THREE years ago Strathfieldsaye’s Ben Lester couldn’t face BFNL grand final day.
The fact he couldn’t be out on the QEO with his mates striving to atone for the club’s 2013 grand final loss against Golden Square – of which he was part of – was too much for Lester to handle.
Three weeks out from the 2014 finals Lester had cruelly gone down with a left ACL knee injury against Kangaroo Flat that required a reconstruction.
While Lester’s premiership dream was shattered, the Storm went on to capture their first flag with a 55-point win over Sandhurst.
If missing the Storm’s 2014 premiership wasn’t hard enough for Lester, he had salt rubbed into his wounds 12 months later when he suffered the same fate again.
In his first game back in the seniors following his reconstruction in round 17 of 2015 – a season in which the Storm went through undefeated – Lester’s knee again succumbed, this time at Gisborne, costing him another premiership and all of his 2016 season.
Given the setbacks and disappointment he has endured in recent seasons, it’s why Saturday means so much to Lester as he prepares to take to the field for the Storm against Eaglehawk in the grand final at the QEO.
“I couldn’t come to watch the grand final in 2014. It was only a few weeks after I did my knee for the first time and I just couldn’t come to the ground that day,” Lester said this week.
“I didn’t want to be around people and was obviously very upset at not being able to be part of it, so I spent the day at the Bridge (hotel).
“The second grand final in 2015, I came along and was very emotional after they won. Again, it was very upsetting not to be able to play in it, but obviously great for the club.”
There were times throughout his second rehab that Lester, 22, considered throwing in the towel and giving footy away.
“There has obviously been some fairly dark times when you miss out on playing in flags with your mates and I suppose you get fairly emotional about it,” Lester said.
“Early in 2016 after I had my second reco Lachie Sharp did his knee as well and he really pushed me to play footy again and we did a lot of the rehab together.
“But I’ve got a lot of other really good mates at the club as well like Jayden Donaldson, Jake Hall and the club as a whole that really supported me.
“Darryl Wilson (coach) was fantastic. He got me a job to get me working and has done a lot for me.
“But there were times throughout where I thought what’s the point of trying to get back and play again, I just keep getting injured. But my friends and family have all been super in supporting me, which wouldn’t have been easy because I was a fairly angry man for a while.
“It’s obviously great to get a chance on Saturday and I’ve been really enjoying this week; just taking it all in and making the most of it.”
While Lester gets his opportunity at winning his first Storm premiership on Saturday, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for him this year after also spending a stint on the sidelines with a broken wrist and finger.
“It’s great Ben will get his chance on Saturday. He’s a great character and his diligence and mindset to get back playing football has been fantastic,” Wilson said.
“It’s an amazing story, particularly with the severity of the second injury, but his commitment and dedication to the club has been outstanding.”