Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 10:56 AM by Chris Pike

KNOWING he is one game away from life membership at South Fremantle and potentially a dozen matches from that elusive premiership has helped Bulldogs great Haiden Schloithe stay motivated through a challenging 2020 so far for us all.

It's been a particularly long wait for Schloithe and his South Fremantle teammates who endured a 96-point Grand Final loss last September to Subiaco at Optus Stadium having finally broken their preliminary final hoodoo just to get there.

The Bulldogs players have now had to stew over that result ever since and have so far been unable to get back onto the field to begin the path of rectifying what happened against the Lions, and potentially going one better in 2020.

But now the WAFL season start date of Saturday August 1 has been confirmed so while it is still two months away, it is significantly better than the alternative of no competition in 2020 and the chance that South Fremantle would need to wait for redemption until 2021.

Then on the back of that Grand Final heartbreak, there was no shortage of motivation for South Fremantle over pre-season but then when the season was postponed, isolation was in effect and there was no guarantee of any action, it's understandable motivation was hard to find at times.

But for Schloithe, already a great of the South Fremantle Football Club having played 149 games, kicked 170 goals while winning a Sandover Medal, three WJ Hughes Medals and playing three times for Western Australia, he quickly snapped out of that.

Knowing that the first game he plays for the Bulldogs in 2020 will be his 150th to qualify for life membership is plenty of motivation, and then there's that bigger picture of trying to breakthrough for that first premiership since 2009 having been so close for the last four years.

"Early on when this all came out and there were rumours going around there'd be no footy at all we still wanted to keep in shape and did our own running, but sometimes it was very unmotivating," Schloithe said on 91.3 SportFM.

"I definitely had those thoughts going through my head at times that it wasn’t worth it, but knowing I only needed one more game to reach life member at South and that hunger for a premiership kept me motivated with the hope we'd get some footy soon."

The prospect of receiving life membership at South Fremantle in 2020 for Schloithe is something he's tremendously humbled by, especially having seen what that honour meant to dual premiership and Simpson Medal winning superstar Ashton Hams whom he has such a tight bond.

When he originally joined the Bulldogs from Katanning to play colts and having made the move to Perth, to add life membership to his Sandover Medal, fairest and best awards and state representation is above and beyond anything Schloithe could have dreamed of.

"It's an unbelievable thing to have really to think I'll be a life member of this footy club. I've been in Perth for nearly 10 years now and 75 or 80 per cent of that time has been involved in some way with the South Fremantle Football Club," he said. 

"I moved up as an 18-year-old to play colts and really had nothing, and just wanted to give it a crack. If you had asked me 10 years ago that I'd end up being a life member of the South Fremantle Football Club I would have told you that you were kidding. 

"I'm really excited and all I need is one game, and I'm jumping at the bit to play and am pretty excited to get there. Fingers crossed between now and Round 1 I don’t hurt myself during training, but I'm pretty excited about getting out there with the boys that's for sure."

While getting to 150 games is that immediate drive for Schloithe to achieve to start 2020, he desperately hopes he and the Bulldogs can finish the season with a premiership after three preliminary finals and a Grand Final appearance the past four years.

"It was obviously extremely disappointing and embarrassing from the players behalf. It's been a really tough pill to swallow so that's another driving force that when you get those negative thoughts," Schloithe said.

"Obviously our last outing as a football club wasn’t the greatest so we know that as players and a footy club we are a lot better than that. We are real eager now to get the season rolling and once again show the footy world how good we can be."

Right until the WAFL announced recently a start date for the 2020 season of August 1, there remained no guarantee the campaign would ever actually get underway so that served as a major relief for Schloithe and his Bulldogs teammates.

While it does still mean there's two months until the season gets underway, he feels that is plenty of preparation time to be ready to go for the season that will then be done within three months with nine home and away season games then finals.

"We've obviously never been in this position before so no one really knows if four weeks preparation is enough or how long we need, but we've sort of outlined four weeks of full, solid contact training would be about what we need," he said.

"I hate pre-season as it is and it feels like we've been going forever, and really we have been since November, so it will be nice to start getting some contact training in and then starting to return to football."

As for the beginning of training again at Fremantle Community Bank Oval with some restrictions still in place, it's fair to say it's been a whole new experience for everyone involved.

But Schloithe took it in his stride, coach Todd Curley ensured all protocols were adhered to and now things are getting closer to back to normal each day.

"That return to training was definitely unique. It's pretty hard to describe actually because you usually go to footy training, head down to the changeroom, have a bit of a yarn with the boys, get strapped and all of that stuff," Schloithe said. 

"But obviously this time we had to rock up, get out of the car and be ready to go, separate yourself the best you could from everyone and get into the area you were going to be for training. 

"It was definitely different but it was good to get back and slowly start to take some step forwards to playing footy. It's definitely unique but we are starting to move back to some sort of normality. 

"Curls has been pretty strict on it all and is keeping a good eye over everyone, and if he sees something he doesn’t like he's pretty quick to tell everyone. He's been sort of the policeman of the group at the moment."