This weekend’s Western Magpies versus Mt Gravatt matchup, will mark game 200 for the bloke some call ‘the pontiff.’
A mild mannered man off the field, Val Pope is the opposite on it, drawing the eye with his ability to dominate in the air and kick bags of goals.
‘Popey’ looks every bit the natural forward, but as a skinny junior he played mostly in the midfield, first at Bentleigh in Victoria, then Kenmore and Western Magpies as a 17 year old.
“I was a midfielder, so I’ve always tried to crack back into the midfield as a senior player. It’s just never stuck unfortunately,” said Pope.
While Val will say it’s probably because he’s not fit enough, his coaches and supporters know he’s just too valuable around the big sticks. So much so, that Western Magpies historian Kevin Kluver, rates Pope as one of the top 20 players to ever don either the Sherwood, or the Western Magpies jersey. Serious props.
Pope’s had a highly decorated career and despite perhaps going under the radar on occasion, because of his quiet nature, the silent assassin has managed to accumulate a wardrobe of fond memories.
“There’s a bunch of amazing football trips, and obviously premierships as well, we won in 2006, 2008 and 2012, in the Pineapple Hotel Cup,” said Pope.
“The highlight would be the 2008 one, just because we came from behind by about 40 points, against Palm Beach. So that was the best comeback victory I’ve ever been involved in.
“I think I kicked like five each in the 2006 and 2012 ones, but I think I only kicked one goal in 2008, but when you only win by a couple of points, that’s the (more) memorable goal.”
Val works full time in a busy role as a financial controller at an engineering company, so footy provides a valuable escape from the daily grind.
“Sometimes it’s hard getting to training, but when I do it’s a rare moment when you can kinda shut it all out and just have some fun with your mates,” said Pope.
Now one of the senior players at the Magpies, he also enjoys providing some direction for the young talent coming through.
“I’m not one of the loudest blokes going around, but I like to help out wherever I can. I think playing well is the most important thing, and just trying to support guys in the forward line with the game plan, and have us all working together really well,” said Pope.
When the players crack in on Saturday, Val will have ‘the old man’ up from Melbourne, as well as a sister from Sydney, to go along with the rest of the family located in Queensland to cheer him on.
Let’s hope he gets a run through the middle.
By Sean Melrose