You have to go back over a decade to find the last time former Orange Hawks premiership winning half Wayne Hill laced up a competitive boot.
Wednesday marks the 40-year-old’s return to the rep fold when Hill runs out for Hunter Western Hornet’s over 40 men’s side at the Touch Football Australia National Touch League.
Hill’s one of four Orange Thunder stars set to make the trip to Coffs Harbour for the national tournament, with the best players from across Australia converging on the coast for the four-day competition.
Hill’s played touch socially with the City of Orange Touch Association for a long time, but not since his playing days in Group 10 has the now veteran ball-player had a serious tilt on-field.
So serious, Hill has made the 10-hour round trip from Orange to the Hunter region seven times just for training.
“I just thought I’d get back involved in some higher level stuff,” Hill said.
“It’s probably been 14 years since I played a very high level of footy, whether it be league or touch. I just thought why not.
“I coach a few junior rep sides, have enjoyed being around those … and mainly to show the boys what you can do.”
The Thunder quartet – which, alongside Hill, includes Mandy Moore, Cathy Goodlock (both over 45s women) and Ryan Moore (open mixed) – heads to the coast on Tuesday, with games beginning on Wednesday.
An impressive 27 regions from across Australia are represented at Coffs Harbour this week.
“The only step higher than what we’ll be playing is state,” Mandy Moore said.
“All of the best players from as young as 16 up to over 60s will be there.”
With the bulk of the Hornets squads based on the coast, it’s up to the Western players to travel for training.
“We’ve all put in a lot of work and a lot of travel. We have to travel to Newcastle to train. Wayne’s put in a lot of effort, he’s only missed the one session,” Goodlock added, in her second year with the Hunter Western over 45s women, a side Mandy Moore is coaching as well.
Games start at 9am on Wednesday, with finals set to kick-off at 8.10am on Saturday.