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Tuesday, 27 June 2000
Page: 18381

Mr O'CONNOR (10:45 PM) —Australians generally are quite fanatical about their sport and none more so than the followers of our great Australian football code. The electors of Corio are no exception in this regard. The city has a strong historical association with Australian football. The Geelong Football Club was among the first team established to play the code and a Geelong man played a prominent role in developing the rules of the game. So the passion runs deep in Geelong when it comes to Australian football. On Saturday the passions ran high at the club down at Kardinia Park as it honoured two of its favourite sons who have made a magnificent contribution to the club and to Australian football over the last decade. I refer to Gary `Budda' Hocking, who played his 250th game last Saturday, and Tim McGrath, who played his 200th AFL game. I understand that he has played around 150 games with the Geelong Football Club.

Tonight on the floor of the House I would like to pay tribute to both players, but in particular Gary Hocking for his outstanding contribution to Australian football. Hocking has attained legend status in the game. His 250th game on Saturday was both a local and a national milestone and a very proud event and cause for celebration by the football fraternity in Geelong. Gary has reached this milestone despite having suffered serious injury during his career and several trips to the tribunal and subsequent suspensions—events he would probably like to forget. He has acquired legend status in the game because he plays it with a vigour and a passion that few can equal. It has become a hallmark of every game he plays. Gary Hocking possesses exquisite football skills on both sides of his body. He is good in the air for his height, he has lightning reflexes, innate toughness and a capacity to terrrorise opponents with his fierceness at the fall of the ball. Every Saturday when a pack forms over the ball, Hocking is invariably at the bottom of the pack and the last man to get to his feet clutching the ball, to be the one to pass it to the umpire. It is a statement in itself of the fierce desire to possess, to dictate to opponents and to have the last say.

Hocking has matured over the years and his trips to the tribunal have become less frequent, reflecting that new-found maturity. I read that Budda has his sights set on 300 games and I am sure that, with astute and careful handling by the club, we will get to celebrate again the achievements of a great Australian sportsman. Budda Hocking is a household name in Geelong and today in the national parliament, on behalf of the Geelong community, I would like to thank Gary Hocking for the many hours of exciting football entertainment he has provided to the people in Geelong in what, even now, we acknowledge to be an illustrious football career.

In the same game, Tim McGrath celebrated his 200th game of AFL football, around 150 with the club. Our congratulations to Bluey McGrath, also for reaching this important milestone. Bluey McGrath came to Geelong from North Melbourne and has become the rock on which Geelong's defence has been constructed. A dashing red-headed backman, McGrath has become one of Geelong's favourite football sons. We hope that he has many more seasons with the Cats and that in the future we have the opportunity to celebrate his 250th game.

Mr Speaker, as you would know, I did play the game with a passion myself. I think I am the only member of this parliament who still claims to play the game. I do so with the Geelong veteran football club. In my concluding moments I must say that I did take exception to the remarks that were levelled the other day in the adjournment debate by the honourable member for Corangamite who suggested I should be hanging up my boots. I will do no such thing. I could give a non-core promise that I will retire, but let me say that I hope, like Gary Hocking, that I have a few more miles in the legs and a premiership within my grasp. I do wish Gary Hocking the opportunity to play in a Geelong premiership. (Time expired)