Few Masters teams have racked up the miles like Canberra Old Boys.
Every year for the past 24, the Aussies have tackled tournaments from Europe to the USA, Canada, Asia and New Zealand in a whirlwind of pitches and passports.
Along the way the two-time World Masters champions – Melbourne 2002 (over 45s) and Auckland earlier this year (over 60s) – have amassed a medal haul of nine gold, nine silver and three bronze.
In October they came within whisker of another gold-winning performance at the Australian Masters Games in Tasmania, drawing 1-1 with SR Legends in extra time, only to fall 4-3 in the penalty shootout.
Many of the players are associated local with Tuggeranong United FC. Others are drawn from “far and wide”. And while the makeup of the team has changed over the two decades-plus of playing, the nucleus remains the same. Several players like Alan Froud, have been with the team very kick of the way, pushing the envelope when it comes to age, fitness and enthusiasm.
“We’re a competitive team in that over the years we’ve been pretty successful,” Froud said.
“While (the tournaments) are social occasions and we enjoy them, we’re also pretty serious about our preparation, our fitness, the way we organise and play – we’re not there just for fun. It’s no fun going to Masters Games and getting whooped.”
Thankfully, that rarely happens.
Froud added: “Canberra Old Boys actually have a pretty impressive record and I suppose we give the highest priority to world masters – we’ve been to seven of those now.
“But my colleague Billy Hardy and I, we’re the oldest guys in the team at 70, and obviously these things can’t last forever. We must be nearing the end of our journey.”
In the same breath the midfielder admits he still has challenges to face and conquer - some of those in the USA where the Old Boys have forged an association and also play.
“I suppose what we’ve done is push the boundaries to have older age groups created,” Froud said. “In the Masters when we first participated over 45s was the oldest age bracket.
“In the Pan Pacs (Pan Pacific Masters Games) they used to be over 45s only – we persuaded the organisers to offer an over 50s. Then finally when there was critical mass we got them to create an over 55s. Last year for the first time they created an over 60s age bracket.
“Often when we’ve gone to those new age groups, the team numbers have been modest to start with but until you establish it and there’s an expectation that you can actually put a team in those older age groups. I think over 65s is realistic in terms of getting a critical mass of football playing masters.”
Besides, he adds: “It’s marvellous what Voltaren will do”.
Froud has retired a lot of boots since he first started playing at the age of seven but admits it's more than the smell of victory that keeps him going these days.
“There have been a lot of highlights – the fact that we’ve been to world events,” he said.
“And those international opportunities have been brilliant because in many cases it’s a chance for your partner to come along, we get to see a little bit of the country and experience a little of a foreign culture as well as enjoying ourselves playing football. It’s almost like you’ve died and gone to heaven.”