LONG WAIT, HEARTACHE WORTH IT IN THE END FOR WILSON

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 6:38 AM by Chris Pike

BLAYNE Wilson came to South Fremantle hoping to put some finals heartache behind him and while it took some more pain along the way, he has now got the taste of a WAFL premiership and he isn’t sure he's experienced anything better in his life.

Wilson started his football as a rising star with Peel Thunder going on to be drafted by the West Coast Eagles where he'd play nine AFL matches, but it was at East Perth in the WAFL that his finals pain really started to hit home.

He was part of back-to-back Grand Final losses with the Royals where they went in as favourites on both occasions against West Perth in 2013 and Subiaco in 2014. 

Wilson might have played well individually in both games, but that counted for little without a premiership medallion at the end of the day and then when his time at West Coast ended, he wanted to continue his WAFL career where he had a strong family history at South Fremantle.

That desire to win a premiership was a big driver in Wilson joining South Fremantle when he arrived in 2015 and then after a consolidation year under new coach Todd Curley, the Bulldogs began their push to become an eventual premiership team.

However, with Peel Thunder and Subiaco proving tough obstacles, there were losing preliminary finals in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to deal with along with a horror Grand Final show in 2019 against the Lions for Wilson and the Bulldogs to endure.

That's why Wilson was understandably nervous coming into the 2020 WAFL Grand Final with South Fremantle playing Claremont at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

He didn’t know how he'd cope with enduring a fourth losing Grand Final in his 175-game career in the WAFL and that's why the feeling was better than anything else he might have ever experienced once the siren sounded with the Bulldogs three points in front.

"I think the siren going was the best part to be honest. I've never felt anything like that in my life before and to hear that siren go with us up by three points, it was unbelievable," Wilson said.

"I've been in three losing ones to start with so I was probably the most nervous I've ever been all week coming into the game just because of the atmosphere and I knew it was at our home deck. 

"I just really wanted to win to be honest and when that siren went it was probably the best feeling I've had to date. To be a premiership player at this footy club and to be able to come back for premiership reunions and all of that it will be a great honour. 

"I'm just stoked. Obviously it was my fourth Grand Final and I've lost a few prelims along the way as well, but that was unbelievable. Credit to our boys, we stuck at it and played our brand of footy, stuck to our trademark and it was awesome. 

"I couldn’t be prouder and it's the best feeling ever. But just to get a premiership at this awesome club, this family club and with how tight-knit our group is, it's incredible."

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Wilson has now made a 175-game career out of being perhaps the best defender in the WAFL at reading the ball coming in from the opposition, and taking intercept marks and then setting up play for his team going the other way.

Not only is he exceptional at reading the play, but he is a strong overhead mark and then a good user of the ball by foot so he is a crucial part of the South Fremantle defence and he showed that again late in the Grand Final taking a couple of intercept marks in the dying minutes.

It capped off another tremendous season for the 28-year-old and he was just happy to play a role in that long-awaited WAFL premiership.

"I think it was just one of those games where I got lucky a couple of times and it fell into my lap. I always get a bit of hard criticism because I drop off a bit too much but I think it worked in the Grand Final so I'm quite happy with myself," Wilson said.

"It was tightening up that's for sure but I have full faith in these boys. We kept getting stoppages, we'd take the ball out of bounds and reset again. 

"They looked like they were pressing and pressing, but I just knew if we could hold on for those extra couple of minutes it would be ours. It was a very anxious moments there but the way we held up down back as a defensive group and even the mids with their pressure, I couldn’t be prouder."

While nobody could pretend that losing three preliminary finals and a Grand Final in four years with South Fremantle on the back of losing the two deciders at East Perth has been easy for Wilson, he never gave up faith of breaking through.

When you have lost either a preliminary final or Grand Final in six of the previous seven seasons, one more heartache might have been more than Wilson could take so he was delighted 2020 was the year to celebrate with captain Dylan Main and coach Todd Curley leading the way.

"It has been tough but I always had full confidence in the group we had and the coaching group led by Curls," he said. 

"We had great leaders led now by 'Skinny' Main so I had confidence that we were good enough to get the job done. To end up getting over the line by three points that makes it even sweeter too.

"He has come a long way and he leads by example on the footy field. He's quite a soft spoken young fella, but you know what you are going to get on the field with Skinny.

"He leads by example and I played a bit of footy with him at East Perth and was on the Eagles list with him, and he's come on in leaps and bounds. 

"Not only with his leadership, but his footy nous, he can take grabs, he is hard in and under, he gets the hard ball and he is going be a captain of this footy club for a long time. Full credit to him for that."

Another teammate that Wilson began playing with at East Perth and has carried on with at South Fremantle is Brock Higgins. He wouldn’t want to be sharing in with the premiership with anyone more than the lion-hearted ruckman.

"The big fella is a ripping bloke and he gives his all on the footy field every single game. You always know what you are going to get from Higgo and to experience this with the big fella is pretty special," Wilson said.

"He can certainly celebrate hard so it will be a good time with him and I'm not sure if he'll keep going next year or what his plans are, but he is just a ripping bloke. You love having him around the footy and I can't speak highly enough of him."

As for the chance to play in front of a packed house at Fremantle Community Bank Oval in a Grand Final and then win a premiership on South Fremantle's home ground, Wilson couldn’t have asked for any more.

"It was exceptional out there and it felt like a cauldron, it really did," Wilson said.

"I was lucky enough to play in a couple of AFL games and we had some pretty high crowds, but to experience that at a community oval with full and jam packed like sardines with a lot of them South Fremantle supporters, it was a great experience.

"It made it even sweeter to win in front of all of them and I think everyone who was here helped us get over the line in the end as well with the support they gave us. They really got us through so it was awesome."