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STRIJK REACHES DOUBLE TON IN STYLE FOR FALCONS

Saturday, June 10, 2017 - 10:21 AM by Chris Pike
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ANDREW Strijk's stunning WAFL career with West Perth reaches another significant mark on Sunday with the premiership player, life member and remarkably consistent top-quality performer becoming the 20th player to reach 200 games with the club.

Strijk will reach the 200-game milestone with West Perth in what is shaping as a season-defining game on Sunday against Swan Districts at Steel Blue Oval.

Both teams go into the game on 6-3 records so the winner will put themselves in a strong position heading into the second half of the season, while the loser will be left fighting for their spot inside the top five.

But it's a day where Strijk's career deserves to be celebrated as he becomes the 20th player to reach 200 games with West Perth and the first since dual premiership player, 2013 flag-winning skipper Jason Salecic reached the mark four years ago.

Strijk also becomes just the third player currently playing in the WAFL to have played 200 games behind Swan Districts captain Tallan Ames (254) and Peel Thunder veteran Rory O'Brien (234).

It has been a remarkable journey to the 200 games for Strijk with him proving equally effective and damaging whether playing at half-forward and half-back, both positions allowing him to use his power, running ability and lethal right boot.

He made his league debut at West Perth in 2006 and has been a regular member of the side ever since aside from his 13 games with the West Coast Eagles in the AFL and when he missed the last seven rounds of 2014 while completing his acceptance program to join the fire brigade.

Along the way, Strijk played in West Perth's premiership of 2013, has become a life member of the club, won a fairest and best award in the flag-winning season of 2013 and has represented the WAFL in state matches on six occasions.

Strijk has tried not to make it any different of a week heading into Sunday's game particularly with him feeling under the weather over the past couple of weeks and feeling a little sore from Monday's loss to East Perth.

"At this stage it's not much different to any other week. I'm just preparing like I would for any other game, but I might need to do a little bit extra because I am a little bit sore," Strijk said.

"I'll do a little bit more physio, stretching and recovery stuff jut to get up for it, but I'm pretty excited to reach 200 games. I'm pretending at this stage that it's like any other game but obviously it is going to be a big day."

Strijk hasn’t missed too much football along the journey since making his debut in 2006 meaning he has reached the 200 games relatively quickly.

It is a milestone that means a lot to him and it's something he set his mind on achieving as soon as he started looking up to the former players whose name adorns his No. 3 locker.

"I've been extremely fortunate with my body along the way. I've had a lot of good mates who have come through West Perth and they've missed extended periods of time through injury like Marc Crisp," he said.

"I consider myself very fortunate for that and I have to give a big thanks to the support staff and physios at the club, especially Jess and Lou, to basically tape my body together and get me back out there.

"It does mean a lot and it's something that I'll look back once I'm retired and appreciate it a lot more, and be quite proud of and so will my friends and family. It was always a bit of a target for me to wear the No. 3 for West Perth for the most number of games.

"So many great players have worn it before me like 'Checker' O'Keefe and Corey Johnson, and 200 was the most games played. So that's always been a bit of a target of mine to get to that 201 and try to be the most games played in the No. 3 jersey. It does mean a lot. It's such a fantastic club and to have been part of it for so long, 12 years, has been unbelievable."

The form of Strijk at 29 years of age is certainly showing no signs of slowing down. He remains a force when playing forward having kicked a career-best five goals back in Round 10 against Claremont.

He then played across half-back in WA's historic state game victory over Victoria in Melbourne and that sixth appearance for the WAFL won't be one he soon forgets, even if his 199th game might be.

"I was a bit crook but in terms of the game itself, that was the best win I've been a part of along with the South Australian game at Lathlain. Those two really standout. They have all been special for different reasons, but that one was the best to be a part of out of the lot," Strijk said.

"Obviously prior to the state game we had a couple of good wins so we were in some good form and then to be part of that victory in Melbourne was unbelievable. That's something that I'll always remember.

"You always especially remember those really special wins and that was definitely right up there as one of them. Then to be honest Monday was just one we should forget. Game No. 199 will not be remembered, that's for sure but hopefully we can bounce back and I'm confident we can against Swans this week."

As for where he prefers to play, Strijk will always feel more comfortable at half-back and feels that's where he is most effective. But he will never complain about moving forward and trying to add to his 193 career goals.

"I've really enjoyed playing half-back and that's where I've spent the majority of my career, and it still is my favourite position on the football field," he said.

"In terms of getting moved around and stuff, it's basically whatever suits the team at the time and what Bill wants me to do, and I'm happy with that. I'm at the stage of my career where I'm just looking for team success and I really want to be part of another premiership.

"If Bill comes to me and says that playing forward is best for the team then I'm happy to do that. I actually enjoy kicking a few goals but you do get some dry days as well."

As for Sunday in his milestone game, given the significance of the contest Strijk might still have to take orders from coach Bill Monaghan. But if the result is beyond doubt, he might see if he can have some space alone deep forward.

"I'd like to think that on Sunday if we are five or six goals up and the game is over I might be able to play out of the goal square and try to sneak a couple," Strijk said.

"I think I'll be getting told where to play before that and I'll do the best I can. Hopefully we can get the win, that's the first and most important thing."

Any milestone is a chance at reflection and Strijk has plenty to look back on in terms of football achievements, but it's the lifelong friendships that will stick with him the most from his time at West Perth.

"The premiership is obviously the biggest achievement from a team point of view and it's the best thing I've ever been part of on the footy field. But aside from that, it's more the mates I've met along the way and blokes that I've become best mates and lifelong friends with," he said.

"That's the best thing for me from a footy standpoint. I feel very fortunate to have met the mates that I've made along the way. Footy's not going to last forever but I know I'll be lifelong friends with Teddy, Chipper, Tim Guatta, Branchy and guys like that. That's what will live on forever for me."

If Strijk could choose one former teammate to run out with on Sunday in his 200th game, it's not too hard to pick Luke Tedesco.

"That's pretty easy, that would be Teddy for sure. He's my best mate and it's a little disappointing that he can't be out there but I'm just happy with the 21 guys that I will be running out with," Strijk said.

"They are all fantastic blokes and there's still a couple of old blokes there led by Jay. But Teddy would be a good one to have back out there."

While 200 games is a big number to reach, the fact that Strijk is yet to turn 30 and remains at the peak of his powers mean that he should have plenty more left in him. But he's not looking beyond this year just yet.

"It's very difficult to look beyond this year and we've still got half the year to go, but if I feel the way I do now at the end of the year I'll definitely play on," he said.

"I feel pretty good in general mentally and physically. Whether or not I could play a full 20 game season is something I'd have to discuss with Bill but I'm just trying to get through this season first and then I'll see how I go."

Things might be going well for Strijk with his football, but life away from the field is just as enjoyable and he certainly has no complaints in the first year of life being married and with his job working in the fire brigade based out of Fremantle.

"I have absolutely no complaints away from footy. I have a fantastic job and I consider it the best job in the world. I have a very understanding and beautiful wife at home who supports everything I do, so that's something that has made it easy," Strijk said.

"Nichole being so supportive has helped me to continue playing this long. It could have been a lot worse if she asked me to stop so I owe a lot to her support. And in terms of my career, it's the best job in the world and I'm extremely happy with how things are going outside of footy."