Ben Bond - My Redan Story
Where did you grow up and what are some of your best junior footy memories?
I grew up on a farm just outside of St Arnaud, and played all my junior footy there. We were a strong team, but always battled to beat Boort who always seemed to be just a little bit better.
In my first year of Under 14s, we managed to knock off an undefeated Boort in the Semis, then to back it up with a one point win in the Grand Final. Pretty nice start to a career!
It was great to play all my junior footy with the mates I’d grown up with, and to have some success, I don’t think we missed finals any year. Some of the interleague trips were great fun as well!
Who or what was it that attracted you to join Redan?
I came to Ballarat for Uni, but for the first year continued to travel home to play at St Arnaud. At some stage through the year I had decided to commit to life in Ballarat, and had a few mates from Uni already at Redan (Bobby O'Brien, Stephen Duke, Jay Dineen and Andrew Teggelove).
Looking back, I think I’ve always played footy more for the camaraderie, so it was a pretty easy decision to come along and join my mates at Redan. Plus I was living about 50 metres from Western Oval!
What was your impression of the club and did being part of a group of Uni students playing there make it an easier transition?
A great group of people that went out of their way to welcome you. It was pretty clear the club had fallen on hard times, but it was being held together by a group of very proud and hardworking individuals.
Coach Marty Cusack and I clearly remember Flogga (Peter Loughnan) from the very start. Being a whole bunch of Uni students helped a lot, we all had similar stories along the lines of moving from a smaller country area to the ‘big smoke’ for Uni and just looking to have a kick.
Tell us about the day John Northey came to coach the senior side in 1998, what was that experience like?
A great experience! There’d been a lot of lead up to it, and with our stronger side, we were hoping to knock off Daylesford and everyone was very excited. I’m a Melbourne man and he had a strong history with them of course.
It’s a bit cheesy, but I remember running around at Western Oval on a cold winter's night just hoping he’d say something like “good work Bondy” of something like that. I can’t recall if he did or not. Everyone lifted a level that week, but sadly we couldn’t get the job done.
Your played under a couple of great coaches in Marty Cusack and Barry Hills who extracted all they could out of the players they had, describe the impact they had on you.
Marty was a legend, I don’t think I’ve ever played with a more fearless leader. Unfortunately for Marty, he did a lot of leading with his head and spent more time coaching from the sidelines than on the field.
Hillsy was a huge man, and took us to a higher level of professionalism in 1999. Both of them got what they could out of what was really an underpowered squad. Without their strength and influence we could well have been worse off, and who knows where the club may have ended up.
Which players impressed you the most and had the biggest influence on your development?
Bobby O’Brien, hands down. A bloke who wasn’t gifted with great size or speed, but a heart as big as Phar Lap. Hardworking, completely selfless. He’d always be first on the training track and last off.
Grassy (Brett Stone) had some of the silkiest skills I’d ever seen. Big Hoges (Robert Hogan) up forward always worked hard too, and a beautiful long kick of the ball. Andrew Teggelove (Tugga) also a gun big man, and a bloke that would do anything for you.
Someone who might not get mentioned in this type of conversation regularly, is a guy by the name of Ian Morelli. Gun player, and dead set the funniest bloke I’ve ever played with. You never really knew what he was going to do next.
They were the kind of blokes you could show up week after week to play with even if you were being belted on the scoreboard.
How tall are you and had you ever played in the ruck before coming to Redan?
176cm but always felt I was a bit taller than that. In under 16’s I would change through the ruck for the tap, and then become a ruck rover type, which gave the big man a chance to go forward and become a target, or just to have a rest, and increased our run through the middle.
You had a tremendous vertical leap and spent plenty of time in the ruck playing against much taller opponents. Who was your toughest opponent in the ruck and the best player you played on in general?
They’re all tough, but in particular I recall the two blokes down at Melton South, both of them had to be upwards of 6’8. I was happy to let Dan Lee do most of the work those days!
I always enjoyed the confusion in the opponents when I’d line up for the ruck, they’d always stop the umpire before the bounce and have us nominate who was going up.
