch when her boy ran out for his first senior game as a 16-year-old in the year 2000.
Ingham, who underrates himself as an honest and reliable footballer, has tasted the ultimate success just once, when as a player-coach he kicked three goals in the 2016 reserves premiership win over Bunyip.
“It took a long time to get one and I definitely cherish that success, from an achievement point of view anyway,’ Ingham said.
“You see a lot of players play their whole careers without winning one, so to finally get one after 25 years was very nice.
“But clearly the best memory I have in footy is looking back at all the mates you make along the way and just being involved in the community and part of this club.
“There are a lot of relationships that begin inside football and then flow outside the club.”
One of those friendships is with Brewster, who made his way to the Dusties after winning three-successive premierships with Narre Warren ending in 2008.
“I didn’t really know him because I had a gap year when he first came across with Wade McGill in 2009,” Ingham recalled.
“But he was a natural leader from day one, even as a new bloke to the club he drove the standards higher and higher along the way and made us all better players.
“He would do anything for you, on and off the field. He’s the first one to buy you a beer, a really nice guy and an incredible footballer as well.
“We’ve had some great footballers but I’d rate him alongside Rob Hefford as the best I’ve played with in my 30 years at the club.”
Ingham’s family is heavily involved at Warragul, with his wife Kristy playing for the Dusties women’s team and children Tyler, Alex and Keira all in love with their sport.
Keira plays football for the under-10’s, coached by…guess who…Brewster!
“There’s not many days we don’t see each other to be honest, either through footy or our family connection,” Ingham said with a grin.
For Brewster, his Victorian football journey began as a 15-year-old when his dad got a new job in Melbourne and moved the family across to Berwick from South Australia.
Brewster, alongside his brothers Danny and Nathan, would play for the Narre Warren juniors before Shane played two years with the Dandenong Stingrays.
He would then make the natural progression to the Frankston Dolphins, spend two years there, before enjoying the ride of his life at Narre Warren.
“The flags are what you remember most but the mates and friendships, it was a pretty incredible time at Narre Warren,” Brewster recalls.
“We were down when we started but built a great camaraderie. We lost to an unbeatable Doveton in 2005 and then built a dynasty, with good juniors coming through and a really good bunch of blokes.
“Aussie Jones and Matt Shinners coached those flags and I remember playing with blokes like Brad Scalzo, Brett Evans and Steven Kidd.
“They were great times.”
Brewster moved to the Dusties after McGill offered him an assistant-coaching role, something he built on by coaching the club himself for five years.
Brewster has won eight club best and fairest awards at the Dusties, and as coach came close to winning the club’s first senior flag since 1996 when his team went down to Catani by one point in the 2017 Ellinbank decider.
“Catani was fantastic that day but that definitely still feels like the one that got away,” Brewster said.
On the field with Brewster that day were two people very close to his heart, Ingham, and a 21-year-old Tyson Bale, whose passing on July 29 last year had a massive impact on everyone at the club.
“He (Ingham) is ultimate team man, when we were playing together you always knew he was going to give it his best and do the right thing by the team,” Brewster said.
“He’s as hard as any player I’ve ever met, like a bull at a gate, and I never doubted his effort once. He’s coached women’s, reserves and juniors and I’ve seen him sell merchandise for the club as well…he’s just a terrific clubman.”
And Brewster said everyone at the Dusties banded together to help each other through the passing of Tyson Bale. The importance of being part of a club had never been clearer.
“The club was critical to us all at that point,” Brewster said.
“For myself, losing Tyson was terrible, horrible, I can’t explain it in words.
“It’s something that hit home pretty hard and without the guys around me, it would have been even harder to get through.
“Footy clubs are an outlet, for players and volunteers, just a great way to get away from everyday life, get away from work, all your hassles, and do your own thing.
“With what happened with Tyson, we’ve put it to our guys that you come to footy to enjoy yourself and that’s what it’s all about.
“I think being part of a footy club is so important from a mental health point of view.”
Brewster said playing his 350th career game gave him time to reflect on his overall football journey and what had driven him.
“I just love footy, from that age to this age I don’t think my passion for the game has changed,” the 36-year-old said.
“I still love going out there and having a kick with the boys and age is just a number to me. As long as I can keep contributing, I’ll keep going, one year, two years, however I’m feeling, maybe three or four, who knows.
“But playing 350 means a lot. You need a bit of luck with longevity in this game and that side of things has been fantastic.
“The drive for me now is my two young boys (Cooper 8 and Jaxon 5), they love coming to the football every week I like to show them that dad can still play footy despite getting a little older.
“I can’t describe the passion I have for the game…I love it that much.”
And his great mate Ingham is also proud of his own achievement.
“I was pretty happy when I got to 200, I thought that was a pretty good achievement, but to get to 300 is something that I will cherish that I was able to do,” Ingham said.
“I’ve been lucky with injuries, little niggles here and there, but I’m very proud of myself, especially to do it with the one club.”