When it comes to the most revered attributes of a local footy champion, Inverloch Kongwak’s Adam Cross ticks all the boxes.
Loyal? Check. Selfless? Check. Hard-working? Accomplished? Inspiring? Check, check and check.
Last weekend Cross made his 311th appearance for the club’s senior team, breaking the record set by long-serving defender Mark Billows in 2016.
The previous benchmark of 307 games was held by late great Kevin Murray for decades and Sea Eagles president Peter Butcher expected Cross’ achievement to stand the test of time as well.
“It’s an amazing effort and I’m not sure it will be broken again anytime soon,” Butcher said.
“You don’t get too many one-club players these days. Crossy’s had offers to join other clubs and for much more money too. He’s been paid very modestly at Inverloch but he’s always stayed loyal.”
Of the current senior list, only Dan Houston has played more than half as many senior games, with 160 under his belt.
Cross has made his name as a gritty midfielder and forward, known for his tireless running, ferocious attack on the ball and knack of hitting the scoreboard.
This year Cross has been recast as a small defender where his skilful ball use, speed and energy has been put to good use, perhaps most notably in the narrow defeat to unbeaten ladder leader Phillip Island in which he helped curb the influence of the likes of Brendan Kimber, Jaymie Youle and Zak Vernon as they rotated through the Bulldogs forward line at different stages.
The 35-year-old’s career has included three league representative jumpers, a club best and fairest and the most sought-after of accolades, the premiership medal he finally got his hands on in 2017.
Game 311 was also pretty memorable, with a final quarter goal helping seal a crucial win against Garfield that sent his teammates and an adoring home crowd into raptures.
“We didn’t even move him forward it just happened and it was probably the best moment of our season so far,” coach Tom McQualter said.
The milestone was an occasion the club was never going to let slip by quietly and McQualter said the widespread celebration – which included a flood of well wishes on social media in the lead up to the game – was testament to Cross’ contribution, which extended well beyond the footy field.
“We asked everyone in our group including players and trainers to say what they loved about Crossy and from my point of view it was the first time I’ve had to stop and think about what an individual means to the footy club.
“Crossy’s been very influential and was integral under Souma (former coach Ben Soumilas) in converting the club culture to what it is today.
“He’s always willing to help out and talk to you about footy and life, he’s very giving with his gym when the club needs it and he’s the bloke that offers to do an extra shift in the canteen or on the gate. He’s been an important piece of the puzzle on and off the field.”
Cross has also coached the club’s under-18 team in the past and is also a qualified carpenter and often puts those skills to use around the club.
Another remarkable feature of Cross’ career is that he has never played a reserves game – a feat not even matched by superstar teammate Andrew Soumilas.
Cross is currently spending a mid-season break walking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea but he’s unlikely to be eased back into action on his return.
“He’ll come straight back into the side,” McQualter said.
“He’s missed a few games this year, he’s had a couple of calf injuries like an old man, but he’s as fit as anyone in our group still.”
So what’s the secret to his longevity? In addition to a meticulous and dedicated approach to fitness and preparation, Cross swears by the rock pools at Cape Patterson for post-match recovery – though word has it this remains the one area he hasn’t been able to inspire his teammates.