Did you have a basketball or high jump background?
In the summer I would compete with Wendouree Aths Club, doing all the jumps and a bit of running here and there. I dabbled a bit in Pole Vault as well. My best high jump in a competition was 192cm. I enjoyed playing basketball as well, playing from a young age.
The Darley forfeit in 1998 was soon followed by a Save the Lions meeting at the Western Oval. What do you recall about those times and could you see the club turning things around as quickly as it did?
We were a club on the brink. I remember the grim atmosphere at the meeting, and the end result of it being that everyone chose to knuckle down and get involved. There was heaps of media about, we had The Footy Show come up and do a night at the club.
As a player all we could was just to keep showing up each week. Once we got over that hill, the club structure kept improving, and as we all know, the success finally came.
Some great people got behind the club around that time. Gary Greville for instance came from nowhere, no links to the club, but knew we needed help. Bloody legend!
You were part of the drought breaking win against Daylesford in 1999 at the City Oval. Most people there that day said it was like a premiership win. Have you since won a premiership and can attest to that?
That day is still probably number one in my career in a lot of ways. It was like a dam breaking. We had been getting closer to beating Daylesford, and to throw off the shackles and beat them by such a big margin was an amazing feeling. I’ve won a few premierships since then, and it’s definitely comparable.
Did you make it to any of the Grand Finals the club has since played in? (if so) What was it like to see some of your teammates who debuted in 1999 win a Premiership?
Sadly not, after Redan I took a job in Charlton and was busy with my own footy. Religiously I would get the Sunday papers and keep an eye on the scores, tracking everyone’s progress. I still do now!
What were some of your other favourite memories of your time at Redan?
The Redan ball was always a cracking night! There was one night at the Western Oval where it came time for the annual nude lap of the oval (does this still happen?)
A couple of us were clever enough to stash our clothes somewhere out of sight, but most blokes had just thrown off their clothes, and of course by the time we got back those clothes had been taken inside, forcing them to come inside the hall nude to collect!
Tell us about where you have played since leaving the club and some of your highlights?
I went to Charlton for work for a couple of years and played there, before taking a year to work in the Whitsundays with my now wife Sally. While there I had a very enjoyable year playing at the Whitsunday Sea Eagles in Airlie Beach.
After that a couple of years back at Charlton, culminating in a flag in 2005. Three years at Albion in the WRFL, good quality, tough footy, but the small grounds I couldn’t get used to, nothing really compares to City Oval!
From there, I played my last few years out at the West London Wildcats, where we were very successful. Across our three grades in those three years we won six flags. I was a playing president for the last two years as well.
We had quite a few Ballarat crew come through in that time, from Roosters, to Lions and Swans. It as great to share that time with so many people from home, but we also had a large contingent of Irish, English, Welsh and even a Frenchman.
We travelled together to play against National sides in Paris, Stockholm, Milan and a regular footy trip to the Greek Islands!
Where are you living these days and what are you up to?
Living now on the Mornington Peninsula at Mt Martha with my wife Sally and young family, we have a boy Arlo three, and 10 month old Florence. I’m a firefighter now with the MFB, and need to be pretty fit for my work.
I’m keeping myself busy with long distance running, having run a couple of marathons now, planning a couple more this year, pretty keen to run a sub three hour marathon.
Are you still involved at club level in any capacity?
Nope, not at the moment. The kids are a bit too young to get involved at the moment, and the shift work doesn’t really allow for it either.
Once the kids are older I can see it becoming a priority again. I have had thoughts of dabbling in some Super Rules and I’m playing for the MFB against the Police this weekend.
What advice would you have for juniors starting their careers at Redan, especially those who are asked to play in a position they are not familiar with?
Sometimes you’re going to end up in a role you’d never thought you would. I think we all grow up dreaming of being a forward and kicking goals, or being the gun on-baller who gets 30 kicks.
We all have to play our role to make the team stronger. I never wanted to play defensively, but spent a lot of time coming off half back and loved it.