BECOMING a premiership player with Peel Thunder was nothing but a wild dream as Ben Hancock rose through the club's ranks, but he's now ticked that off and on the way to 100 WAFL games become one of the league's most underappreciated consistent performers.
Hancock could very well be the most underrated player to reach 100 games currently in the competition for how important and consistent a role he continues to play with the Thunder.
With good size and athleticism, and his running ability perhaps the greatest asset, Hancock has now built a career for himself as a hard-running defender and wingman, but that only goes part to the way of summing up what he's meant to the Thunder as he approaches his 100th game.
Hancock is tall enough to play as a key position player and has to do that at times, is agile enough to play as a small and is at his best when allowed to attack of half-back and through the middle of the ground.
He now becomes the 10th player in the history of the Peel Thunder Football Club this Saturday and it just happens to be a home game in Mandurah at David Grays Arena against West Perth.
He joins Rory O'Brien (139), Brandon Hill (132), Daniel Haines (128), Matthew Brown (120), Brendon Jones (118), Grant Welsh (111), Matt Battye (111), Dean Buszan (104) and Gerald Ugle (100) as centurions with Peel, and at 24 years of age, he's on track to be the next games record holder.
To reach 100 games at the club he came through the ranks of and dreamed of playing at means the world to Hancock.
"Obviously I'm very proud and honoured to have achieved 100 games," Hancock said.
"Growing up in the Peel region and playing for Warnbro as my junior club is part of the Peel districts, and then I went right through the development program and colts with Peel so it was always a dream to play league footy for the club. To now achieve 100 games is something I'm very proud to have done."
Naturally there is a bit more of a build up to Saturday's game for Hancock than usual given the achievement that it is to reach 100 games at the Thunder.
But ever the humble and low key man, he won't be trying to make things too much different and will be focused on helping Peel notch its first win of the 2020 WAFL season against the Falcons.
"There's a bit of hype surrounding it I guess with it being a milestone game and it's Josh Bootsma's 50th game as well so there is a bit of excitement there. But really it's just another game of footy and we're just hoping to come out with the four points more than anything," Hancock said.
"I'm sure there'll be some celebrations throughout the night win or lose, but obviously we go out there to win every game of footy and a win would make it a lot nicer. The 100 is just the cherry on top if we do come away with the four points.
"There is heaps of excitement there building up to the game but I just find it another game of footy and that's how I have to treat it. I'm a pretty humble bloke and I don’t really like too much individual honours or anything on me. I'll just go out and soak it in, and enjoy the moment but more importantly hopefully help us walk away with the four points."
For much of Peel's first 20 years of existence in the WAFL even playing finals appeared a forlorn hope let alone being a genuine premiership chance, and that was the environment when Hancock was watching as a youngster and coming through in development squads and the colts.
But a partnership with Fremantle helped turned things around and they played finals for the first ever time in 2015, and then went on to win back-to-back premierships in 2016 and 2017 – which was unthinkable only a couple of years earlier.
Hancock can't help but to take great pride in how far his football club has come.
"Obviously when I first started out they were a bit of a bottom tier side, but the alignment has helped us grow a bit and we also have a lot of young talent coming through, and a good core of senior players," he said.
"Then the helping hand of Ben Howlett, Jackson Merrett and Hayden Ballantyne to come back from the AFL has been really good as well. We've now missed the finals the last couple of years after winning those two flags and we definitely want to get back up there.
"This year has been a bit different for us with us having to scrape together a few players and what not, but hopefully it's not too long until we are right back up there."
It wasn’t an easy path for Hancock to become a premiership player though. He was a regular fixture of Peel's team by 2016, but wasn’t selected for the finals and had to watch on from the stands as the Thunder made history by defeating Subiaco in the Grand Final.
Ultimately that spurred him on and 12 months later he was out there to celebrate the premiership and it was everything he dreamed it would be.
"Winning a premiership is absolutely everything you dream it to be. Obviously I missed that first one which I was a bit disappointed about but to come back and win that second one, and my first one, is obviously a dream come true," Hancock said.
"I had never played at a Grand Final before that at any level of footy so to do it at WAFL level for the first time is obviously something I'll never forget. And to do it in front of 20-odd thousand people at state league level in one of the last games on Subiaco Oval was even better."
As heartbreaking as it was at the time for Hancock to miss the 2016 premiership, when he reflects now he has no doubt it has made him a better and stronger player because it made him work harder than ever to ensure that he could never be left out again.
"Obviously seeing a lot of my mates play in that first one and being around the club, and celebrating with them all and being around the atmosphere was kind of heartbreaking, and bittersweet at the same time," he said.
"But then coming back for that pre-season after that I wanted to get fitter and better, and improve my footy to cement a spot which I was able to do. I played every game the next year and we ended up winning the Grand Final so I got that ultimate success. Missing out did give me that extra kick in the guts but it made me get up and get better, which is good."
As for his versatility, Hancock likes being able to play any role that is asked of him by coach Cam Shepherd but he also feels the key to his success in getting to 100 games relatively quickly is the fact that his body has stayed strong along with his consistent form.
"I do like to use my running capacity as much as I can and playing on a wing is probably my most enjoyable role, but I've probably played down back for the majority of my career. Either that high half-back or wing role I think is where I play my best footy," he said.
"It is good obviously being able to play injury-free which is probably another bonus as well. But I just go out there and play whatever role Shep asks me to do, and I've played pretty much every position you can think of.
"I just go out there to play my role and do anything I can for the team to help us win games. If that reaps rewards of helping me cement my spot, then that's all I can hope for."
Now that he is a premiership player, Hancock only craves more success and while there are challenges without the availability of Dockers players in 2020 and a relatively short time period they had to find replacements, he has no doubt there's more on the horizon during his career.
"Winning that Grand Final pretty early on in my career and having a taste of that success means I want to enjoy more of that later now in my career," Hancock said.
"We've got a nice young group coming through and we have a couple of good older blokes as well. I know I've got a few more years left in me so hopefully I can keep going injury-free and we can have some more success."