By David Nagel
Luke Van Raay will join the most illustrious and exclusive honour roll at the Karingal Football Club today when he runs out for his 300th senior game against Crib Point at Ballam Park.
Van Raay joins his great mate and current-day teammate Michael Burke and games record holder David Hickman as the only players to reach the magical milestone in the 56-year history of the club.
Not bad for a kid who used to tuck a ball under his arm and go and watch his big brothers Doug and Pat play footy. His late mother Helen and dad Theo were also heavily involved in the greatest game of all.
“It’s always been in our blood, footy in winter and cricket in summer, that’s just how it’s always been,” explained the two-time best and fairest winner and former club captain.
“Mum and dad are both life members at Frankston East and that’s where it all started for me. Then I’d watch my brothers play footy at Karingal and just fell in love with the place from there.”
Van Raay is proud of his 300-game journey that had gone past like a flash.
“I am proud of playing 300 games, there’s no doubt about that, but to me, it’s more about the club and how much I love it and how lucky I’ve been to play football at Karingal,” he said.
“I feel lucky about my whole career, to be honest.
“I had a knee reco in 2017 but apart from that have been pretty lucky with injuries and the whole thing has just gone by so quickly. When you start out you get told that it will go quickly, and that’s exactly the way it has been for me as well.
“To look back now and say you’ve played 300 games…it’s humbling and a nice honour to have beside your name.”
Luke Van Raay will join an exclusive club when he plays his 300th senior game for Karingal against Crib Point. Photo Courtesy of Frankie Photography/GameFace
The relationship between Van Raay and Burke is famous at Karingal with the pair inseparable at times. They sit next to each other at training, and on match days, sharing a long and satisfying friendship.
“We’ve known each other for a very long time, back to under-10 interleague, and I couldn’t have asked for a better bloke to share this journey with,” he said.
“He’s arguably the greatest player that has ever pulled on a jumper for this club, but he’s also a very humble man that just lets his actions speak louder than words.”
Van Raay then had a little dig at Burke…as great mates do.
“There’s a lot of mutual respect between us. But I reckon I’ve helped him more than he’s helped me in our careers. I’m a defender and he’s a midfielder so it was always Van Raay to Burke, not the other way around.
“I’ve never seen much of Burkey in the backline.”
Van Raay describes himself as a solid contributor more than a game-breaker.
“I think consistency has been my biggest strength, I’m not the sort of player who is going to go out and rip a game apart, “ he said.
“Being a defender, a good game for me was when you have an impact by nullifying an opposition forward. It’s not very exciting, but that’s what defenders do.”
The two-time interleague representative said he had learned a lot about himself through his football journey.
“Like any club, we’ve had our ups and downs but that’s just part of the journey,” he said.
“Looking back on it we won back-to-back flags in the under 18s in ’98-’99, and maybe some of us didn’t work hard enough or get the best out of ourselves when we made the transition to senior footy.
“But becoming captain changed my perspective a fair bit and having some great coaches along the way rubs off a bit as well. I wouldn’t change anything, but you do tend to appreciate things a bit more as you get a bit older.”
And how would he appreciate a first senior flag this season, with the Bulls currently sitting pretty at the top of the ladder?
“Sometimes, when things are going bad, you think you’re never going to get that opportunity again, but I think we’re as good a chance this year than at any other stage in my time at the club,” he said.
“We’ve set ourselves up with a good chance to play finals and who knows what can happen from there. It certainly won’t be easy, but it would be a dream come true if we could win a premiership in one of my last years as a senior player at the club.”
The humble champ also had some nice words for people who have helped him along the way.
“My partner Courtney has put up with a lot over 20 years and probably deserves some sort of life membership herself, “ he said.
“Obviously my brothers, mum and dad, and just all the players, coaches and support staff that have put so much into the club over the years. I’ve made some great friends and thoroughly enjoyed the journey – I just want to thank everyone that has been a part of it.”
The Karingal Football Netball Club wants to thank you too Luke Van Raay – now a 300-game legend of the club.