WHEN Matt McRobert was recently awarded Bathurst Bulldogs life membership he was blown away by the response from club members, but it was one message in particular that truly hit home home for him how much his work had meant to the community.
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That message let the Bulldogs premiership-winning player and coach know that he's created positive memories that still feel fresh decades later.
McRobert said to have had such an impact is a humbling feeling.
"The life membership really blew me away. The club has given me so much over the years but I've loved my involvement," he said.
"I've been humbled by some of the messages I got. I had a kid who I gave them their first run in first grade, probably close to 20 years ago, who reached out to me and said that he never forgot that day," he said.
"That for me is what it's all about. People remember those little things. It's nice to get the recognition but those sorts of messages are so satisfying.
"I'm sure people have similar experiences in other sports to what we have have with rugby but I see my club as being very strong in the community, with a big heart. Bulldogs have given over $130,000 to charity over the past 10 years and it's an amazing place to be a part of."
The life membership comes as no surprise given McRobert's long list of contributions to Bulldogs.
McRobert came back from Sydney to join the Bulldogs in the early 90s and had a hand in the club's four premierships in the space of five years between 1994 and 1998.
At the end of that golden run on the field McRobert began what would be a successful coaching career when he took on the Bulldogs colts role through the turn of the century.
Following a break from the game, when his children were born, McRobert made a brilliant coaching return by leading both the Central West under 20s and senior teams to premiership glory, enjoying three year terms with both sides.
In his most recent mentoring stint he helped the Bulldogs first grade side end their nine-year search for a premiership in 2019, as an assistant coach to Dean Oxley, before taking over the top job for the 2020 season.
"In the early days I served on the committee and was club captain for a number of years, during the golden era in the 90s. That was a privilege to be a part of," McRobert said.
"A number of injuries ended my career and I started coaching. That opened up a whole new world for me. I found that I enjoyed it a lot. I found some success there and I was extremely lucky to have the quality of players at the Bulldogs that we did at the time.
"The place gets into your blood. I had a number of years off when my children were born but I was always going to come back at some stage, and I was really happy that I did. I coached Central West under 20s and seniors for a number of years, which I loved, and made a lot of strong friendships through that."
"In my time between being a player and a coach the club has changed a lot, for the better. The inclusion of the ladies' side has made a huge difference to the club and it really builds on the great qualities of rugby in that it's a game for everyone."
McRobert said it still feels surreal to him to be on a list with many Bulldogs members he's looked up to during his time with the club.
"For me, to join the life members already named for Bulldogs is a huge honour," he said.
"There's the guys I played with, in Phil Newton, Pip McIntosh, Greg Reid, Shane Cantrill, Tuma Aisake, Col Kemp and Michael Begley through to blokes that I aspire to be and whose great stories I listened to, like Col Buchanan, Ken Laird, Dave Walker and John Maynard.
"Being in that company is surreal. It's very humbling and moving.
"I consider myself to be very lucky to have been involved with many great teams over the years and to have had many great experiences."
Will McRobert be back working with the Bulldogs at some stage?
He believes that's likely, although not in a coaching capacity.
"I look forward to being involved in some way again in the future, whether it's just helping out at training or being on the committee," he said.
"Those players from the 90s have had such a strong presence at the club over the years but I think it's time to start transitioning into some other players and coaches, and we're seeing that this year.
"There's some great young coaches there - some who I coached over the years, so hopefully they listened," he laughed.
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