O'Toole achieves 200 game milestone

Luke O'Toole will play his 200th game for Ultima on Sunday, three years after being diagnosed with MS.

Luke O'Toole will play his 200th game for Ultima on Sunday, three years after being diagnosed with MS.

Almost three years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Ultima stalwart Luke O'Toole will play his 200th game for the Roos this weekend.

It's been a long journey to the milestone after debuting for Ultima in 1996 at 16 years old, before touring the country and playing football across Australia. 

What makes the milestone all the more remarkable is his diagnosis in 2014.

"I woke up one morning and my alarm clock was just going side to side," O'Toole told The Guardian.

"I spent three weeks at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne and had about eight weeks of double vision where I couldn't drive."

Housing a unpredictable and often crippling condition, It's a matter of making the most of his time for O'Toole who knows his days as a player are numbered.

O'Toole has been able to manage his symptoms and is thankful he can still take the field.

"In day-to-day activities, I'm fine. I get tired a lot too, but you can just tell that footy isn't the same as it used to be. It's only really affected my co-ordination a bit," he said.

"It's one of those illnesses where anything can happen. It was my eyes the first time, next time it could be the feeling in my toes. I haven't had an attack since the first one in 2014."

"I felt really comfortable in my last game, the best I've felt in years. Maybe I'm starting to get a bit more used it."

After being diagnosed on the cusp of the 2014 finals series, he missed adding another premiership to his tally that year, as Ultima defeated Nullawil in the Grand Final. Despite not taking the field, O'Toole rates that game as his proudest footballing moment.

"I just felt that the boys were always that little bit hungrier," he said.

Ultima and Nullawil again met in last year's Grand Final, adding the spice of a Grand Final replay to traditional rivalry.

Sunday could be one of the final times that O'Toole will line up against his childhood side's fierce rivals, a side that he has many battles with over the past 20 years.

"Nullawil are a great footy club and I enjoy playing them," O'Toole said.

"When I was younger, they had some great players who I went head-to-head with, who are still there, and I'll always have a beer with them.

"That's the thing I like the most about playing here, being able to earn a fair bit of respect through footy."

To read more about this story, grab a copy of Friday's Guardian (April 21).

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