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Hoff heads home

Unable to get game time in aBarossa, Light and Gawler junior colts grand final win in 2000 andnot playingstate football until a single match at under 20s level in 2005,Justin Westhoff is the ultimate story of perseveranceand self-belief.
Nanjing Night Net

The following season(2006), he made his SANFL league debut and now, a decade later, Justin Westhoff has become just the seventh200-game player for Port Adelaide Power.

His journey started at the Tanunda Football Club, where his parentsDanny and Robyn were local sporting stars who came across from Eudunda, when that club joined the North Eastern association in the early 1990s.

Last Tuesday, Westhoff returned to the Tanunda Magpies and had a chat about his journey, despite the fact the media commitments of an AFL footballer are among his least favoured parts of the profession.

“When we were kids, Mum and Dad gave us the best opportunity to play in a good football environment,” Westhoff told the Herald.

“We’d be at the football club all day Saturday.We would watch dad play each week.

“Mum was also important; she always wanted us to make the most of our opportunities.She was the first to give us advice and along with my wife Bec, has had a huge impact on my life.

“Looking at the old photos around the club brought back a lot of fond memories.

“With the week-to-week intensity of AFL, you get caught up in just playing the game, but getting to look back on where you’ve come from gives a little time to reflect.”

Like his siblings, older brother Leigh and four-game AFL footballer Matthew, Westhoff ventured to the Ponderosa and started his SANFL league career in 2006, being selected by Port Adelaide at pick number 71, the penultimate pick in that season’s draft.

He debuted in round 10 the following year and, except for two months on the sidelines as a result of a foot fracture at the start of2009, Westhoff has been amazingly durable.

“The opportunity that Port Adelaide gave me 10 years ago was critical,” Westhoff said.

“I have been lucky I’ve got good genes.Dad rarely missed a game in his career.”

Despite the Power’s poor 2016 campaign, including a big lossagainst the SydneySwans on Saturday, he believes the “window is open” over the next couple of years for the Power’s second AFLpremiership.

He played in a SANFL season decider in his first year at league level with Central District, and also played in the 2007 AFL grand final at the start of the Geelong dynasty.

“I have come close a couple of times,” Westhoff said.

“That’s why you play football.Playing in a flag is the main objective I want to tick off over the next couple of years.”

When the Herald suggested –despite his 199cm, 94kgframe –that because of his game acumen and skill-set, Westhoff was perfectly suited to an old fashioned ruck-rover’s role, he agreed,and suggested he has been passing that message on to the coaching staff.

Now he has a place in local football folklore, being the first Barossa, Light and Gawler Football Association export to play 200AFL games, beating Angaston lad Shannon Hurn to the mark by four games.

Along with his wife Bec and three young children –Bodi,5, Tully,3,and Piper,11 months –the extended Westhoff family were at the SCG for Westhoff’s milestone game.

Siblings Leigh and Matt even took a week off from their commitments at Tanunda to see their brother join the 200club.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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