THE Hampden league player with the most senior football premierships has paid tribute to the 'special' club which allowed him to break the record.
Koroit veteran Ben Goodall won his ninth flag on Saturday - almost two decades after his first - to surpass Warrnambool's Wayne Billings and Bill Couch, who won six with the Blues and two with Terang.
Goodall, 38, stood on the premiership dais for the first time in 2003 and again in '07 and '09 before he was part of five in a row between 2014-18.
He retired and had three seasons off before returning to the field in 2022 and being part of the Saints' 16-point grand final win against North Warrnambool Eagles.
"It says more about the club than it does about me," Goodall told The Standard.
"I've played in finals every year that I've played - to do that obviously your club is doing a lot of things right.
"I've had some great coaches, played with some great people and I feel we've always been really well supported off-field.
"To stay at the top and remain relevant for that period of time I think every person involved in the journey has played their part in that. I guess for me it's a little bit of right place, right time."
Goodall, who made his senior debut at 16 and was considered one of the competition's most elite left-foot kicks, retired at the end of 2018 citing a toll on his body.
He was the runner for the Saints' 2019 flag and then helped coach their under 23 team at the Let's Talk Cup - a pre-season competition designed to give footballers who had missed out during COVID-19 lockdowns a chance to play - last November.
It was the spark which fuelled the father-of-three's return to the field this year.
"When I finished previously I was really comfortable with that decision," he said.
"I'd done my knee and knew I couldn't play the year after and probably played really banged up the last few years and maybe lost that enjoyment of playing. Over time I missed being a part of the club."
Goodall immersed himself in the under 23 competition as a coach and started to train with the players.
His body felt fresh and was a trigger for his comeback.
One person heavily linked to Goodall's time at Koroit is coach Chris McLaren.
He works with the former premiership player running a floor polishing and sanding business.
"His ability to coach a football team is amazing - he does that second-to-none - but his greatest strength is his ability to show his team that he really cares about them," Goodall said.
"Especially throughout the COVID years to keep the group together, I think he's much more than a coach to everyone involved in the club.
"He's been a father figure and mentor to a lot of those younger players and I guess to the older players he's a really good friend and I feel really grateful to say that about him."
As for a standout premiership? Each has its own special place.
"A lot of people probably just think about grand final day but it's important to consider the whole story which is the year," Goodall said.
"I think every year has had its individual stuff or as a club so there's been a story to tell. It's nice to look back and think of all of them.
"This one has a very different feel to it - I'm not sure if it's the effect COVID's had on everyone or that I probably know it's the end."
His ninth - and potentially last - has a unique spot in Goodall's memories.
"It was a different group and it was throughout the under 23 comp that I got to know a lot of the ground well," he said.
"To coach a lot of those younger lads and then play with them was special. There was players whose dads I played with which is amazing to think and does make me feel really old, playing with Peter Byrne and then Connor and playing with Nick (O'Sullivan) and then Jack and Paddy."
Goodall, who is dad to Fred, 8, Louie, 6, and Stella, 4, might hang up his boots again but won't be lost to the club. He plans to be a regular at Victoria Park.
"I think I only doubled up on one of the years so I'll a have a premiership reunion eight out of every 10 years," he said.
"I have been fortunate enough to play for a long time but I still hope that's only a short part of my life and I guess to have a home at the end of it or a place you can feel really comfortable to go back to is really special."
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