For the majority of this year, Ben Cleaver decided to take a step back from playing AFL and spend more time with his family. That changed, however, when he received a phone call from his long-time club the Tuggeranong Hawks to return to the field.
Last weekend he played his first game of the year, but more importantly, this upcoming fixture against the Gungahlin Jets will mark Cleaver’s 200th game for the Hawks.
He will become just the sixth player in the club’s history to reach the milestone when he steps out on to Greenway Oval on Saturday (10 August).
Throughout his career with the south side outfit, the 30-year-old has captured four premierships with the Hawks (2010,2011,2017 and 2018).
He made his Hawks first-grade debut all the way back in 2006 as a 17-year-old.
Playing footy since he was eight, he has been involved with the Hawks from juniors right up to first grade, which highlights his loyalty towards the club.
Though the midfielder can’t wait to chalk up his 200th game, the call he got to come back to the team surprised him. Nevertheless, he is looking forward to what he is about to achieve this weekend.
“It was a little unexpected,” Cleaver said. “I was taking the year off with family and then I got a call from the club to see if I wanted to come back and play towards the end of the year.
“Once I realised I was going to play my 200th game it was exciting.”
Cleaver’s name will join the list of club legends with over 200 stints such as Ashley Pocock (259), Jay Kickett (239), Jim Rice (233), Ben Funnell (217) and Luke Jess (211).
To be associated with those players is a privilege for Cleaver, especially because he was fortunate enough to have shared the field with a few of the names mentioned above.
“It’s quite nice to sit along those names like Jay Kickett, Ash Pocock and those sorts of guys,” he said. “It’s really nice to have played alongside a few of them and I looked up to them, so it’s nice that other people can see that I have played 200 games.”
Since making his first team debut in 2006, Cleaver said he has definitely developed not only as a player but also as a man.
“As far as developing football-wise, I learned a lot from a lot of people, mainly the older guys and coaches along the way,” he said.
“As a person it is a lot different now playing football, you think a lot more now about helping out the younger guys and talking to them and while you are on the field giving a bit of knowledge and have more of a leadership role.”
Despite numerous offers wanting to lure his talents elsewhere, Cleaver never turned his back on the club and there have been different factors as to why he has remained with them.
“It’s just the people, I have obviously played footy there for a very long time,” he said. “I have a lot of friends there, I have a lot of fun, there are a lot of familiar faces and someone to chat to, so It’s a nice community to be around and that’s why I stayed.”
Cleaver has not kicked a goal since his return to the game, but he hopes he can have an impact against Gungahlin and enjoy the process with his teammates.
“It would be nice to get a win,” he said. “It would be nice to kick a couple of goals and have a bit of fun so as long as everyone is having fun on the day, I think I will enjoy it.”
2019 AFL Canberra First Grade Men’s
Tuggeranong Hawks vs Gungahlin Jets
1:15 pm, 10 August