To be a goalkeeper, you have to want it.

It's just one of the lessons Maria Brouwers has learned in over 500 games between the sticks for Te Puke United's women's team.

''It's a mindset - you've got to want to be there for a start, otherwise you won't do any good,'' she says.

A testimonial game in celebration of her longevity and loyalty will be held at Litt Park on Sunday.

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When Maria started playing in the early 1980s, the club was based at Te Puke Domain, and she was 14.

''I actually started as an on-field player and we were getting quite badly beaten. My dad [Bill] came down to watch and he told the coach, 'Stick Maria in goal' and since then I've been in goal and I just love it.''

Football was one of several sports she has tried over the years.

''I've played tennis, squash, netball, but the one that always drew me back was football - it's in my blood I think. I don't know where it comes from, maybe my father - he played over in Holland when he was a youngster.''

Her first real coach was Alan Peak, whose father, Ron, founded the club.

''He played a bit in goal himself at that stage. I've had no formal training, but had some good coaches along the way, but it just comes naturally to me and, I'm not being an egomaniac or anything, I'm good at it - plus I don't like running around.''

Maria says even thought the goalkeeper covers much less ground that the outfield
players, it is a tiring position to play.

''You are constantly watching where the ball is, where your players are, you are constantly talking to the girls - the goalkeeper can see the whole game, so you are telling them if they've got time.''

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When the Te Puke Women's team went into recess, Maria played for Mount Maunganui and she had time out of the game as she travelled overseas.

''When I finished my OE and came back to Te Puke, the club had moved to Litt Park and I thought I'd come down for a training and have a bit of a run around. Next thing I know I'm back in goal - and I've been there from then on.

The position is one where mistakes are amplified - with the result quite often a goal.

''I had a real stupid one when I was fairly young. I tipped it up and it hit the bar and as I was turning round, it hit me on the head and went in - you feel like a complete twit.

''I very seldom celebrate making a great save because the next one can dribble between your legs."

Maria has been a member of two division-winning teams - one last season. Other highlights have included being invited to keep goal for a Waikato team that played at the World Master Games in Sydney in 2009.

''That was a great experience - absolutely fantastic.''

Maria is about to take up a job in South Korea and says she hopes to be able to find a team to play for there.

She says she hopes many of the players she has played with and against will be able to make it on Sunday to enjoy the game and the social event afterwards.

''It's a very social, very friendly club. I've been asked to play at other clubs, but my heart is always going to be Te Puke.''