One of the great ‘sliding doors’ stories in the history of the North Beach Football Club will reach a landmark on Saturday when highly regarded wingman Ben Heap plays his 200th game against Fremantle CBC.
As a teenager, Heap just happened to be in a particular place, on a particular day, at a particular time that ushered in an association with the Tigers.
His friend declined, but Heap found the employment conditions – a hot dog, a can of coke and 10 bucks – irresistible. So he climbed up that rickety ladder on the southern side of Royal Charles Riley Reserve and threw up the numbers for the three games every Saturday.
Heap, who was playing with Kingsley Junior Football Club at the time, was then pursued by Subiaco and joined their colts program. He played there for two years, was in the initial State 18s squad in his second season, but then suffered glandular fever.
“I was the only Subi colt in that initial squad,” Heap recalls. “So they must have held me in reasonably high regard.
“After I got glandular fever, the following year I was 19 and I just wanted to play with my mates, so I came down to North Beach to play the final year of colts. All of my mates from school were down here and I wanted to play with them.”
Heap, who was lightning fast over the ground, caught the attention of senior coach Bill Duckworth, who offered him the opportunity to play senior football, but the rising young star wanted to remain playing with his friends.
The following season he broke into senior football and – other than the odd diversion of heading overseas –has been a constant at the club. He has played in seven A-Grade premierships, was best afield in the 2010 A-Reserves triumph and was co-captain (with Chris Pearce) of the 2009 team.
The highly decorated wingman has played with some outstanding players throughout his career, but particularly enjoyed sending the ball into the path of star forward Mitch Holbrook.
“I played with so many great players,” he mused, when asked to nominate the best. “I did enjoy seeing Mitch Holbrook get on the end of some of my kicks. And Chris Perkin. Enough said.”
Heap, who has a penetrating left foot, but can sometimes miss the radar, jokes that in his early years the ‘hit and miss’ delivery was created because he did not slow down to execute.
“I used to be running so fast that I would just throw the ball out in front of myself and try to kick as best I could,” he said. “Mark Kiely used to joke about it and give me one(errant kick) per game, but I reckon it was more than that.”
Heap, whose first job was as a lawn mowing contractor, but also holds sports science and teaching degrees, is now focused on his business – Sail City North Shade Sails – when not concentrating on adding to his list of achievements at the Beach.
And Saturday, will be a proud moment for the veteran.
“It will mean a lot to me to play 200 games for the club,” he said. ”It has taken a while to get there, with a few injuries and trips overseas and it is certainly a great honour.
“It was also a great honour, on Sunday, for the A-Reserves to name me as captain. I have been surprised by the quality of the youth in our club, which holds in such good stead, and I was very surprised and honoured that they voted an old guy as captain.”
Heap might well be the A-Reserves captain, but he maintains his ambitions of playing at the highest possible level. He played in the opening game of the season in the A-Grade, copped a severe cork early in the first quarter and then missed the next two games.
Opportunities have not been forthcoming in the last fortnight, but maybe there is an opening for the affable and popular Heap to play against CBC. There’s still plenty of pep in this 31-year-old’s step.