Ben Speight, Super Sub

At this stage of the season, every club seems to have worked out the best player suited to the tricky substitute role introduced in season 2011. That player is usually a quick speedy type who can have immediate impact, get on the scoreboard and have a real influence on the result of the game in only a quarter or so of footy. As a North Melbourne supporter, thinking about who could be our sub before the season began was an interesting exercise. Did we dare give Brent Harvey the green vest and allow him on halfway through the third quarter to tear it up with fresh legs? Matt Campbell seemed a good choice, being one of the fastest players at the club and being a goalsneak, but a hamstring injury kept him out until just last week. We trialled with Liam Anthony for a few weeks, his ability to come on and rack up possessions as well as kicking a goal was crucial, but he was too much of an important player to have out for more than half a game. There must be someone else on our list that could play the sub role to a tee. There was, I was screaming his name out to Brad Scott through the TV, but he didn’t understand me.

Originally from Norwood, Ben Speight made his debut last year against Essendon in Round 17. Saturday night footy between two proud Victorian rivals. He was driving himself to play in the VFL earlier that day. At a pit-stop only 15 minutes out of Ballarat, he checked his phone which had been turned off and sitting in the console. A safe driver, Speighty. Once it was turned on, text messages and missed calls came flooding to the screen. All from one person. Darren Crocker*. Assistant coach of the North Melbourne team. Crocker broke the news to the rookie-listed player. He would be a late inclusion. Speight did a U-turn and made his way back to Melbourne, unable to contain the huge grin that had spread on his face. He didn’t turn his phone back off and put it back in the console though, he, understandably, rang everyone he knew to make sure they were at the game. His parents hit the road immediately and made the trek from South Australia to Melbourne just in time. The number 46, the highest number on the North Melbourne list, was still beaming when he ran out onto the ground in a match North needed to win to stay in contention with the finals race.

He impressed with his pace and exciting ability, kicking a goal on the run from outside 50 late in the first quarter and his celebration was testimony of how flashy he can be; arms out wide with his tongue lashing. He contributed a modest 10 disposals in the heartbreaking three point loss, but many Kangaroos supporters walked away from the match happy with the performance of the youngster. He kept his spot in the side for the next game against the Bulldogs, but the mauling they handed the Roos saw him dropped along with other players. Speight was finished for the rest of the year, but it was a nice cameo.  Nice enough for the Roos to elevate him onto the senior list, giving him free reign at every game of the 2011 season.

He was the spark that was needed after four losses from the first five rounds including a bye. He was an inclusion for the Round Six match against Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium, and had a major impact from the very beginning, kicking the first goal of the game after one minute, before booting his second soon after as the Roos charged to a 10 goal victory. An impressive outing against the Cats a week later saw him hold his spot for the all important clash against Melbourne at Etihad Stadium in Round Eight.

This is where Speight was given the green vest for the first time. He waited and watched for three quarters as Melbourne charged to a five goal lead before his side etched away until they had hit the front by 21 at three quarter time. The vest was taken off; he was free from the shackles. Seven touches, plenty of run and he kicked the last goal of the game as the Kangaroos trotted away to a 41 point victory. You can’t ask anymore of a substitute. Still in the side for next clash against the Brisbane Lions up at the Gabba. No green vest this time but he still managed to play a role with 17 touches and eight tackles in the wet conditions.

He was the sub the next two weeks against Sydney, where he gathered eight touches in the last quarter, and Adelaide. Speight’s breakout game. With Jamie Macmillan suffering facial fractures from a collision with Adelaide’s Richard Douglas, Speight was onto the field late in the first quarter, a very early appearance for a sub. He went on to rack up 23 touches, take four marks and kicked a nice goal on the run in the fourth quarter as North polished off the Crows by 47 points. Speight was a cult hero, especially in my eyes. He was out of the team though after a poor performance against the Gold Coast, and he worked hard to improve his durability and defensive pressure in the VFL, something that needed tweaking so he could be a mainstay in the best 22.

He returned on the weekend against the Western Bulldogs. One of three inclusions to the team that got royally embarrassed by Collingwood the week before. Everyone at North Melbourne was trying to forget what had transpired seven days ago. The two performances served up by the Roos against the Pies and the Doggies were polar opposites. Last week, North kicked 3.12 for the whole game. In the second quarter against the Dogs, North kicked 8.4. Speight wasn’t a part of it though, which was a shame. He waited, waited and waited. Finally, he was given the thumbs up by Brad Scott at three quarter time. Milky Warren was coming off. Speight ripped his vest off like he was some kind of Superhero, and you would be forgiven for thinking he was one in that last quarter, that oh so special last 30 minutes. North booted 8.5 as they ran clear from the Western Bulldogs, with Speight having a major impact. Nine possessions, four marks, two great tackles and he finished it all off with a strong mark over the top of Luke Dahlhaus in the last minute of the contest. Speight is OUR Dahlhaus. He is what ignites us. He excites us, he gives us run, he kicks goals. Speight’s win against Dahlhaus was crucial. It was a way of saying, our excitement machine is better than yours. Speighty ruthlessly rubbed it in by playing on and kicking the goal as ‘The Haus’ was picking himself up off the ground. Like a real Superhero.

Super Sub Speighty.


About Josh Barnstable

21 year old North Melbourne supporter from country Victoria. Currently living in Melbourne studying a Bachelor of Sports Media. Dreams of becoming a sports journalist and broadcaster.


  1. Dan Crane says

    Great read Josh, i must admit that North Melbourne are beginning to rival the Tigers as a club that i have great admiration for mostly due to the superbness of drew petrie ( and also having a great club song and spirit)

    i loved speights attitude when explaining his role as the super sub…..he could be the roos stephen milne, eddie betts etc.

    good luck for the rest of the season!

  2. You seem to be over the ‘Footy Flu’ and all bright eyed and bushy tailed this week Josh.

    It certainly is a roller coaster.

    Win to Waaia as well.

  3. Thanks Dan and Phantom.

    Think I penned this at the wrong time.

  4. Absolute bummer!

  5. smokie88 says

    Yes, terrible news, Josh.
    He gave us a real lift on Sunday.

  6. Steve Healy says

    Nice article Josh, I’m surprised you have some good ones in you still (only joking). Really interesting story about him turning his car back.

    Although you probably shouldn’t have written the article since it injured Speight. Don’t you dare write articles on Melbourne players!

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