By Andrew Parkinson
The suspension of football has given Rhys Tippett a glimpse of what life will be like when he eventually hangs up his boots.
While the veteran striker has no intention of retiring just yet, Tippett understands that at 35-years-old his seasons are numbered.
A four-time Northern NSW grand final winner with Broadmeadow and Lambton and three-time premiership winner with Magic and Weston, Tippett continues to play with NEWFM Northern League One club Kahibah FC.
A young Kahibah side fell just short of the finals in his first season in the green and black last year.
But Kahibah have started this season strongly, downing West Wallsend 3-0 and coming from behind to draw with Toronto-Awaba in the opening two rounds before the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While frustrated at not being able to play because of the restrictions surrounding the Coronavirus, Tippett said he was fully supportive of the decision.
“It’s been kind of funny for me in that it has given me an insight into what life will look like when I retire,” he said.
“I was sitting around on the weekend thinking I’ll have to find something else to do. It’ll have to be something with that competitiveness. I love playing football, it has been a part of my life since I was four or five years old. My earliest memories are of kicking a ball around. And you want to play as much as you can, especially if you’re like me and you’re close to the end [of your career].
“It was really strange [when football was suspended]. I’ve never experienced anything like it obviously. You go through all of pre-season, do all the trials, all the running and get yourself fit and then the pin gets pulled all of a sudden for a very good reason.
“[The suspension] needed to happen. But when you’re ready to go then it stops, with no idea when it’ll start again, from a football perspective it’s a bit frustrating. But from a life perspective it was the right decision. I think everyone is fully behind it.
“It all happened pretty quickly because of how quickly the situation deteriorated. But as someone who loves football you sort of feel a little bit lost without it.”
Tippett has attempted to keep ticking over, running every second day to stay fit.
But he has also made the most of the break, juggling the challenge of working from home in his role as an accountant for NSW Health while getting to spend more time with his young family.
As well as enjoying success with a number of quality teams throughout his career, Tippett also earned the personal accolade of being crowned the Northern NSW Football State League player of the year in 2008 as he led a young Weston side to the finals.
He then won the inaugural NEWFM Northern League One player of the year award in his first season for Kahibah last year, scoring 15 goals.
And Tippett believes that experience from last season will have Kahibah on course to achieve finals football in 2020.
“We’ve only got one or two new players in the squad from last season. Everyone else is pretty much the same. Last year we mainly promoted young players, the real focus was on the youth set up and bringing through guys. That’s a real positive that has started paying dividends for the club,” Tippett said.
“I think we probably need to focus on making the finals. As a group of course you want to win it, you wouldn’t be playing if you didn’t want to. But I think that’s our key focus to start with.
“I was really stoked [to win player of the year] last year. I really enjoyed last year.
“The standard of the league is good. It’s definitely improving. I think you can see that by some of the results last year like when we beat Adamstown in the FFA Cup. I think there is a fair bit of growth there. It’s really starting to pick up in terms of quality which I think is a great thing for football in northern NSW as a whole.”
Picture: Hunter Sports Photography