Sam playing in last season’s grand final against Hanwood FC at McDonalds Park. Photo: Christopher Tan.

A 24-year playing career for Cootamundra soccer and still going.

This Sunday at the Strikers’ fortress on O’Connor Park, 34-year-old Sam Cram will run out of the dugout and onto the pitch to play her 200th game against Wagga United.

Cheering her on as soon as she steps onto the pitch and until the very final whistle sounds includes family, friends and the rest of Strikers community.

The milestone is a huge achievement for Strikers stalwart Sam Cram who started kicking the round ball in Coota in 1997 with junior soccer.

Sam grew up very active and very much in love with sport, being involved with all sorts and this included gymnastics, little athletics, netball and basketball.

Only gymnastics was carried out in Sydney while the other sports were played in town when Sam moved to Cootamundra with her family.

With the family’s move to town, Mum Kaylene decided that her sons and daughter needed to play the same sport instead of being everywhere and since Sam’s brothers Owen and Harry wanted to play soccer, Sam joked that she was out-voted, but was glad that she was.

Credit to her two younger brothers getting their way, that kicked-off her playing career with the Cootamundra Junior Soccer Club in 97’ with the under 11s.

A junior playing career which lasted until the 16s, Sam remembers being indecisive if she wanted to then continue on and play senior football.

But until a bunch of senior girls from the Strikers approached her and “tugged” her to come down and give it a go, Mrs Cram said it was the best decision since.

Sam then left town for a few years in Sydney for Miranda and played a few years of club football where she won her only career senior grand final.

Since returning home and donning the blue again, Mrs Cram has never looked back.

Sam’s 100th game in 2012. Photo: Supplied.

Despite being unfortunate to have lost five grand finals, two finals and two semi finals with the Strikers, Sam said it was the privilege of being part of the Strikers family that lingers in her memory most.

“My fondest memories being part of this club is the social side of being a Striker and this included movie nights, soup days and the long bus trips we shared,” she said.

“My greatest highlight would be being voted Player’s Player a few seasons ago.

“Knowing that the girls voted for me makes it even more special. Thanks girls.”

Sam added that it was her parents support over the year that helped her get over the line with her 200th milestone this weekend.

“Mum and Dad have been great supporters for me playing with the Strikers over the years, but especially Dad Col being my harshest critic but also my biggest supporter,” she said.

“He has been to around 90 per cent of all my games and was the team manager for a few years. He has always been there.”

On the field, Sam recalls scoring a goal off a corner once, playing a few games for the men’s reserve grade side as well as winning the 2000 Champions of Champions honours as part of the 14s girls Cootamundra team, coached by Ben Krogh and managed by Monica Hodge.

Sam winning a grand final for Coota in 2000. Photo: Supplied.

Since Sam represented Cootamundra in soccer two decades ago, the Strikers women’s competition has grown to have both a first grade and a reserve grade competition.

In 2004, the Strikers officially owned their own grounds at O’Connor Park.

Just last year, goalkeeper and this season’s captain-coach Annette Parkinson played her 400th outing which Sam played down the chances of herself reaching it.

“What Netty has achieved is incredible and there’s no way I can get there. Netty can have that one all to herself,” Sam joked.

Kristen Izard, Annette Parkinson, Ang Louttit and Sam Cram all have played a combined 700 games for the Strikers. Photo: Supplied.

Cootamundra Strikers Club President Wally Parkinson said the club is proud of Sam’s milestone as well as her contributions to the club over the years.

“It’s great to see Sam reach her 200th game. She has been involved with the Strikers for a number of years,” he said.

“For anyone to play 200 games is an amazing effort.”

Strikers women’s assistant coach Rebecca Philpott noted Sam’s stint at the club as a great example for younger girls just starting out their playing career as Strikers.

“She brings a lot of passion to her game and is great at helping out with the younger girls,” Rebecca said.

“She is still currently carrying an injury but still gives 110 per cent to the team, and that’s the kind of person she is.”

The home game clash against Wagga United this Sunday is a fitting outcome for the ladies as their opponents have only managed one win this season.

The Strikers ladies are still searching for their first win this season and anything but a point would be a sweet finish for Sam’s milestone game.

“Hopefully we will win,” Sam said.

“Some of my family will be coming to watch and despite the result, there will definitely be some drinks with the girls afterwards.”

Christopher Tan