Two Lithgow Workies stalwarts have called an end to their glittering Group 10 careers, which stretch back to the early 1990s.
Brothers Jono and Brendon Van Veen have been central to the Lithgow’s success during that time but have decided to hang up the boots.
Now aged 34 and 32 respectively, the Van Veens have had decorated Country Rugby League careers in their own right, across club and representative football.
Older brother Jono was named Group 10 player of the year in 2005 and Brendon followed suit as the league’s best and fairest a few years later.
Jono took out the top point scorer and top try scorer awards on several occasions and Brendon also grabbed a few top try scorer gongs.
“I think for six or seven years straight we won top try scorer every year, pretty good for brothers,” Jono said.
Despite all their accomplishments on the footy field, the brothers will miss the camaraderie of the game the most.
“Just being with your mates and going into battle with them. Now that it’s over you don’t get it,” Jono said.
The brothers have also played their fair share of representative footy for Group 10 and Western.
In fact some of their favourite rugby league memories were in rep colours.
Brendon recalled running over the top of former NRL star, and now SportsBet presenter Joel Caine, who was playing fullback for Group 11.
Jono also had his own personal victory over Caine in 2006 when he was named in the number one position for Western, pushing the Wests Tigers legend onto the wing.
There were also plenty of memorable moments when the pair played for Workies.
Not least when Jono scored five tries in his first game playing in the second row against Cowra in 2012.
Aside from the 2007 season when the Jono and Brendon played for the Nelson Bay Blues in the Newcastle competition, you will need to look back almost 30 years to find a Workies side without the Van-Veen brothers.
“I’ve been playing for Workies all my life since turning four all the way through whereas Brendo was in under 13s when they went to Lithgow Storm,” Jono said.
“Thirty years of footy, 29 years with Workies and one year in Newcastle.”
The pair played together since juniors, where Brendon played up an age group, which meant they developed a sixth sense on footy field that continued to reap rewards time and time again.
“It was good when we got to grade because we sort of didn’t have to talk to each other,” Jono said.
“It was easy. You get the big fella go through, all you got to do is back up. I probably scored 50 per cent of my tries with Brendo going through and I just backed up.
“Playing fullback most of my life, that’s your job.
“You know he was going to go through all day so you just back him up. Half the time he tried to run over the fullback anyway.
“Half the time we didn’t even have to look at each other.”
Alongside all his accolades, Jono has also had his fair share of controversy.
He leaves Group 10 still with three matches left of an eight-game suspension for striking.
He also missed the entire 2014 season as he served a 16 month suspension, one of the longest in Group 10 history.
“Some of the stuff I probably deserved but the suspensions I’ve gotten over the years, especially the last couple of years have been way over the top,” he said.
“I don’t care what other people think of me anyway.
“As long as my parents love me for who I am, my wife, my kids, my brother and sister.
“I don’t give a rats about what Group 10 think of me.”
The elder Van Veen wants to simply be remembered as a leader and a hard worker.
“I tried to make 30 hit-ups a game from fullback, I’d always backup, I’d do anything for my team, always led from the front,” he said.
The brothers agree the intensity of the game has dropped since their early years.
“It’s not as tough, nowhere near as physical and you get a lot more protection now than we did when we started 15 years ago,” Jono said.
“When you started playing footy in the early 2000s, you got blokes from Mudgee trying to rip your head off.
“You had to play physical otherwise you just got dominated.”
With the rough and tumble of rugby league done and dusted Jono and Brendon will have more time to spend with their young families.
Brendon has a five-year-old daughter starting to play sport of her own and a two-year-old. You will more than likely continue to see him running around on the hockey field in 2018.
Jono will enjoy the company of his with a two-year-old plus another little one due in May. With no more footy, golf is set to take pole position as his sport of choice.