Werribee backline coach Ben Patrick has long had a love of representative football.
The seed was planted in his playing days with Geelong Football League club Lara, during which he was part of a state premiership with the GFL representative side. It then blossomed early in his coaching career, when he again had the opportunity to be involved in a GFL premiership as an assistant coach.
So once he found his way into the VFL coaching ranks, it was perhaps not a question of if but when he would find a role with the league’s state team. As it turned out, the opportunity presented itself early this year.
“At the start of pre-season, I was trying to do a few extra things to boost my CV,” Patrick recalls.
“I had a good chat to [coach John Lamont] and [decided] if the opportunity arose, I’d certainly take it.
“I was fortunate enough that the VFL contacted me to say they’d like me on board, so it’s just another great opportunity to coach at a higher level again.”
Patrick’s appointment to the state team, which will also see him coaching defence, provides a chance to collaborate with some of the best coaching talent in the VFL. The chance to be part of a team headed by Casey Demons senior coach Justin Plapp and which includes other ex-AFL players Nick Daffy (North Ballarat) and Ricky Petterd (Box Hill) is an exciting opportunity in itself, but Patrick is equally buoyed by the shared enthusiasm for the concept of the state side.
“I’ve always had a passion for representative footy, and I think the coaching staff that’s been assembled for the state side also has that passion,” he says.
“It’s a State of Origin, really, so that’s going to be the biggest thing for us. Everybody’s got the passion for it, and being able to work with the top-end talent of the state, that’s really exciting.”
Now in his fourth year at Werribee, Patrick came into the fold at Avalon Airport Oval at the same time as John Lamont and says he has learned a lot through the opportunity to work alongside the Tigers’ senior coach.
“He’s obviously had plenty of experience. I think he had 10-12 years in the TAC Cup system before he went into the AFL system, and he spent seven or eight years there.
“Being able to learn off him with his experiences and being able to bounce ideas off him, it’s just been huge for my development personally.
“I’d like to think that from my time four years ago to now, I’ve developed so much as a coach and a mentor.”
Having been entrenched in the Geelong and Bellarine Football League systems through his time at Lara and Barwon Heads respectively, Patrick admits the VFL system has taken some adjusting to, but his time so far has proved extremely fulfilling.
“You certainly don’t get the family aspect of it after games, but what we do get is the opportunity to work with young players who are striving to play at that highest level.
“Being able to have some input into that is really, really rewarding.”
The VFL State Team takes on the WAFL representative side on May 27 at North Port Oval.