THE little girl walked into the circle of exhausted Biloela Rugby Union players and found her dad among the tired horde.
At half-time in the 1999 grand final, nine-year-old Bretany Appel told her father Matt: “Dad, you just need to run a little faster”.
Biloela went on to win the 1999 reserve grade premiership, a highlight for Matt Appel and Dean and Ellen Brewer, who recently received life memberships at the club's 30th anniversary reunion.
“It was a very emotional week for me personally as my youngest daughter was born and my grandmother passed away in the week before the game.
“I went to her funeral and then all my family from all over Australia came and watched the game.
“It was also when a lot of guys I started playing with in '93 retired so it was like closing a chapter,” Dean said.
A premiership victory in 2005 also had a special quality after they scraped into the finals, winning every elimination final to make the grand final and then playing out of their skins to beat favourites Gladstone.
Appel, nicknamed “Apples”, has played a variety of positions from wing to halfback to loose head prop over his 19 seasons pulling on the jersey.
“Rugby gets in your blood, it's just not something everyone can understand,” the 36-year-old said.
“As with most things, it starts out social, but with rugby you get dragged in.
“Then it's the pride in representing your town and your mates.
“Training and playing alongside guys week in week out there's just that bond.
“I still remember talking with old boy Stuart Hunter and State of Origin legend Choppy Close about how important State of Origin is - the emotion, the feeling of mateship and the needing to succeed.
“His stories were captivating. Then Stuart turned to me and said, playing rugby for Biloela, he feels all the same emotions.
“Maybe the crowd is not as big or the players recognisable, but the importance of the match and the emotion, wanting to win, the mateship are all still there,” Apples said.
Coach Dean played on the wing in his debut in 1993, but in his second game the second rower didn't turn up so he went into the second row and stayed there for years, ending up in the front row.
Both Brewers have roles of president, treasurer and secretary for the club. The couple started the club's juniors program in 2004.
“We could see an opportunity to expand the club through encouraging children to play,” Ellen said.
“Our girls along with many other children of rugby players had also grown up down at the football each weekend, we thought it would be great for them to learn the skills.”
Apples described the life membership as a “very special award that has not been handed out to many”.
“I feel a little undeserved as I only really played all these years and being able to play for Biloela is reward enough.”
Dean and Apples are not yet ready to use the R word - retirement.
“I will never let Biloela rugby play short if I am physical able,” Dean, 39, said.
Apples had retired after 2007, but came back to shore up numbers.
“My loving wife has said she thinks its time to move on ... maybe she's right, but I guess we will find out at the end of next year.
“Plus I had to throw away my boots as they broke and were held together with tape and glue for the last three games.
“Tradition says new boots are a three-year commitment.”Rugby gets in your blood
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