Wilson finds home

By Gary Stocks

Most of us are blessed with the five senses essential to life. But there is also a sixth sense, an indefinable perception, that sometimes things just don’t feel right.

It was that innate sense that things just didn’t quite add up that led Ben Wilson to North Beach.9701

When he arrived in Perth seven years ago from country Victoria, he ventured down to Whitford because one of the few people he knew in this State, was playing for the Warriors. He went to training at MacDonald Reserve, but was uncomfortable. It wasn’t what he was looking for in a footy club.

He could not put a finger on it, but it ‘wasn’t welcoming.’

Living in the northern suburbs, he googled local clubs, stumbled across North Beach and saw that the senior coach was Bill Duckworth. Having played at Essendon and winning a Norm Smith Medal, Bustling Billy was a man of profile and Wilson decided to give him a call.

That phone call, without fear of exaggeration, changed his life.

Ironically, when the Beach plays Whitford in an important clash at MacDonald Reserve tomorrow, Wilson will play his 150th game for the club. It is a milestone of some significance in a football sense, but also represents a broader life meaning.

He came here as a 21-year-old, just looking for a change of scenery. Maybe just a year in the west to expand on his life experiences, then head back to his roots in Victoria and resume life as normal.

But as he prepares to add another important chapter in his storied amateur career, he knows the Beach has been one of the most directional influences on his life. Perth has become his home, his business is here and he also played in five senior premierships.

“I came down in 2006 and played in a premiership in my first year,” Wilson said. “I had already played in two losing grand finals for Echuca in the Golbourn Valley League, so playing in a winning team was sensational.

“No doubt that was a factor in staying and Perth certainly feels like home. Blokes like Josh McGinnity, Chooka (Anthony Ingham) and Remo (Kyle Reimann) are real close mates.

“Victoria will always be a part of me, but this is home and North Beach has made it that way. That’s why playing 150 games will mean a hell of a lot to me.

“I will be so proud to do it, especially at North Beach. When other guys have played milestones, I have thought ‘that’s great’ but really haven’t understood exactly what it means, until now.”

Wilson is a quality forward, a hard worker who covers the ground well and is strong overhead. But it’s his work rate that stands him above others. He thrives on it.

This season he had to earn his opportunity under new coach David Hynes. Everyone started the pre-season campaign with a clean slate, reputations meant little and after playing the first few games in the reserves, Wilson wondered what the season held for him.

“I guess I am a veteran now and some of the young guys have pushed up,” he assessed. “I had a pretty good pre-season, but didn’t get the early opportunities.

“I soon realised I was no walk up start. I had to change my training habits, because I had become a bit lazy  and had to work hard to get back into the team. But I appreciated and understood that and it was important for me to do that.

“I think last week’s win against University could be a turning point in our season where we realise the game plan that Hynesy has been working on all year is the way we have to play.”

Wilson will be an important part of the finals campaign. And as the team aims to build from week to week, with the intention of peaking when it matters most, he will start by celebrating against a club that didn’t quite feel right.