Swan Districts Legend Prepares For Last Game At Steel Blue Oval

Thursday, August 31, 2017 - 4:35 PM

IT is hard to imagine any player in history has been more passionate for Swan Districts than Tallan Ames but that desire to keep representing the club can only take one so far and with his body screaming for retirement, the black-and-white legend has finally succumbed.

Ames was on the fence about making 2016 the final season of his remarkable WAFL career with Swan Districts but with the combination of not wanting to bow out with a wooden spoon, missing the 250-game mark and with the potential of rapid improvement in 2017, he made the call to play on.

The body of the 33-year-old might not have agreed with that decision, but the long-term captain, current co-skipper, Swan Medallist, premiership player and life member will always be glad that he played on in 2017 despite the pain he's had to battle through.

The body has simply meant that there's no possibility of Ames even contemplating one more season in 2018 and that means that this Sunday's elimination final at Steel Blue Oval against West Perth is guaranteed to be his final game on home turf.

If Swan Districts' win then Ames' career will continue into the first semi-final against either South Fremantle or Peel Thunder, but Sunday will be his last time running out onto Steel Blue Oval and that's going to be an emotional experience no matter how it turns out.

"Win, lose or draw this will be my last WAFL match at home around the corner from where I grew up and aspired to play so that's a pretty big deal. Obviously the feelings and thoughts won't really sink in until the siren goes or when we walk off and who knows what the outcome will be," Ames said.

"But geez I've done some kilometres around this ground. I tried to calculate it and I lost count after John Todd sent us around one training morning for 13 laps because it was raining and we'd been belted by East Perth by 100-odd points.

"I reckon I know this ground pretty intimately, especially each goal square and the can bar. It's such a famous and historic ground and in future years to come it will have a lot of great memories. I will be proud of how many seasons I've spent here in the black-and-whites."

Ames' passion for and love of the Swan Districts Football Club developed at a young age and it soon became a dream come true when he was able to make his league debut in 2002.

It was an early career of being used all over the shop too playing as a tall wingman, key forward and then finding his feet as a ruckman for a time with Steve Turner as coach.

But he soon found his true calling as a defender and he has virtually remained a full-back for the last decade and more than half of the 261 games he's played would have been in that defensive goal square where he's built his reputation as one of the league's very best full backs.

From the moment he dreamed of playing at Swans and then first arrived as a teenager, the club and Bassendean Oval has been a massive part of Ames' life.

He probably never thought this day would come when his body would force his hand and announce his retirement, but he is glad he played on this year and he would have regretted retiring at the end of 2016.

"Obviously the football club has been a massive part of my life ever since I knew what football was. Then to be recruited straight out of Trinity College and coming straight to Swan Districts through then footy manager Gerry O'Dea, it has been a staple part of my life for the last 17 years," he said.

"It has been a cycle of playing the season, an off-season, pre-season and season again which is how my life has been ticking over for 17 years. Decision-wise it was real 50-50 about this time last year and there was obviously the 250-game milestone that was within reach and I am one to set goals for the future, and that was a big driving force to me.

"Then in conjunction with players coming back from AFL ranks to bolster our side and the development of youth that Greg Harding put through the club last year, there were positives to kick on this year and now with Swan Districts playing finals in all three grades I'm super glad that I made that decision.

"But when it comes to how a 33-year-old body has worn throughout 2017, I didn’t know that it would be this much of a struggle. Bar a couple of hamstrings and a structural knee I have been lucky throughout my career, but having that extra 12 months of age on my body has made it a tough feat this year.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this will be my last season playing football at this level because it has been full on for my body. I also have some off-field business ventures that I will focus on in lieu of having more time under my belt. It's now time to spend a little bit more time on myself and with my immediate family, girlfriend and look after myself now."

Ames is happy that he played on in 2017 despite the pain he's battled through and getting one last finals campaign for his career makes it worthwhile.

"It feels like a really good decision but there has been times during the year when I've woken up on a Sunday or Monday morning and think it was the worst decision," Ames said.

"But knowing where we are now and we did predict a better season, it's been good to hang around with a youthful team but with some older heads seeking that same success as well.

"You have guys like David Ellard who has come back from Carlton along with Corey Gault and Jamie Bennell, and then we've had Ryan Crowley with his enormous AFL experience as well.

"We also added in some new coaches as well including Xavier Ellis and Stevey Armstrong so it's been good. In hindsight, I think it was still a good decision to make but I didn't realise the body would cop such a whacking."

Ames has known for some time that this would be his final WAFL season but it all hit home to him during Saturday's disappointing loss to East Fremantle at home.

Ames announced his decision to the group at half-time to try and provide some motivation for a fightback. That didn’t quite work but after the game when Ames realised that if other results had gone against Swans, his career could have been over it hit him hard.

But he's got back to the positive thinking this week preparation to take on the Falcons in Sunday's elimination final.

"I had a really solemn moment after we got beaten by East Fremantle on the weekend. I've always been someone who is really positive and strives to get the best out of myself and my teammates, but after that fourth successive loss and to a bottom team knowing that potentially it could have been my last game, it really hit home hard to me," he said.

"For the last couple of weeks I've been a bit on and off the track through soreness and injuries so knowing this could be my last game on Sunday I've flicked the switch and thrown all that negativity out the window.

"This is now our last game at least at home for the season and we should learn from the way we finished the season, and find some form again. I'm feeling fully positive now and knowing this could be my last game I'm putting everything I possibly can into my preparation."

Along the way Ames has played in the 2010 premiership with Swan Districts, won the 2011 Swan Medal, become a life member when he reached 150 games and represented Western Australia on four occasions.

He will play his 262nd game for the club on Sunday that will see him join Travis Edmonds on the same number to only be behind Stan Nowotny (278) and Bill Walker (305).

Ames has never been one to reflect and now is no different with his full focus on trying to win on Sunday for what would Swans' first finals victory since the 2010 grand final triumph over Claremont.

"I probably won't reflect until I finish. I don’t look back on the massive, big picture when I go out there to train and play, I focus on the moment," Ames said.

"That has treated me so well for so long and I never rest on my laurels or hang my hat on what I've done because there's someone always there ready to take your spot. Don’t get me wrong, I've found that out this year with the likes of Sammy Taylor and Mitch Mackenzie who have come through the ranks.

"Seeing those young kids run around make me feel proud walking off the ground knowing some fantastic talent will jump in my grave. The things I've achieved are fantastic and I'd like to think I will be proud of them in the future, but right now my focus is to get out there against West Perth on Sunday and have a successful outing."

By Chris Pike.