‘Shog’ soars to big milestone

Saturday was a big day at the “Kennel” where all the Bulldogs saluted their pack leader Jayden Eldridge, who achieved the rare milestone of playing his 200th A Grade game.

The current co-coach known as “Shog” was chaired off the ground in emotional scenes in front of friends and family at the club he loves East Gambier.

Despite the scoreboard not being quite as memorable with archrival North Gambier completing a comfortable 64-point win, Eldridge said it the day would be replayed in his mind forever with the milestone being the latest on a long list of achievements by his family at McDonald Park.

“The result was disappointing, but on a personal note to play 200 games is something that I will hold pretty close to my heart,” he said.

“My parents and grandparents have been at East for a long time, so to run through the banner and look out around the ground seeing so much support was amazing.

“Then to be chaired off was extra special.”

Eldridge’s A Grade journey started back in 2010 when he was still a junior footballer.

After the going down to the Demons in the 2009 WBFL Grand Final, the Bulldogs went through a similar transition period to the one they are walking through at the moment and a number of youngsters were blooded.

“Shog” was one of the most impressive debutantes and quickly became a regular fixture in the top side playing 15 games in his maiden season.

“After the 2009 grand final the club had a massive walkout and lost a lot of people so many of us juniors had to come up and fill those spots,” Eldridge said.

“It was a home game against South and we ended up winning my first game.

“We got thrown in the deep end and got the odd touch up, but it benefited our younger generation and fast tracked myself as a 16-year-old playing on some pretty good players.

“It helped me a lot in my career watching and learning from what the opposition used to do.”

It did not take long for the young pup to become one of the top dogs playing week in week out and established himself as one of the premier players on the half-back line in the region.

Just four years after his debut he won the red jacket as East Gambier’s best player in 2014 for the first time.

Eldridge also took his career beyond the Limestone Coast playing in the sapping heat of Darwin in the high-level NTFL and representing the SA Country team at Perth Stadium in 2019.

But the highlight will forever be the breakthrough 2017 WBFL premiership where East overcame North Gambier on an unforgettable day at Island Park.

The Bulldogs also continued their purple patch and returned to the big stage 12 months later, but lost to Millicent this time at McDonald Park.

“Probably through those years I was at my peak,” Eldridge said.

“I went to Darwin to try and better myself up there, but I will never forget those years playing in grand finals because that is what it is all about.

“It was a long time coming and a special moment I will look back on for the rest of my career.”

Currently Eldridge has never been busier on and off the football field being the co-coach of the A Grade team alongside Matt Scanlon.

But at age 29, “Shog” still believes he has a lot to give in the future.

“I have been doing a bit more work in the midfield than just the halfback flank and I take my hat off to everyone who is a playing coach because it is a tough gig,” he said.

“This year has been a little bit disappointing, but we will never give up.

“We are looking at the future which looks bright and I have a good support group around me on the bench.

“I want to thank the club for giving me an opportunity to coach and they have always supported me in doing what I want to do,

“My family and parents have been my backbone in helping me get to where I am today.”

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