With four premierships in a 14-year career, it’s no wonder Bryan is still having a Ball.
The Rock-Yerong Creek stalwart will notch up another milestone at Victoria Park on Saturday, running out for his 250th senior game when the Magpies host Charles Sturt University.
That he might lace up the boots so many times never crossed Ball’s mind when he was starting out. But, in truth, he’s known little else.
“I still love it, that’s the thing – I haven’t lost the enjoyment,” Ball said.
Born and bred at The Rock, Ball started playing when he was just four.
“I was only a young tacker and my cousin was playing. I used to follow him around like a bad smell so I went and played too. I don’t know that I got a kick. I think I just sat in the goal square and played with my matchbox cars.”
It was a start. By 2003, Ball was playing first grade and TRYC on the way to becoming a modern powerhouse, with grand final successes in 2004 (against North Wagga), 2006 (Collingullie), 2011 (Marrar) and 2015 (East Wagga-Kooringal).
“The 2011 was my favourite, still to this day,” Ball said. “2015 was good just because we were such underdogs. But in 2011, there were so many locals in the side, and one of my brothers-in-law, Charlie White. It was really enjoyable.”
Now 31, Ball has played under plenty of coaches. But he credits an assistant coach with having a huge impact on his game.
“Aaron de Jong was probably the most influential,” he said. “My skills weren’t the best and he used to pull me aside and work with me. He just wanted to help make me a better footballer.”
Along with the premierships, playing with lifelong mates is a highlight.
“I’ve probably played more games with Toddy Hannam than anyone else in my career,” Ball said. “We’ve probably played 200 of my 250 together.”
There remains a nucleus at the Magpies who have played plenty of football together, including the ageless Justin Driscoll.
“He’s turned back the clock this year,” Ball said of Driscoll’s superb season. “He’s got three years on me – he’s 34. But the way he’s playing... I don’t know what he’s done but I might have to hit him up to find out. It might help me.”
Hannam is back on Saturday after surgery on a broken finger. It’s a timely return as the Pies attempt to build consistency ahead of another finals campaign.
“We’re hot and cold, which is hard,” Ball said. “I’m glad I’m not coaching because I don’t know what we do different each week.
“If we could just get to medium each week, we’d know where we’re at. When we play well, we play really well but when we don’t…”
The Pies are coming off a big win against Coleambally last week, having played well for a half at Temora in their previous game.
“We changed a few things up after we lost to Temora and it all seemed to work,” Ball said. “Hopefully it continues this week.”