By Ant Wingard
Chris Dunbar has saved one of the best performances of a 29-year playing career for his historic 500th game as his North Mackay Saints rose to the occasion to celebrate an upset victory.
The 46-year-old booted five goals and was named best on ground for his efforts as the bottom of the ladder Saints enjoyed an unlikely victory against second-place Whitsunday Sea Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
The five-goal haul was his highest tally of the season as the long-time club hero relished inside 50 and received constant delivery from his teammates.
“It was a great day. It was just magic,” Dunbar told aflq.com.au following the game.
“I would have been happy to just get a kick on the day but to kick five goals was just a big bonus.”
“One of the boys said it was a goal for every one of the 100 games I’ve played.”
Dunbar, who has played with North Mackay since 1989, was deployed deep in attack and became a vocal point in the Saints’ attack.
He produced the game’s first goal in the opening minutes with a right foot snap over the body and continued to pile on four more throughout the game.
His first sent the North Mackay faithful into pure euphoria and Dunbar was promptly swamped by teammates following each goal.
“Every time I kicked one, the whole team got around me,” Dunbar said.
“I got a goal on the board early which always helps your confidence.”
“The boys were pretty good. They looked after me well and they said the umpires were being nice to me too,” he joked.
Given the enormity of the milestone, North Mackay ensured Dunbar’s day was one to remember.
A guard of honour, made of club representatives and the Saints’ senior men’s and women’s sides, was formed prior to the game and a 500-game banner, fitted with balloons and streamers, was also erected.
Dunbar’s extended family and friends also made the trip to Zeolla Park to witness the achievement.
North Mackay piled on 14 goals to two throughout the four quarters and held the Sea Eagles to their second lowest score of the season.
The 78-point win kept the Saints’ finals hopes alive as the unlikely victory became the perfect backdrop for Dunbar’s accolade.
As the post-game celebrations began to wind down following the final siren, Dunbar was able to reminisce on the day and all it had meant.
“I sat down after the game and iced my knees and that’s when I could reflect about it all. I felt really good.”
“It was a great day. The club really did the right thing by me.”
“I was a bit nervous to start with given it was such a big game.”
This week, North Mackay remain at home to face the Mackay City Hawks but Dunbar admitted that matchup – game 501 – will have a slightly different flavour.
“It will be a bit funny. Last week was such a big build up.”
“It’ll be funny this week because it’s just a normal game.”