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Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 10:07 PM by Chris Pike

BROCK Higgins and Blayne Wilson joining South Fremantle became a key moment in the Bulldogs' current run of success with the pair instrumental in the 2020 premiership and now they have retired together after outstanding WAFL careers.

Higgins announced his retirement after a trademark outstanding performance full of heart in the 2021 WAFL Grand Final for South Fremantle against Subiaco at Optus Stadium.

The big man had to earn his place back in the South Fremantle side after an injury interrupted season and then missing selection or the qualifying final against Claremont. 

But he got back in for the second semi-final and had a remarkable 138 hit outs over next three finals to end his career right on top of his game as one of the league's elite ruckmen.

Wilson, unfortunately, didn’t get to finish his career on the field having injured a knee in the second semi-final against Subiaco. 

He tried his darndest to get back to play in the Grand Final but it wasn’t to be and he was honoured at the WJ Hughes Medal awards night last week for his career with South Fremantle along with Higgins.

Higgins arrived at South Fremantle in 2014 with Wilson joining him a year later, and with the former settling into his spot as the lead ruckman and Wilson as a leader of the defensive unit, they were cornerstones in the Bulldogs returning to being a WAFL powerhouse.

South Fremantle didn’t play finals between 2012 and 2015, but the presence of Higgins and Wilson were significant factors in that changing and they were important parts of the Bulldogs returning to finals action in 2016.

Both players were key parts of the South Fremantle teams that made preliminary finals in 2016, 2017, 2018, got to a Grand Final in 2019 and then won a premiership in 2020 while also remaining important players in the Bulldogs side that got back to the Grand Final in 2021.

Higgins began his WAFL career at East Perth in 2011 as a big man tried in key positions as well as in the ruck, but with the alignment at the time with the West Coast Eagles he found himself unable to quite lockdown a position.

He did play 14 games in 2013 but couldn’t quite break into the team during the finals with the influx of players dropping back into East Perth's team as they made the Grand Final before losing to West Perth.

The big man was after a fresh start and he arrived at South Fremantle in 2014 and never looked back. 

Having been forced to play a variety of positions at East Perth, it quickly emerged the ruck was his best position once he arrived at the Bulldogs and over the past eight years he has been the best and most consistent player in the WAFL in that position.

Despite often giving up height or athleticism, it was on pure heart and determination that Higgins became a cornerstone of the South Fremantle team.

Along the way he represented Western Australia in 2018, was named to the WAFL Team of the Year in 2017 and was a remarkable powerhouse of a workhorse in the middle for South Fremantle.

He would carry the ruck virtually on his own week after week, season after season, and do an incredible job of simply wearing down his opposition whether there were one, two or three of them any given week.

Higgins quickly became the heart and soul of the Bulldogs, and whether it was the likes of Ashton Hams, Ryan Cook, Shane Hockey and Tim Kelly early on or Jake Florenca, Tom Blechynden and Nick Suban more recently or Haiden Schloithe and Jacob Dragovich the whole way, his midfield grew an extra leg with him as their ruckman.

Not only that, but Higgins was a big part in creating a terrific culture off the field for the playing group and his passion for the South Fremantle Football Club became infectious, even his Higgo's Heroes video interview series won't be soon forgotten.

By the end of the 2021 Grand Final where Higgins put in a massive performance to be South Fremantle's best afield, he had amassed 132 of his career 163 WAFL games with the Bulldogs and his legacy will long live on.

Then there is Wilson who carried on his family's history at South Fremantle when he joined the Bulldogs in 2015 after his time with the West Coast Eagles came to an end after playing nine AFL matches.

He began his career in Mandurah rising through the ranks of Peel Thunder where he would go on to play 36 WAFL games before the alignment between West Coast and East Perth saw him go on to play 29 matches with the Royals.

That included Wilson taking part in the 2013 and 2014 Grand Finals for East Perth before signing with South Fremantle ahead of the 2015 season.

Wilson immediately slotted into the South Fremantle back-line and ever since has been a mainstay of the defensive unit alongside the likes of Zac Strom, Josh Pullman, Marlion Pickett, Jason Maskos, Chad Pearson, Noah Strom, Steve Edwards and others along the way.

What Wilson's trademark soon became was that he was outstanding at reading the entries inside the defensive 50 from the opposition and his ability to take intercept marks was a key aspect of the Bulldogs.

Not only was Wilson tremendous with his overhead marking but also his kicking skills were elite and he would be outstanding at setting up play for South Fremantle out of the back-line.

As a result, he was one of the best defenders in the competition throughout his entire 124-game career with South Fremantle. 

Along the way, he was named to the WAFL Team of the Year in 2016, played for WA in 2015 and earned his name on the locker by reaching 100 games and will always be a premiership player from 2020.

There's no question what a hole Higgins and Wilson will leave at South Fremantle moving forward both in terms of what they provided on the field but also off it, but they will both be forever remembered as all-time greats of the Bulldogs.