By Jessica Howard
400 games, five grand final appearances and a match played alongside his 17-year-old son are just some of the remarkable milestones experienced by Darley’s Travis Stephenson.
The dedicated Devil celebrated 400 games of football in this year’s Ballarat Football League final series. The impressive feat came just weeks after he played in the reserves alongside his eldest son Jye.
Stephenson, 43, started his junior football career at Bacchus Marsh and became a Devil in 1995, aged 20. His inaugural season saw him take home his maiden senior premiership, which included a best on ground performance.
“1995 was definitely a big year for me,” he said.
“It was actually the first time in my whole football career that I had made any finals, so to walk away with a premiership medal was pretty special”.
The next 18-years of Stephenson’s senior career included a second grand final appearance against Ballarat in 2008 and multiple best on ground performances.
At 38-years-old, he became a reserves player for Darley and at the end of his first season, he took out the BFL George King Medal.
Over the following five years, he appeared in three reserve grand finals, with the most recent being the triumph against cross-town rivals Bacchus Marsh on September 23.
Stephenson said to have played 400 games at the one club was an honour.
“The amount of [praise] I have received from people in the weeks following has just been amazing,” he said.
“It is one of those things where you don’t really set out to play that many games, but when you do it’s a real honour”.
Darley Football Club President, Ray Newton said Stephenson’s 400 games was a token of his dedication to both the game and the club.
“If you just look at our Facebook post congratulating him on the 400 games, you will see all these comments coming from not only Darley members and players, but also people from across town at Bacchus Marsh too, saying what a terrific fella’ he is,” he said.
“400 games are rare, but it’s not surprising, [Stephenson] is a superb athlete. He is the fairest footballer I’ve ever seen and his dedication to his fitness and his own body is evident. He is a great example to not only his kids, but to all the other juniors too”.
Stephenson said while playing 400 games of football had a lot to do with his love for the sport, it also came down to being a part of a “brilliant club”.
“I remember I was pretty nervous when I first arrived at Darley, but Clark Whelan walked up to me, shook my hand and said ‘Welcome to the Devils’. That’s something that I really remember from back then.
“Darley is a really family-driven club and from the very beginning my family and I were welcomed with open arms”.
Stephenson’s parents, his wife Trish and their sons Jye and Bryce have been heavily involved with the club for many years.
“It’s a bit of a family affair down there,” he said.
“Bryce says I’m not allowed to retire until we play a game together, but we’ll see how that goes.
“I don’t think I’ll ever lose the passion I have for football. I’ve been offered bigger money elsewhere but this is a place that has always sat so well with me. Darley is like home”.