No one could have blamed Neil Coster for being on the side lines and watching the Footscray Masters over-60s hockey team play on Wednesday.
At 74, Coster’s best years on the field are behind him, but each week he still turns up to play for his beloved Bulldogs.
Wednesday night’s match was game 1100 for Coster in the red, white and blue. “I’ve just turned 74,” he said. “It’s about the
only sport you can play from cradle to the grave.
“I have a few problems with my knees and shoulders, but I keep coming back I enjoy the game, the people I play with and the people I play against.”
Coster first started playing hockey in 1959 when he was 10 when Footscray Hockey Club was based on grass at Footscray Park. The club would eventually move a couple of times, with Coster the chairman when the club moved to McIvor Reserve where they are based today.
Coster was chairman at the club for more than 20 years and vice president for another three. He’s held multiple director roles at the club and is a Hockey Victoria life member and coached the men’s top side for one season.
On field, he was a two time men’s club champion. He has represented Victorian Masters teams since 1987 and first played for Australian masters team in 2006.
Coster is currently the goalkeeper for the over-70 Australian team. “I’ve been in the Vic Masters team which I enjoy being part of and the Australian team, I’ve spent a lot of my life playing hockey.
“We’ve just come back from New Zealand from a trans-Tasman competition. The wife is happy as she gets to travel a lot of hockey.”
Coster has spent all his hockey in the goal net except for his first season. “The first year I was in the back line and I
got hit in the middle of the eyes,” he said. “I’ve been in goals ever since, I thought it was safer. “They are bringing the ball to me.”
Coster said a lot had changed since he started playing, especially a lot of rule changes. He said the game is a lot faster than when he started playing. “It’s a good family sport.”
While 1100 games of hockey seems a lot, it’s only the start when it comes to working out how many games Coster has played.
He played 180 for MCC when Footscray didn’t have a masters team. Coster then started a masters team at Footscray so he could play at his home club and since played in over-35s, over-40s, over-50s and over-60s competitions.
The games for Footscray only count the winter season games, so Coster said there’s a lot more to the list.
“I’d say I’ve played 1600 for Footscray [including summer games]. Then there’s the MCC games, state games, Australian games, I would have played well over 2000 games.”
Coster said he would continue to play as long as he could as he just loved the sport. It was more a matter if his body could hold out. “It depends on the knees and the hips,” he said. I have one cartlidge left.
“As long as I keep enjoying it, I will keep going.”