Matt Ballatori played his 200th A Grade for Houghton Districts in last Saturday’s Division 6 match against Mitchell Park.
Houghton honoured the celebration with a smashing 70-point win, capping off a well-deserved milestone for a very loyal clubman.
Ballatori, 33, has been a true workhorse for Houghton over the last 12 years, since he joined the club at 21 years of age.
Ballatori said that it has been a great journey at Houghton, and has never had a single regret since he walked through the doors all those years ago.
“I went out there and enjoyed myself from the start, and I have never thought about going elsewhere.”
“It’s nice to play 200 games, and especially all at one club.”
Ballatori said that football has always provided him with a good life balance, a release from work and life’s stresses.
“That’s why I have always played, for the love of the game.”
“I have always treated footy like therapy, when you’re out there you forget about everything else that’s going on.”
Ballatori admitted that the milestone was a big achievement, especially in this day and age given the money that is currently on the table in amateur football.
“It is extra special in these days with money being thrown around at players, there just isn’t too many people playing 200 games at the one club.”
Throughout his career, Ballatori has traditionally played as a tough midfielder, often going un-noticed doing the hard stuff for his team at ground level.
He has always played an important role for his team, without being the standout player.
During his career, Houghton have predominately played in the division 6 and 7 SAAFL competitions, they have always been a strong team and a consistent finals fixture.
Unfortunately for Ballatori and the club, they have been luckless in their quest for premiership success, which includes an agonising loss in last years decider (lost by 10-points to Mitchell Park – Division 7 GF).
“It was pretty disappointing last year, being hot favourites going into it and basically playing our worst game of the year on that day.”
This year Houghton has embraced the move to Division 6 this season and seems well prepared for a big season ahead.
“There is a lot more confidence around the group going into division 6 this year, the boys are really embracing it and finals are the aim for us”
Ballatori said that it is always a goal to keep improving as a club; winning finals and moving up to higher divisions.
Throughout his career, Ballatori said that he really looked up to and enjoyed playing with Aaron ‘Beefer’ Musolino.
Musolino played 378 games for Houghton before retiring a few seasons ago.
“From a club perspective I have always looked up to Beefer, he was a great footballer, and a really great bloke to look up to and emulate”
“He was pretty short, but he definitely made you feel taller when you step out on that footy field next to him”
Looking back at his own career, Ballatori just wants to be remembered as a player who everyone loved playing with, that made others feel confident running out next to him – Just like Beefer.
When he eventually closes out his career, Ballatori is keen to stay around the club and give back to Houghton who has been such a major part of his life.
That may still be several years away as he still insisted that he still has a few seasons left in him.
“I want to keep playing as long as the body holds up and the wife lets me.”
Written by Josh Teakle