Writing-off footballers before they have had a fair chance to show their potential has been a common criticism of the current Victorian NPL system.
There is only one senior grade and then under 20s, meaning many fringe senior players over the age of 20 are cut loose well before they are given a proper chance. There are some players though who refuse to give up on their NPL dream and choose a different pathway back to the top.
There are quiet a few examples of fringe NPL players going back to the State Leagues, gaining some much needed senior game time and much needed confidence, before making their way back to the higher level.
Reigning North Geelong Warriors’ NPL2 Best & Fairest winner Anthony Banovac is a great example of this. Banovac, a North junior product and a lifelong Warrior, made the bold move to leave Elcho Park early in the 2017 season to head to Victorian State League Two club Corio SC.
Banovac started 2017 at North Geelong as a utility, but in order to get more game time made the move across town to Hume Reserve.
Banovac chalked up 15 quality games and more importantly, some valuable senior experience which helped him regain a roster spot at North Geelong for 2018.
Banovac is now a regular starter at the NPL2 club and credits his time at the Eagles for helping him develop as a senior footballer
“My time with Corio was a very positive experience,” said Banovac. “The foundations for a successful season were laid early on.
“The president Mario (Gregorio) and coach Ante (Didulica), who I'd previously had as a youth coach, immediately made me feel valued and a big part of their project, which was important considering I had left North Geelong due to a lack of minutes.
“The fact that I was able to win the favour of the coach quickly meant that I got exactly what I was after with the move; regular gametime.
"It was through this that I was able to rediscover my best form and made it possible to achieve the kind of performances I knew I was capable of.”
The now 24-year-old admits the mental strength he developed from swallowing his pride and moving to a lower tier level of football, held him in good stead for the challenge of being an elite footballer.
“Football, as with life itself, has become increasingly more about the mental aspect and how you are able to deal with adversity and challenges,” said Banovac.