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Thursday, July 21, 2022 - 10:46 AM by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle premiership player and Hughes Medallist Zac Strom has plenty to be proud about when he reaches 150 games with the Bulldogs on Saturday, but a derby win at the WACA Ground is where is focus lies.

The script could hardly have been written any better for Strom to reach 150 games with South Fremantle on Saturday which will see him earn life membership of the Bulldogs.

Strom always looks forward to derbies against East Fremantle and Saturday's game takes on extra significance with the Sharks coming into the clash on top of the WAFL ladder and the Bulldogs in third spot.

South Fremantle has the chance to leapfrog East Fremantle with a victory and to add to the occasion, it will just happen to be Strom's first chance to play at the WACA Ground with the Bulldogs playing at the famous venue for the first time since 1994.

For all of those reasons and more, Strom can't wait for Saturday.

"I guess that's the most exciting part knowing that it's turned out it falls on a great day. Looking at the fixture earlier and knowing East Fremantle has changed grounds it was exciting thinking we might get to play them at the WACA," Strom said. 

"It's different horizons and playing footy at different places is always exciting so it's turned out really well which it falls on a derby. 

"I always love playing in derbies and it looks like it will be a standalone game for football in WA for the day so hopefully we can get lots of fans out to watch and it can be a good atmosphere there at the WACA. 

"The other exciting part is that it's a big game for both teams. We're both sitting towards the top of the ladder so that makes it more exciting as well. Every derby means a lot, but this looks like it's going to be a pretty special one on a number of fronts."

While it's a big deal for Strom himself to reach the 150-game milestone, it might very much mean more for his family who will be there to help him celebrate including his mum and dad along with sisters Indi and Mim, and his partner Sylvia.

However, it's late uncle David who might be the one at the forefront of his mind.

"We'll be able to have mum and dad there this weekend, and other friends and family will be able to come down to watch. Hopefully the sun can come out for them all as well," Strom said.

"It will be a bit sad that our uncle David Strom won't be there after he passed away earlier this year. He was always a huge supporter of mine and my sponsor for the last couple of years. 

"He managed to stay away for a lot more games than he was expected to but he will be someone I'll be thinking about pre-game and how important this milestone would be to him as well. Hopefully we will be able to get the win so that we can celebrate."

Throughout his career, Strom has played with Ashton Hams, Haiden Schloithe, Craig White, Ryan Cook and Kris Miller who have earned life membership at South Fremantle by getting to 150 games.

But that's all throughout his 149-game that saw him make his debut back in 2013 highlighting what a significant achievement it is.

"It's really special. From speaking to some of the blokes who have reached 150 before me and most recently Scoot," he said. 

"It's really special to be mentioned alongside any of those types of players, Ashton Hams is another one who springs to mind that I've played with. There's been so many special players at South Fremantle and I feel very lucky to continue to be involved in the Family Club going forward whether I'm still playing or not."

To many life members at South Fremantle, the honour is among the greatest in their careers especially because it means for the rest of your days you earn automatic invite to the life member days which are a highlight each and every year.

Just know that he will be in that company means a lot to Strom and it's something he's tremendously proud to be achieving.

"It will be really special knowing I have those life member's days to look forward to. To be able to keep coming down to the club is another thing that makes coming down to Freo," he said.

"It's always a lovely day to go to the footy and if you can be involved with some special people who are also life members, then that's going to be amazing as well. 

"It's interesting, you always take it one thing at a time in your career. When you first come to the club you want to play your first game, then you want to play 50 and then you want to play 100. 

"The life membership isn’t something I had thought too much about when I first came to the club because it was so far away, but it starts to build momentum and mean more when you see other players coming through and what they've done in their career, and what it means to them. It's definitely a huge honour."

Not only is Strom about to reach 150 games on Saturday, but it's been a remarkable journey for him to get there and along the way he's achieved plenty that has him comfortably deserve to be considered a modern day great of the South Fremantle Football Club.

After coming from Exmouth, Strom earned his debut in Round 16, 2013 and by 2014 he booked in a spot as a permanent member of the back-line.

It's ironic looking back now that he earned his stripes at league level at full-back but it's now younger brother Noah who has made that position his own over his own 84-game career which included the pair sharing a premiership together in 2020.

Since then, Zac has played a variety of roles where he held down a spot as a hard leading centre half-forward before playing as a big wingman who proved a nightmare match up for opposition teams.

He's also played as a backup ruckman and really, there's not a single position on the field coach Todd Curley wouldn’t have full faith in putting him in and knowing he'd get a good result.

In the bigger picture though, what Strom is most proud of is the way he has been able to remain committed to playing WAFL football for a decade given the huge commitment and significant sacrifices it takes.

"I think people might find it hard to understand unless you're actually doing it how hard it is to play WAFL for a long time. First of all, you've got to get up every week in terms of injuries and recovery when it's not your full-time job," Strom said. 

"The amount of hours you put in to come to training and everything, it can be a grind for sure and it's hard work. You need to be able to put in the time and the work to get to that stage, and the season really is a marathon. 

"You have to get up every week and that's what I'd say about playing WAFL footy is just the time and effort that goes in to being able to do it. We're really lucky to have the people around us to support us and get us through, but it takes a lot to get to one game let alone 150 to be honest."

Despite the challenges, Strom has been part of a strong era at South Fremantle including being a key part of the team that has now made six straight preliminary finals while playing in the last three Grand Finals and having on what premiership in 2020.

"While it might be a grind, the rewards more than make up for it with the friendships you make and then with the team we've been able to build to grow into having some success." Strom added.

"There's only one year we haven’t made finals in either league or reserves in my time so I feel very lucky to have been involved in successful groups. 

"There's been three reserves Grand Finals, three league prelims that we've won and then the last three league Grand Finals. It makes the year pretty long but you would prefer that than not being in winning teams."

The Strom family is perhaps the most stark example of why South Fremantle is 'The Premier Family Club.' It's something Zac takes great pride in to be playing alongside brother Noah while sisters Mim and Indi are part of the South Fremantle's women's program.

Add in the support of their parents and then Zac also will forever be thankful to the support of partner Sylvia, and this provides a chance to reflect on just how much it all means.

"The family is great obviously but I couldn’t have got to this point without the support of Sylvia either. She comes to every game and I can't thank her enough for everything," Strom said.

Then it's really special to play with your brother obviously. There's not a lot of WAFL players that can say that so that's really special, and so is having all the family there. We just like going to the footy together and we like going down to watch the women's footy at Freo. 

"The family like the day to come down to watch us as well so it always feels like coming home any time we get to come down to Freo no matter the reason. The fact that we all have been able to play with South Freo is a pretty amazing thing too."