TOUGH YEAR TURNS INTO DREAM COME TRUE FOR SCHLOITHE

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 2:01 PM by Chris Pike

FOR so many reasons Haiden Schloithe could have written off 2020, but in the end it will be a year to forever treasure as he became a WAFL premiership player with South Fremantle and he dedicated the triumph to his late grandad.

Schloithe has had a remarkably decorated career over the last decade since he made the move from Katanning up to Perth and to start playing at South Fremantle following in the footsteps of local legends Ashton and Kyle Hams.

It started off great guns with a colts premiership and being drafted to the Fremantle Dockers, but the wait for a flag at league level with the Bulldogs has been a long road since even if Schloithe has racked up the individual awards along the way.

Schloithe won a Sandover Medal in 2017, has won WJ Hughes Medal as South Fremantle's fairest and best in 2014, 2017 and 2019, and has represented Western Australia three times along with having his name on the No. 1 locker at Fremantle Community Bank Oval and earning life membership with the Bulldogs.

That would be more than enough to make most people content with what they have achieved, but the premiership was what was glaringly missing for Schloithe and he wasn’t going to give up until he changed that.

The way 2020 started certainly didn’t have him thinking it would be a year to remember firstly with the passing of his grandfather and then with all the implications that COVID-19 has had on the world.

But now Schloithe played a key role in South Fremantle's premiership triumph after the three-point Grand Final win at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, and while he was still trying to find the right words, it was his family and especially his grandad at the forefront of his thoughts.

"It's probably one of the best things that's ever happened in my life. It hasn’t been the greatest year for me personally losing my pop early on in the year and then with everything that's gone on, but when that siren went all of the emotions came into one and it was pretty special," Schloithe said.

"Every week the family travels up three hours from Katanning to watch me play and I could probably count on one hand how many games of footy they've missed over the 10 or 11 years I've been here.

"That was a the same with pop who used to come up to watch me play and he'd be pretty happy looking down over the boys now and he'd be pretty proud of me. This one's for him."

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Schloithe had racked up all the individual accolades to make him a South Fremantle great even without the premiership, but he was never going to be content with his career without that ultimate success.

That feeling had only been heightened over the last four years with the three preliminary final defeats and then the 96-point Grand Final loss last year at the hands of Subiaco.

So to have now been able to go through the shortened 2020 WAFL season as the dominant team, finishing on top of the ladder and become premiers is everything and more that Schloithe could have dreamed of.

"I'm going to be able to retire a happy man now after finally getting the premiership medal. Obviously once it dies down a bit over the next week or two I'll be able to let it all soak in properly, but right now winning a premiership medal is one of the best things in life," Schloithe said.

"It's indescribable the feeling right now. It has been a long 10 or 11 years to get here and we finished down the bottom of the ladder, lost three prelims and got absolutely embarrassed in last year's Grand Final. 

"But the way we came out this year and played footy and responded to some adversity with everything that's gone on, I don’t really have the words to describe it but it's a pretty special feeling."

Schloithe had two pretty solid role models, at least in a football sense, from Katanning when he was growing up with Ashton and Kyle Hams who made that same transition to move up to the city and play with South Fremantle.

They didn’t have to wait long to get that premiership glory sharing in a flag with the Bulldogs in 2005 and then winning another together in 2009 with Ashton going on to play 205 games in total at South Fremantle including winning two Simpson Medals and the 2015 fairest and best.

Kyle's career was outstanding as well with the two premierships and 126 games with South Fremantle while adding another 61 matches at Swan Districts while playing twice for WA before the family pull was too strong to return down south.

Schloithe's career was certainly stacking up to those of the Hams twins, but they could always laud a premiership over him until now.

"Obviously they are my two best mates and they showed me the way. I remember when I was a young fella and always coming up to watch them play footy up here, and that's what I wanted to do myself," Schloithe said.

"I have to thank those two for everything they taught me. They always used to give me a lot of shit and that sort of stuff about not achieving anything until I've won a Grand Final, but I'm finally here and have done that. I'd trade in all my individual awards to win more of these, and right now I'm pretty bloody happy."

There were long-time teammates that Schloithe got to celebrate the premiership with including Jacob Dragovich, Kade Stewart, Steve Verrier, Zac Strom, Brock Higgins, Dylan Main, Mason Shaw, Blayne Wilson and Jason Maskos that made it more special.

But he couldn’t help but also think of the former teammates that helped set up this premiership during the celebrations including Ryan Cook, Shane Hockey, Ben Saunders, Cory Dell'Olio, Shaun Bewick, Adam McIntosh, Josh Pullman, Tim Kelly, Marlion Pickett and Jarrod Parry.

"There are so many blokes that have got their own little stories and blokes I've played so much footy together with now," he said. 

"There are always blokes who miss out and Jakey Florenca is the one who stands out, but go back to previous years and Cook, Hockey, Tim Kelly, Marlion Pickett, Matty Parker and those guys who we couldn’t quite get there with but helped set us up for this position. 

"There are so many blokes who have been part of this group to get to where we are today. Obviously the 22 blokes get to celebrate with a medal but it's about everyone who has been part of this footy club. 

"We are the family club for a reason and I thought we've shown that this season so it's a pretty fantastic result."

The Grand Final victory certainly didn’t come easily for South Fremantle either. The Bulldogs lost to Claremont in the second semi-final by 47 points and had to turn that result around against the Tigers back at Fremantle Community Bank Oval to win the premiership.

While they were able to do that, it took kicking two huge goals in the last quarter to come from behind to seal the eventual three-point win to do it, but Schloithe felt the pain of the last four years would always be the biggest thing they could call upon with the game on the line.

"Hats off to Claremont, they played some fantastic footy and had a great year but this group is pretty resilient," Schloithe said.

"We've been through a hell of a lot together and the three lost prelims and being absolutely embarrassed in last year's Grand Final. 

"We wanted to make amends for it and we didn’t always play the prettiest of footy, but we played as a bloody team when it mattered most and obviously we're pretty happy with what we ended up with at the end of the day."