That’s three to four nights a week for around three months.

It’s mainly pay to play with a base wage and some bonuses. 

“That’s how it works at this level,” explains Boland, who moved to Melbourne from Perth five years ago.

“The hardest thing with the NPL is pre-season. It takes up around four days a week and that’s not paid at around 99% of clubs.

“So you’re dedicating all that time in pre-season for three months, and you’re not getting paid. It’s a lot of time to put in. A lot of sacrifices.

“I’m not sure people understand that," Boland says. 

“It’s very tough for boys who get injuries, too. 

"Luckily my club Avondale will help you out if you need surgery.

"They’ve been great but not all clubs are like that and it’s things like this that can be serious issues for player welfare."

Work and family life balance?

Ask any top level NPL player, and he’ll tell you it’s a huge challenge. 

"Well, this is just another huge challenge compared to the A-League boys. My wife is very understanding,” says Boland.

“She works full time and long hours. I may only see her for an hour on the day I train.

“We’re kinda lucky as she can sometimes work from home, but I can see it as being a bigger issue for a lot of other couples who don’t have that luxury.”

Santalab (11) against Gully in the NPL
*Image courtesy of Dandenong City/Juss Lau Photography

For A-League players to get a first-hand look at NPL life might just be the best thing for them. 

To realise how lucky they are. And how well looked after they are in the professional ranks in Australia.

Brendon Santalab tells FTBL his first month in the NPL has been an eye-opener, in more ways than one.

“Sometimes I turn up to training and I can see some of the boys and they look so tired. Honestly, I feel sorry for them.

“Especially boys with families and kids. When they finish work and training, they sometimes aren’t home till 10 pm.

“They go straight to bed, they haven’t even seen their family. And they go straight to work the next day. They may see their family for 24 hours.

“It’s very difficult for them. It’s not easy. It’s a challenge to train and put the effort in and it’s been great for me to see.

“It’s opened my eyes up. I’m proud to be a part of this team and be with them.”