“My size was an issue for me. I always thought I was never big enough. And I’m not going to lie now: I still see some of those big blokes on the field and think, ‘I’ll avoid them’. But eventually they’ll get tired. You just have to keep running,” said Ben on Dally M night.
After being frustratingly held back from first grade, despite breaking a bunch of Bulldogs point scoring records in the lower grades – Ben had to persevere against doubts about his size, and ability to match it physically with the NRL’s elite players.
Jump forward to the 2012 season, just a few short years later – and it’s no wonder Ben is still grasping the magnitude of this achievement, and how quickly it has arrived. Only 12 months ago, not many would have predicted just how rapidly the young player’s star would rise, but under the coaching of Des Hasler, Ben has dominated the competition this year thanks to his uncanny attacking and try scoring ability and competent defense – making him an exceptional all-round footballer.
On what will surely be one of the great nights of the young fullbacks’ career, he scooped no less than four awards at the Dally M presentation night in Sydney, winning not only the major award of the night in the Dally M itself – but also the Fullback of the Year Award, the Provan-Summons People’s Choice Award and the Peter Frilingos Memorial Award.
Ben was a runaway winner for the Dally M with 32 votes in all. His nearest competition, Matt Bowen, finished six points adrift. It was a big night for Indigenous football – three out of the top four players in the Dally M race were Indigenous – with Johnathan Thurston ranking fourth.
Ben now joins the likes of Cliff Lyons, Laurie Daley, Preston Campbell and Johnathan Thurston as Indigenous players to have won rugby league’s most prestigious award.