Nick Evans: Milestone Man

Turnover is as much a part of VFL football as misty mid-winter training sessions under the lights of a suburban oval. Players come and go, leaving their mark as best they can whilst juggling the realities of life outside the football bubble.

At all levels of a VFL football club a raft of dedicated players, coaches, staff and volunteers embrace the challenges of elite performance and the opportunities therein to develop and grow from within the constraints of an often compromised commitment.

As such, milestones mean plenty when they come along. For Box Hill’s diligent and disciplined, reliable and resilient number 13, the next time he pulls on the Brown and Gold will take on a little extra significance.

After debuting back in Round 14, 2014 as the 23rd man, Nick Evans is on the verge of his 50th senior game for a Club he always seemed destined to represent.

“It (my debut) was against Footscray at the Whitten Oval.

“I went into the match picked as a small forward, but a team-mate was injured late in the first half and I played out the rest of the game in the backline.

“It was wet and cold, but we managed to get over the line by seven points.”

Evans split his football that year between the Eastern Ranges and City Oval, joining the Hawks officially for the 2015 season. He’d add three games that year to a tally that, at the time of writing, has swelled to 49.

Evans pauses to reflect on the journey from that wet and cold day in Melbourne’s west, considering the player he was and the one he is now.

“Sitting here and thinking about it, I’ve developed quite a bit over the years.

“In that first season I was probably gifted three games as the 23rd man after other teammates played their quota.

“In each subsequent season I’ve managed to play more games than the one previous.

“I was helped largely by having the Development League to work on my game and get to the point where I could consistently play at the VFL level.”

11 senior matches in 2016 and every match during 2017 charts Evans’ development perfectly, illustrating that patience and time, persistence and hard work are whats needed should you want to succeed at any level of the game.

And through it all Evans, now a member of the Club’s leadership group, is a player from whom the newest crop of young and old Hawks can learn.

“I think the biggest thing is that it takes time to develop and you’re not going to all of a sudden become a VFL player over night.

“It’s about doing your footy apprenticeship and learning your craft which may take time.

“It took me three full seasons before I consistently played VFL, so hopefully I can be relatable to the young Hawks we have coming through and can help them out as much as possible.

“I feel it has a lot to do with hard work and putting the extra time in to get better, and hopefully thats what the coaches and my teammates think too.”

He counts his father, Mark, former Coach Marco Bello, Mustangs’ stalwart David Banfield, one-time strength and conditioning coordinator Sean Murphy and Chris Newman among those most important in shaping his career to date, taking time to recognise the importance of those around you when a milestone like this comes along.

“Dad has been the biggest influence on my footy career so far.

“From teaching me how to handball, kick and mark when I was a kid all the way up until now, where he still gives me feedback when he’s able to come watch me play.

“Mum, too, has been a huge part of my journey.

“A part-time taxi to and from training and matches, a part-time psychologist when form or selection wasn’t going my way and supporting and giving feedback whenever she can, like Dad.”

On Dad, Nick has already got on over the old man when it comes to games in the Brown and Gold, with his 49th match for Box Hill eclipsing the 48 played by Mark during his time at City Oval.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know he played a total of 48 games at Box Hill or that I played my 49th, but it definitely feels good to get one up on him!

“I doubt he knows I have passed his games tally and I haven’t had a chance to call him – he will probably say he’s played more VFL games in total and that he’s still got me covered!”

It comes as no surprise that Evans is unwavering as a team-man, acknowledging that this week represents a personal achievement that has no affect or influence on the end game, which is capturing the four points that’ll put Box Hill back into the top four.

“I’ve never really stopped to think about and appreciate milestones as they happen, its normally something I tend to do at the end each year when you get a good chance to sit back and reflect on what you’ve been able to achieve.

“Even coming into this week the number one focus is still on the team and how we need to play as a unit.

“We let ourselves and the club down with our performance last week.

“It’s exciting to get the opportunity to go out against Werribee and prove that we are so much better than what we served up against North Melbourne and get back on the winners list.”

As if to illustrate that even on a day in which he can afford a congratulatory pat on the back, his thoughts flash quickly to the bigger picture, rather than the man in the mirror.

In a season in which he joined the leadership group, notches a milestone and has captained the side in the absence of Andrew Moore and Max Warren, Evans doesn’t hesitate when asked what the most rewarding aspect of VFL footy is and always will be.

“The people. Without a doubt it’s the lifelong friendships and memories you make with some great people.

“Every year there is always a lot of change in terms of personnel, but the culture and environment within the club has always remained relatively constant over the years.

“If you’re lucky enough to play in a premiership it’s always going to be great, but the people that are apart of that win with you are what make it unforgettable.

“Through thick and thin, wins and losses, your mates are always going to have your back, that never changes.”

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