Many of the Old Brighton supporters have recently been overheard on the balcony, querying the absence of one of the fan favourites, defensive general – Ben Austen. Sadly for the OBGFC and without much fanfare, “Benny” (at just 27 years of age) retired from football over the summer.
So here we delve into Ben’s outstanding journey at Old Brighton, and the reasons that saw him bring a curtain down on his brilliant football career.
Ben joined Old Brighton Grammarians Football Club fresh out of Brighton Grammar in 2010, immediately winning the Under 19’s Best & Fairest trophy in a premiership side, and then cementing his place in the senior side the following year, before running second to Jon Perrett in the 2012 Senior B&F award. A scrupulously fair ball player, Ben’s dashing sprints down the ground became a feature of his exciting play and his superb long kicking often set up scoring chances for forwards who could slip behind their defenders. Ben was a crucial member of our 2013 Premiership side, often scoring goals of his own from defence. Serious injuries have hampered him in recent seasons, but once again as an integral part of last year’s Premiership team, he still took the responsibility from the full back line, distributing the ball with his customary skill.
Benny retires (only temporarily we hope) from OBGFC a 3-time Premiership Player (2010 U19, 2013, 2017), having played 127 games and kicking 18 goals.
First Senior Game?
2010 as an U19 I played against Uni Blacks out at the Uni. Tagged Dan Nicholson who went on to get drafted by Melbourne, reckon he had 50 touches and 3 goals. Safe to say I didn’t play the next week. I’d actually argue he got drafted because of me.
The flags are an obvious one. But selfishly as an avid Saints fan, getting to play one-out on Milney was pretty cool. We got up by 10 goals on their deck after they had done us by almost 100 at the beach earlier in the year, that was a bloody good day.
Best player you’ve played with:
Been some seriously good ones so wouldn’t want to single anyone out, Leigh Hendra, Marcel Bruin & Jonny Perrett were pretty awesome to play with as a young bloke though.
Most underrated player you’ve played with:
Riley Cummin, by a mile. In 10 years I can’t remember him being beaten. Playing with Riz meant I could go kick chasing with full confidence he would be back there to cover my mistakes.
What was your reason for leaving OBGFC at the end of last season?
Career opportunities. The company that I work for, Greenroom Digital, is going through lots of exciting growth and expansion which meant that we needed a permanent presence in Sydney. Living elsewhere is something I have always wanted to do, and so it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Can you give us a bit of your career background and what you do at Greenroom Digital?
I studied Commerce (Sports Management) & Sports Science at Uni, without really knowing where I wanted to be, but knowing that Sports was really my passion. After spending some time working with Telstra, and a short period working for a small Sports Management firm, an opportunity opened up to work at Greenroom Digital. Greenroom was founded by ex-OBGFC Legend Nick Biggin and is a company focused on working with elite sporting clubs and governing bodies to better commercialise their digital assets. We work with the NRL clubs, AFL clubs, AFLPA and even a couple of Premier League clubs in the UK. We also work directly with Brands to enhance the performance of their sporting sponsorships via state of the art digital strategy, leading to work with businesses in finance, auto, insurance, tourism, retail and many other areas in both Australia and abroad.
As the Head of Commercial Development, my role enables me to really focus on how we continue to scale as a business. It has been an exciting time for Greenroom Digital, with the company growing from 4 employees to a team of almost 20 in less than 2 years. And as of just recently, aligning with global sports marketing agency CSM and opening offices in both Sydney & London. I’d encourage any of the young fellas at the club that are interested in a career in sport or marketing to reach out, as we regularly have new opportunities presenting themselves.
As a key part of the 2017 Premiership side, leaving OBGFC must have been a tough call. Was it purely a career decision, or was your motivation for football waning?
It was tough. It’s been a long time since a Saturday in winter rolled around and I didn’t put on a BGS/OBGFC Guernsey (15 years to be precise). And seeing the incredible wins the boys have had in the first 2 rounds has been bittersweet, because I so desperately want to be part of it. That being said, the expectation and commitment levels required were consistently going up, and I’d be lying if I said that with other commitments, the ability to train and perform at your best was becoming a challenge. Particularly with the amount of talented young blokes banging down the door for an opportunity. Amazing to see how many of them have grasped their chance, and are continuing to elevate the standards at the club.
Do you miss not having the chance to have another crack at ‘Premier Division’?
When we won the flag in 2013 there was a real sense that in winning the premiership we had completed the journey. The fact that we were back playing in A-Grade the next year was really just a bonus. However, last year the feeling was completely different, you looked around the room after the game and it was blatantly clear that this was just the beginning. With the talent, depth and character of people in the club at the moment, I have no doubt that OBGFC is ready to smack Premier Division in the mouth, so it’s hard to know I’m missing out on the continuation of that journey. I’ll definitely be the first bloke checking the scores on a Saturday afternoon and reading the match report when I roll into the office on a Monday.
What’s the best thing about life in Sydney, and what do you miss the most?
It’s a pretty generic answer, but the weather is sensational. And there are worse places to spend your Saturday afternoon than on Bondi Beach, although the pigment of my skin would argue otherwise.
As for what I miss most, I’d get in trouble if I didn’t say my girlfriend, who is still based in Melbourne. Fortunately, I have a number of mates up here that have relocated over recent years (1 of whom I’m living with) that have made the transition away from friends and family a lot easier. Also yet to find a decent brunch spot that compares to any of my old favourites.
Any chance you’ll be pulling on the boots somewhere in Sydney?
Definitely looking into it, unfortunately work and health haven’t allowed me to do more than train at this stage, but hoping to go have a kick with the UTS Bats once I get things organised. Having been down to training a couple of times, the standard appears to be pretty decent and the boys train with their mouthguards in, showing they mean business. So I’m looking forward to getting more involved over the coming weeks. They claim to be “the best club in Australia”, I would argue OBGFC has that covered, but we can agree to disagree on that.
Is there a spare bed for any of your teammates if they are heading up to Sydney for a weekend?
100%! Door is always open for any OBGFC chewers. I’m living in Woolloomooloo which has its perks, it’s walking distance to the CBD, the Cross, The Harbour etc… However, we are next door to a hostel, so there is regularly a pack of people speaking French mulling out the front of our house with brown paper bags of alcohol and the plume of cigarette smoke. Actually, come to think of it, a number of the boys would fit in perfectly…
Congratulations Benny on an outstanding football career (to date) at Old Brighton. We wish you every success in your move to Sydney.