It’s a Wednesday afternoon and just as Tumut Minor League teams are commencing their training at Twickenham Oval, there is a group of children sitting under the goal post, laughing and giggling as they chase goal kick after goal kick on the main field.
At the other end of these practice conversion attempts is Tumut Blues first grader Jacob Toppin, who was once one of those kids chasing down balls and aspiring to one day represent his beloved Blues.
Many years and successful conversions later, Toppin is 99 games into his first-grade career with Tumut and is now eyeing his 100th game as he prepares for the Young Cherrypickers on Sunday.
Toppin is proud as punch to be hitting the milestone and said it was all about playing for the jersey and those who have represented the club previously.
“It’s just about following the footsteps of the older generation that have come through and played and put their blood and sweat into the jersey,” Toppin said.
“As a young fella coming through, I just wanted to give back and show that appreciation for the jersey.”
Toppin debuted back in 2013 under Eric Smith and made his intentions known early when scoring a double in his first game against the Tumbarumba Greens.
Still, the 25-year-old never imagined reaching 100 games and was a little surprised he had reached the milestone so soon.
“I never really thought about it. You just get through your debut and I remember always sitting on the hill and watching and then I played a few games and thought this was pretty good,” Toppin said.
“Then to get to 100 games and you think, Jesus Christ, have I really played 100 games?”
Toppin came into the Tumut system during a tough period for the Blues and his commitment and sacrifice is a testament to his love for the club, which was duly reciprocated with a Group 9 premiership ring in 2019.
“It’s quite amazing, I came after they had those good days and we had that season where we didn’t win a game at all and I didn’t want to be that player who never wins a premiership,” Toppin said.
“To win that one last year, especially with the fellas we had, it was definitely one of the highlights of my career, that’s for sure.”
Toppin thinks the Blues can go back-to-back in 2020, assuming the young side plays to its potential.
“It is looking strong. If we put the performances together that we know we can, we will definitely be a force that’s for sure,” Toppin said.
Blues coach Dean Bristow couldn’t speak highly enough of Toppin, suggesting his talented playmaker is the definition of what it means to be a Tumut Blue.
“I think he really typifies what the club is all about, that pride and passion,” Bristow said.
“Everything you get taught about wearing a Blues jersey when you are in the junior ranks, he really summarises all of that.”
Bristow said recording100 games in a Tumut Blues jerseys is right up there as one of the biggest achievements a player can strive for.
“It’s massive. It is one of the highest accolades within the club; if you look at the group of names who have played 100 games, he is very deserving to be there,” Bristow said.
The Blues skipper rattled off many good qualities that Toppin possesses, but one that stood out was his willingness to do the job that needs to be done.
“He never bats an eyelid to anything; whatever task you give him, he takes it on,” Bristow said.
“His versatility and willingness to help his mates is what he is all about, and that is why he is so important to the club.”
Former Blues coach Jarrad Teka said that Toppin was pound for pound one of the toughest blokes he has ever coached.
“On the field, he is a very tough competitor and he plays 20kg above his weight and he never takes a backward step,” Teka said.
Teka also touched on Toppin’s skillset and ability to work in a variety of environments, making him a valuable asset for the Blues.
“He is talented and he has all the skills of a decent half, and the toughness to play anywhere on the field,” Teka said.
“He always gets along with everyone in the team and I have a lot of respect for Toppo and a lot of time for him as a player and a friend.”
So as first grade run out on to Twickenham on Sunday, the Tumut Blues will be imploring fans and supporters to give an extra loud clap and cheer for the player fondly known as ‘Toppo’, who will have given so much blood, sweat and tears for the Blue jersey he holds so close to his heart.