ELEVEN years ago a small, skinny 16-year-old named Ben Goodall made his senior debut for Koroit against South Warrnambool. Today, Goodall, one of the Hampden league’s fiercest competitors and finest midfielders, notches up his 200th senior game, ironically against the Roosters.
The venue might be different and Goodall older, but what set him apart as a teenager remains in his game today.
Koroit’s then coach, the AFL’s community engagement manager Jason Mifsud, told The Standard this week he had no reservations about plucking Goodall from the under 18s for the round six clash against the Roosters at Victoria Park in 2001.
“I just loved his competitiveness,” Mifsud said.
“He always had that glint in his eyes every time he crossed the line. He was always so competitive and determined.
“He was only a little fella but his competitiveness was so great he was never going to have any apprehensions about the commitment needed to play senior footy.”
Mifsud, who played Goodall in a forward pocket with great results — he kicked five goals in his second game against North Warrnambool — said he had no doubts he would become a significant player but also a strong leader at Koroit.
“He was always a kid we had identified through the junior program. He just always carried himself really well,” Mifsud said.
“He just epitomises if you apply the right mindset and right intensity, regardless of your size, you will be a better than average player.”
Goodall’s career includes three senior premierships with the Saints — in 2003, ’07 and ’09 — the club captaincy, Hampden league representation and club best and fairest awards.
But what he doesn’t win awards for is attack on the ball and courage to win possession against physically bigger opponents.
The 28-year-old played down the significance of today’s milestone.
“I knew when it was but I wasn’t telling anyone,” he said.
“I’m not big on individual stuff. It’s a team game and it’s a really important game. It’s not about me, it’s about getting a win and setting up our season.”
Goodall said he had often wondered whether he would ever have played footy if his family hadn’t moved from Warrnambool to Koroit when he was “12 or 13”.
At that age he had only followed Geelong and had never been around a footy club. But the move to Koroit led him to the town’s club and despite being a late starter, by under 16s he had been bitten by the bug.
Goodall said when Mifsud elevated him from the under 18s to the seniors in 2001 he was surprised.
“I didn’t do a pre-season,” he said.
“I had played a couple of good games and Jason (Mifsud) used to like picking young blokes and bringing them up. I was just lucky.”
He played the remainder of the 2001 season in the seniors in a forward pocket and the following four or five years he played in a back pocket after Damian Dobson was moved into the midfield.
In 2006, Goodall found a permanent role in the middle. It’s a position he relishes.
The quietly-spoken Goodall rated the three premierships the highlights of his career, but mateship, loyalty and fun underpinned his reasons for playing. He said he intended to play for as long as he enjoyed it and he was contributing to the team. Such is his belief in loyalty, you can’t see him playing for any other club.
“We don’t get paid at Koroit. I’ve never made money playing footy and I don’t have any intention in doing that,” he said. “I just love the footy club.”