AFTER a career spanning 20 years and over 330 games, Orange City Lions’ legend Mark Merchant thought his playing days were over.
Now the 46-year-old is set to pull on his boots and don the orange and green one more time in the Orange City All Stars game on Saturday.
The All Stars, filled with Lions’ old boys, will take on Orange City’s third grade side from 11.45am at Pride Park.
“I thought my playing days were over for sure, we’ll see how good of an idea it is on Sunday I think,” he laughed.
“When Shorty (Nathan Short) rang I immediately thought that the concept is great, it should be great fun.”
Merchant holds the Lions’ all-time record for games played after debuting in 1984, and retiring in 2004, earning several premierships across all three grades along the way.
Pride Park is set to host a plethora of club legends, some coming from as far as Queensland, but the game is also about ensuring Orange City’s third XV maintain momentum.
With just five teams competing in the Blowes Clothing Cup third grade competition, the Lions regularly have extended breaks.
The All Stars players range from genuine old boys through to some who played as recently as last season with the likes of Short, John Gander, Nathan Zinga, Glen Atkinson, Dom Maley, David Wickham, Pete Stewart and Billy, Matt, John and Ben Nunn all set to line up.
Sporting his 1987 jersey Merchant, Orange City’s current registrar, said the club has one eye on making the game an annual event before heaping praise on the current pride of Lions, and cross-town rivals Orange Emus.
“It’s a great idea, and everyone is getting behind it,” Merchant said.
“There is definitely an eye on having it as an annual thing, especially with the club doing so well.
“Hopefully they can keep it going.
“It’s great to see Emus back at the top too, the local derby game we saw a couple of weeks ago was incredible.”
The All Stars game kicks off at 11.45am with Orange City’s colts (1pm), second grade (2pm) and first grade (3.15pm) games against Mudgee to follow.