Schloithe primed for 2020 as 150 approaches

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - 11:32 PM by Chris Pike

LIFE membership beckons Haiden Schloithe at the start of the 2020 WAFL season but the South Fremantle superstar is just focused on reclaiming what he feels is his best football while being excited by some new arrivals at the Bulldogs.

Reclaiming his best form might be only a matter of opinion too. There's certainly nothing wrong with the football that Schloithe has played the last two seasons. 

He has remained among the very best and most damaging, dangerous and efficient players in the competition, but by the own lofty standards he sets himself, he hasn’t quite recaptured the form of 2017 where he won both the Sandover and WJ Hughes Medals.

A couple of injuries have got in the way during each of the last two seasons, but when up and going, Schloithe's football has still been stunning and he played a significant part in South Fremantle's breakthrough to a Grand Final appearance in 2019 on the back of three consecutive preliminary final exits.

Now following the departure of some more experienced players at the end of 2019 with Shaun Bewick, Adam McIntosh and Brendan Verrier retiring, Schloithe is increasingly becoming one of the more senior players at the club.

In Round 1, that will see him earn life membership by playing his 150th league match with the Bulldogs and considering he will add that to a career that already includes two fairest and best awards, a Sandover Medal and representing WA three times, he deserves to be considered an all-time great.

But Schloithe is far from ready to rest and be happy with his achievements. At 26 years of age, he still might even have his best football ahead of him.

That's certainly the way he is feeling coming into 2020 having had a pre-season run uninterrupted by niggling injuries.

"Going back a couple of years when I was playing my best footy, I was able to do the majority of the pre-season so that was my first initial goal for 2020," Schloithe said on 91.3 SportFM.

"I wanted to do the majority of the pre-season and then I've sort of based my thoughts around wanting to play consistent footy throughout the year, and then the rest of it should take care of itself. 

"I try to stay clear of setting individual goals and just try to focus on playing consistent footy. I think that works best for myself and is beneficial for the team as well."

Given a large majority of the South Fremantle playing squad has just come off four straight seasons of at least reaching the preliminary final, the decision was made to start pre-season training officially a little later in preparation for 2020.

That certainly didn’t mean shortcuts were taken or the same amount of work hasn’t been put in, but it's all about trying to assure the group is as fresh as possible come September after how much energy went into last year's run to the Grand Final.

Schloithe has been happy with the work put in over the pre-season and the best sign that things are tracking well is how challenging it is looking right now to pick who will make that final 22 for Round 1 given the depth of quality out on the park right now.

"Our pre-season went really well. We had a nice two months off before Christmas and we've been straight back into it post-Christmas. It's really exciting, we have a couple of new faces down here and we are looking forward to getting into some games now and getting ready for Round 1," he said.

"I'm probably classed one of the older boys now even though I'm only 26, turning 27 but it's exciting for the club and for us senior players to have these fresh faces and the next wave of young talent coming through at the club. It's really exciting.

"Nobody is guaranteed selection for Round 1 and hopefully everyone will be available so it's really tough for the selectors to pick our team. Even for myself who is going into my ninth or 10th season, I have to continue to work hard on improving my game. It's an exciting time."

While a lot of the core is back at the Bulldogs to make another run at that elusive first premiership since 2009, there are some exciting new faces.

That comes in the form of Ben Rioli from the Northern Territory and Cody Ninyette from Perth, along with the return of Jarrod Pickett after spending time in the AFL with both the GWS Giants and Carlton.

Schloithe certainly likes the look of his new teammates, both those returning and coming to the club for the first time in 2020 but with strong family history.

"We've got Jarrod Pickett back at the club and that's really exciting. We've also got some young colts boys coming through and it's looking like it will be an exciting year again for the club," Schloithe said.

"Ben Rioli is another addition and he's been here since early January. He's another exciting prospect and obviously he's a Rioli boy so we all sort of know how they play, but he's a fantastic guy and I'm really looking forward to being able to play alongside him. 

"He's slotted in really well already and I'm sure he's super excited to get the season started like most of us. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he can offer us."