Wind the clock back 12 months and Ben Papal would have laughed if you told him that in a year’s time he would be a Parkside senior premiership player and claim the medal for best-on-ground.
Papal can recall his celebrations as a reserves premiership player in 2016 were slightly dampened after the senior team lost its grand final, but little did he know that he would be part of the redemption story.
“I’m just happy both teams got the win today – that’s all that matters to me, nothing else,” Papal said.
“I’m just rapt we both won and we both get to celebrate because last year was a bit different.
“Tonight is all about us as a whole group.”
Papal has a perfect strike rate at Parkside: two years and two premierships.
The 28-year-old crossed to the Magpies from South Morang two years ago because he wanted a change of scenery. He can’t believe how well he has fitted into the club and the culture.
“I’m a Parksider for life now – I’m not going anywhere,” Papal said. “You can’t understand it unless you’re here.
“It’s something else, I’ve never experienced anything like it, we’re tight-knit and the camaraderie we have with each other.”
Papal was the most dominant big man on the ground. The ruckman gave first use of the ball to his onballers more often than not.
Papal was seen as the missing link for Parkside coach Nick Condos.
“We didn’t really have a ruckman, so we went to him halfway through the year because we’d seen every side had a ruckman,” Condos said.
“I’ve driven him really hard this year, given him a lot of instructions with the way we wanted to play and, to his credit, he’s worked on that and picked up a medal.”
Papal has built a good rapport with the rest of the midfielders. The Mill Park resident has been like a sponge for information off Chris Muratore and Justin Dorward.
“I’ve got good people around me that have made me a bit better,” Papal said.
Papal was taken aback when his name was called out for the best-on medal.
“Winning a senior premiership and getting best-on, it means a lot,” Papal said.
“I’m happy for everyone, it’s not about me, it’s about everyone.”