By Chris Chick

The EJ Whitten Legends Game is one of the most watched football games of the year, and this season there will be special interest for fans of the Western Region Football League with four of the league’s stars set to pull on the Big V.

Deer Park players Ryan Houlihan (former Carlton), Ryan Hargrave (Western Bulldogs) Brent Guerra (Port Adelaide, St.Kilda and Hawthorn) and Hoppers Crossing Coach Steve Kretiuk (Western Bulldogs) are all lacing up the boots for the charity game tomorrow night.

In its nineteenth year, the event is played in memory of the one of the western suburbs’ favourite sons, the great EJ Whitten who passed away from prostate cancer almost two decades ago.

Since its inception, the Legends Game has raised more than $1.3million for the EJ Whitten Foundation who raises vital funds and awareness for men’s health and prostate cancer research.

Playing in his second Legends Game this year, former Western Bulldog defender Steve Kretiuk said that he doesn’t get many nerves before the game but is more excited about getting back on the park again and having a kick.

“I missed out on last year’s match due to a trip overseas, but I’m definitely looking forward to having a run again and catching up with some old mates.”

Currently coaching the Hoppers Crossing senior squad, Kretiuk said that his young side is improving each week and was gaining valuable experience for next year.

“At the start of the year everyone perhaps thought we were a bit of an unknown but on the weekend we had fourteen players under 20 years old and it is all about getting them game time.”

Down at John McLeod Oval the Lions are flying, undefeated so far this season and that in part is due to the impact of the latest recruits coming from the AFL.

With over 650 games between the Deer Park trio, the Vics will enjoy the fresh face of Guerra who will make his debut in the state of origin match, while Hargrave and Houlihan will no doubt lend a hand as they don the Big V for the second time.

Joining the Lions at the start of this season after opening his restaurant Rustique Co. in the area, Houlihan said that there is a great feeling around the club, staff and supporters due to the way the team is travelling at this point in time.

“I’m really enjoying my first season in the WRFL despite having a bit of an interrupted start to the season through injury, but I’m getting back to full match fitness now and stringing some games together which is good.”

Playing alongside other AFL greats in this year’s Legends Game including Brendan Fevola, Campbell Brown and Dermott Brereton, Houlihan is looking forward to another entertaining match.  

“It was such a great night last year; I had so much fun and in the end really wanted to win the game.”

When asked if he missed playing on the big stage, he said that playing in the Legends Game brought back memories of his former playing days.

“It was only as I was driving out of the ground last year from the Legends match with the roar of the crowd ringing in my ears that I thought wow, how good was that.”

See the four WRFL boys in action on the big stage at the 2014 Ray White EJ Whitten Legends Game at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday July 1 from 6pm. Tickets will be available at the gates or online at Ticketmaster.



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