All rounder Pittorino knows the way home

It takes Fred Pittorino about three hours to drive to the footy every weekend, sometimes more if there are too many kangaroos on the road home to Chilligoe.

The park ranger has done it for eight seasons with the Manunda Hawks, and backs up during summer to play cricket with Atherton.

An avid sportsman, he says the ridiculous hours on the road actually help him stay sane and that he is lucky his wife understands how much he loves his sport.

"She knows what I'm like. I've been playing sport all my life and it's just what you do if you want to keep involved," he said.

"We love it up here (in Chilligoe) but it's pretty quiet and you'd probably go a bit stir crazy if you stayed here the whole time.

"Most of the time I drive home after games - get back after midnight - but sometimes we stay down, do a bit of shopping and all that sort of thing." Cricket season can be annoying because it might not be raining when I leave, but when I get to Cairns I find out it's a wash-out."

The drives home have been a little longer this footy season, with Pittorino's Hawks in danger of missing the semi-finals for the first time since he joined the club.

The goalsneak, who turns 38 next week, said they had struggled to remain consistent after losing five players to rival AFL Cairns clubs this season and retaining just five members of last year's grand final side.

"We've been relying on juniors a lot this season, and they have battled really well," he said. An injury to captain Tom Ward early in the season meant Pittorino was thrust into the role, one he had declined earlier in his career because he is never at training.

"I'm lucky to get to one or two a year. Instead I go to the school oval and have a kick a few times a week by myself," he said.

"I knocked the captaincy back a while ago, but now with the lack of senior players in the club this season, I took it on.

"Former teammate Luke Powell, who now plays for South Cairns, said Pittorino was the most professional teammate he has had.

"We had seven seasons together and he is just a great leader and role model for the young guys," he said. "He pretty much coaches himself and to be driving that distance to play every week is tremendous."

Both their teams, along with Centrals Trinity Beach, are locked in a battle for fourth spot after four wins this season.

Manunda play Port Douglas at Cazalys tomorrow afternoon and Pittorino is aware that an upset win would do wonders for the cause.

"They've beaten us well in the last two games, but we've got them at home this time,' he said.

"The feeling is that if we play well anything can happen. If we have our best team in the park, we are confident but even then we know anything can happen."

Whether or not they sneak into the top four, Pittorino has plenty of reason to look forward to next season.

"We're moving back to town, so ther will be a lot less time on the road,' he said.


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