ANTHONY Partridge was a stringbean teenager straight out of school when he first walked into Rugby Park.
The Singleton dressing room boasted Wallaby Steve Merrick and was led by John Evans, Peter Udy, Michael Maher, Dale Andrews, Stacey Sykes and Shane Thompson.
"I was 18 and remember thinking, 'How good is this, I'm playing with a Wallaby'." Partridge said. "I spent half the season in first grade. We scored 1000 points before the semis and the average score for the season was 52-11.
"Lifting had just come into the lineouts. Michael Maher and Dale Andrews were 115kg plus second-rowers. I came in and was 85 kilos ringing wet. For a couple of seasons it would be a surprise if we lost a lineout - on our throw or the opposition's. "
Partridge, now 44. will notch his 300th game for the Bulls when he lines up against Nelson Bay in second grade at Bill Strong Oval on Saturday. About 250 of his appearances have been in the top grade.
Along the way he has won premierships, represented Newcastle and NSW Country and tried his hand at captain-coach.
Partridge's playing feats only tell half the story.
The director of rugby for the past four years, Partridge has been club captain, juniors president, historian, served on the board, coached junior teams and most recently helped 20-odd Fijian players settle in to their new home town.
"I have done a bit of everything," Partridge said.
All while helping wife and rugby widow Annette bring up their children Will,18, Hugh, 14, and Isabelle,12, and working shift work as a mine supervisor.
"Annette has been amazing," Partridge said. "If I'm not at work, I'm at home or I'm doing something rugby related. It has been like that for the last 26 years."
For all of his achievements, what the man known as "Parto" cherishes most are the friendships he has forged through rugby.
"The best thing about it is the people you meet along the way," Partridge said. "We have had 1514 players who have played with the club up until this season," Partridge said. "Merrick is No.424. I am No.678. I have seen 900 people come through the club in my time. Daniel Jordan is playing first grade and I played with his dad. There are kids running around in grade now, who I remember being born.
"I would never class myself as one of the best players, but I was lucky to come through a really good era and was pushed along by a lot of great players."
Anthony is yet to play a game with his sons, a box he hopes to tick before calling full-time.
"Hugh turns 15 this year. I would love to have a game with him and Will. That would get me through to 48."
Partridge's twin brother Tim is Singeton's first grade coach. Tim played the majority of his rugby for Merewether and Incredibly the siblings played in the same team for the first time for Singleton against Maitland in 2019.
"It's good having him at the club and back in town," Partridge said.
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