Skipper Nick in action earlier this season. Insert photo: Young Nick in 2003 aged 8 for Cootamundra Junior Soccer. Photo: Christopher Tan.

Cootamundra Strikers first-grade captain Nick Ashe will run out for his 150th outing this Sunday against Wagga United at home, marking a decade of football played in Cootamundra.

“Nicko” as he is known on the pitch, is only 25 years of age but is already becoming quite the stalwart of the club with all of his playing days devoted to just the one club.

Skipper Ashe debuted for the Strikers in 2011 playing for the under 18 youth league squad and described the inclusion into the side as a “big jump” going from junior soccer into youth league.

Nick in his first year in Youth League, 2011 at 16. Photo: Supplied.

During his first season the side won the competition when Nick played as a defensive midfielder, his side defended the silverware the following year as well prior to the disbanding of the league.

This was one of Nick’s fondest highlights during his early days for the Strikers.

“All through my junior years I was mainly a goalkeeper with a little bit of outfield play. It was a great bridge playing youth league before stepping into proper senior football at first-grade level,” Nick recalled.

First grade debut for Ashe was in 2012 when he was finally old enough and eligible to play, as the previous year he was not allowed the dispensation to play reserve or first-grade.

In one season of first-grade he remembered the side sitting at the bottom-end of the table then managing to feature in the Pascoe Cup [first-grade] grand final after a few years of hard work, which the boys unfortunately went down to Lake Albert.

Nick in 2014 for the Strikers. Photo: Supplied.

Over the past decade Nick has helped out at many of the Bachelors and Spinster’s balls as it was the club’s major form of fundraising.

He said it was always a great weekend not only to help, but bring people into town as well as support the club’s sponsors and the community.

Nick also remembers the opportunity he had when the Strikers finally earned their own stomping ground at O’Connor Park in 2014.

“Getting our own home built and having it as our fortress was a massive moment for our club and huge for soccer in Cootamundra, bringing in NPL games to town,” he said.

“It is the best field in our competition and we’ve heard that from all the players in the competition. The committee has done a fantastic job to keep it at such a high standard.”

Although the men’s and women’s side are still yet to attain their first three points this season, captain Ashe is still proud of the club especially the men’s side returning to competitive football again fielding two sides.

“We went in not focusing on results but just our own growth as players and a club and I think we are consistently taking away positives from each game we’ve played,” he said.

“The young talent we have is exceptional and to see them stick around after a few tough losses and still play each minute of every game with their heart on their sleeves, is inspiring.

“You can coach skills but you can’t coach heart and these young fellows we have, we are lucky enough to have both.”

25-year-old Nick is currently working in retail management and very often runs training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday whenever head coach Mick Godbier is running late and is said to be a great leader on-and-off the pitch.

Nick was born in Perth then moved to Cootamundra when he was six, and is currently about to embark in a career in property management (real estate).

Over the years he has scored seven goals for the club although predominately playing as a centre-back.

Despite personal challenges such as torn ligaments, “shocking knees”, and needing a full ankle reconstruction when he turned 18, Nick said it’s always a great feeling to wear the Strikers badge each Sunday.

“It’s tough at times trying to keep talented young footballers at the club because they do move from Coota for university or work in different town/cities, and for a small club like ours it’s hard to find new players,” he said.

“However we are one big family. Everyone that moved on still actively stays in touch over the years and asks for results whenever they are back home, and it’s like they never left.

“It’s also incredibly welcoming to see new faces over the years and I am proud to say I am a part of this club I call home.”

When asked how many more seasons he has to offer the club in blue, skipper Ashe referred back to his knee.

“Look, I’d like to play forever but it will depend on how many more years my knees will hold out for,” Nick joked.

For this weekend’s round of football, the men’s side will play at home against Wagga United with reserve grade kicking off at 1.10pm then first grade at 3.20pm.

The ladies are away to Leeton at 11.05am.

Since the state government’s announcement last weekend that stay-at-home orders have been put in place extending across all of Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong, community sport will not be permitted in those areas until at least, July 9.

Football outside of those areas including clubs in the Football Wagga competition, can continue under Covid-19 safe conditions including having only one person per four square metres.

Anyone who has been in the Greater Sydney region is not permitted to attend or play, and to follow this stay-at-home orders until 14 days since they left that region.

Anyone else attending football matches or training must wear a mask, and may only remove it during strenuous physical exercise (warm up, train, play, refereeing) or when eating or drinking.

Spectators, coaches, managers, substitutes are included to wear a mask.

Christopher Tan­