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2003. Seems a long time ago. Roger Federer won his first grand slam tennis title taking out the Wimbledon Championship. Brisbane won the last of its AFL flag three-peat. England beat Australia in the Rugby World Cup final in Sydney in extra time. John Howard was still Prime Minister. And Tom Holden – who played his first game in first grade last week, was not even born.
It was also the year Jamie Maddox made his first grade debut at the Hoppers. His lead in was short, playing barely a game in U18s after switching codes from soccer so he could ‘play with my mates’. And, apart from a brief stint up the road, he’s been the foundation stone of the Hoppers ever since.
250 games. Let that sink in for a moment. A small but illustrious group of players in our Club over 125+ years. It’s so hard to do this journey justice in just a few words.
Jamie’s achievement resume is long. Hoppers Best & Fairest in 2009, 2010 & 2016 and runner up in 2012 and 2013. Jim Quinn Medal for Riverina Football League Best & Fairest player in 2012. Multiple RFL representative teams, including captain. Premiership Captain at the Hoppers in 2013. First Grade Co-Coach 2019-20. It’s an enormous record, irrespective of the league and if nothing else, is commendable for its longevity.
But longevity alone isn’t something you think of when you think of Jamie. There’s plenty we can see. It’s the toughness; the in and under; the bloke in the middle when a footy is being hotly contested after a centre bounce. It’s the amazing acceleration; it’s the support play; it’s the fearless manner with which he seeks the ball. It’s the fact that he has consistently demonstrated these things over such a long period that makes him so admired by his Club and opposition Clubs alike.
But while his team mates have always understood these characteristics of ‘the Ox’, it’s the other ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that has made him an enormous leader, even when no one is watching. It’s the extra running on back roads on hot summer days to ensure he remains relevant. It’s the meticulous preparation in the sheds to get his body right for the game, the detail and professionalism he puts into treating injuries and the amount of work he does analysing and communicating about opportunities to expose opposition weaknesses.
His leadership extends well beyond game time as well. In recent years especially, he has taken a lot of time to guide younger players in the Club, offering small contributions to their development, that have boosted their personal confidence and helped them transition – in footy and otherwise. His lead by example attitude has had a massive influence on the next generation of Club leaders, ensuring that his legacy will live long on after he retires, on the field and off, whether it’s picking up a broom in the sheds post-game, or leading at the front of the 400. And it's his ability to laugh, to be relatable, his care for others, to be so damn reliable, no matter the cause, that has made him such an influential person in our Club over almost two decades. It’s odd perhaps, that the shortest bloke in the room stands the tallest.
If you get an opportunity tomorrow, listen carefully, and chances are, things being normal, his will be the loudest voice in game time. Driving everyone forward, reminding them of where we’re at and going, demanding a little more effort knowing that the reward will come. It’s this relentless pursuit of excellence that motivates his team mates, and that opposition players so highly respect.
Congratulations on 250 Ox. The Club is extremely proud of your achievements and equally grateful that you chose for so long to call our Club home.