JUSTIN Broadley has always liked the underdog.
And after more than a decade at Maitland in second division playing with his mates and brothers, the midfielder never saw himself going to one of the Northern NSW NPL’s “big” clubs. He thought it would be “too serious”.
But at 32, Broadley wishes he’d made the move 10 years ago as he prepares for his first top-division grand final on Saturday night against Edgeworth.
“I’ve always liked underdogs, so coming to Magic … I’m not used to being on the other side of the coin,” Broadley said. “At other clubs I’ve been at, you’ve probably had to do too much, but with the quality of the guys at Magic, you’ve just got to turn up and fit into their structures.
“It’s been one of the easiest and funnest years of football I’ve had. Rather than the path I took, I should have have gone to Magic 10 years ago.”
He said life at Magic, with their army of volunteers, was a “massive eye-opener”.
“On Saturday, it’s a reward for those guys, after all the work and money they put in to their facilities, the trips away and the gear we have,” he said. “We’ve got the easy job, we just turn up.
“From the outside you don’t realise how well a club is run until you get in there. The difference between clubs I’ve been at and Magic is like apples and oranges.
“The work that committee does, the sponsors they have, the coaching staff and managers they have. There’s more guys picking up bibs and setting up cones at Magic on a Tuesday night than there is on whole committees at some clubs.”
Grand final glory is a long way from last season for Broadley, who came back from a serious ankle injury for one year at Lake Macquarie before Magic coach Ruben Zadkovich coaxed him into another NPL campaign.
“I wasn’t going to play at all, I was going to go back and play AFL again,” he said. “I had one year there in 2016 and absolutely loved it. I don’t know how the whole Magic thing happened. Lucky for me Ruben probably couldn’t find anybody else.”
Broadley was grateful to be on the field at all after a tackle early in 2015 wiped out his season with Maitland, who he helped gain promotion the previous year.
“I didn’t think I’d run again without pain, let alone play in a grand final,” he said. “It probably cost me $15,000 in medical bills with physio and operations. For almost a year, I couldn’t walk 500 metres without pain. Even last year I battled with it a little, but this year it has been great. I haven’t even thought about it. It’s amazing how well you go when you’re having fun.”
Zadkovich said Broadley had been a great, although initially reluctant, addition.
“We basically had an argument for three hours the first time we met,” Zadkovich said. “He said he just liked being at these other clubs and just working hard; that it’s not all about winning. I said it’s important to win things and important you look back on your career and get what you deserve. It’s not just about helping other people. He’s just a great guy.”
And, typically, Broadley was focused on a teammate – suspended defender Jon Griffiths – ahead of the grand final.
“I’m just disappointed for Jonny Griff. He’s one of our most consistent players,” he said.
“My dad probably wouldn’t come and watch me play if Jonny Griff wasn’t playing. He probably wishes I played more like him.
“Hopefully we win and I get to have a few beers with him on Saturday night.”