By ZAC MILBANK
West Adelaide fan favourite Jono Beech could have been forgiven for deciding to retire at the end of last season.
Now 31, the Bloods’ high-flying forward had played in the club’s drought-breaking 2015 premiership whilst also receiving SANFL Player Life Membership for his 198 League matches and four West End State Games.
Speaking on SANFL Radio, Beech said the lure of reaching 200 club games – 167 with West and 33 with Adelaide – wasn’t what motivated him to continue his eye-catching career in 2022.
It was simply his enjoyment of playing in the Hostplus SANFL League, being able to test himself against the best defenders at State League level while also ushering in the next generation under coach Brad Gotch at Hisense Stadium.
Having made his return from Covid Health and Safety Protocols on Good Friday, Beech is now preparing for his milestone match in a unique location – Port Lincoln’s Centenary Oval – against Norwood on Sunday.
Recruited from Bamera Monash Football Club in the Riverland, Beech fondly recalled the many car-pooling trips with teammates such as Aaron Fielke to play and train with the Bloods’ development squads.
Beech’s untapped talent ensured then West League coach Andy Collins would convince him to complete Year 12 in Adelaide while pushing to play at the highest level.
Making his SANFL League debut under Collins in 2008, he has ridden the roller-coaster of the club’s fortunes ever since, culminating in the Bloods’ first League premiership since 1983.
The next year in 2016, Beech’s persistence paid off when he was selected as a mature-age recruit by the Crows before going on to play in three AFL games during his two years on the senior list.
A qualified greenkeeper/landscaper, Beech has also stretched himself off the football field by becoming a Disability Support Worker, helping children with Autism get involved with sport, something he finds extremely rewarding.