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FALCONS FAVOURITE HARD MAN REACHES 100 GAMES

Friday, August 18, 2017 - 11:22 AM by Chris Pike
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KODY Manning lives and breathes for the West Perth Football Club and no player is more inspirational or puts his body on the line more than the premiership player as he prepares for his 100th game at the Falcons on Saturday.

Manning remains the standout player in the WAFL who can inspire his team through his physicality and that's not to say he isn’t fair and doesn’t have a lot of other strings to his bow.

The 2013 premiership player simply plays in a style where he thrives on the physical contact and whether that means he lays a big bump, puts on a crunching tackle or bursts through a contest or a pack, he just goes about his football in a way that you rarely see in the modern day.

It's no surprise that Campbell Brown, Bryon Pickett and Beau Waters are among the players he looked up to growing up and there's little question all three AFL premiership players would take pride in the way he attacks the football and the opposition.

To focus on that is perhaps doing a disservice to the player Manning has been over his 99 appearances for West Perth and two games representing Western Australia.

Manning could very well be one of the quickest and most explosive players in the WAFL and his kicking skills are usually elite whether on the run, kicking for goal or setting up play out of the back-line.

That makes him quite the all-round player and exactly why West Perth looks a vastly better team when not only is he out on the field, but when he is at the top of his game.

But with the explosive and physical nature of the way he plays, getting to the 100-game milestone has perhaps taken a little longer than he would have hoped considering the collision injuries to his face and body he has suffered along the way as well as the odd soft tissue complaint.

However, he has been a standout player now for West Perth ever since making his debut in 2011. 

He was as important as anyone in the 2013 premiership with his pressure in the forward-line and whether he's playing that role forward, doing his stuff down back or having a stint in the middle, he has a big impact wherever he plays.

Now this Saturday against Subiaco at Leederville Oval, the 25-year-old reaches his 100th game with West Perth to cement his name under former captain and another premiership player Clayton Lasscock on the No. 47 locker.

That is something he is as proud of as reaching the 100-game mark itself.

"It comes quick going from a young guy watching the guys who were a bit older reaching these sort of milestones, and now all of a sudden you're the one doing it. But it's great to get to a milestone this week as a reward for the work that's gone into my footy to get to this point," Manning said.

"It has taken a long time to get there and longer than it probably should have, but I play the way I play and I am never going to hold back. But it's nice to finally to reach the 100. There's just Clayton on my locker at the moment so it will be nice to now be under him. 

"When I first got the jumper, knowing who had it before me was big enough and now to finally play 100 for the club and in that jumper is something that's quite special."

As much as Manning is looking forward to reaching the 100-game mark this Saturday, he knows how important the game is for the Falcons in terms of their finals hopes for 2017 as they try to put an end to Subiaco's 17-game winning streak.

"Hopefully the boys will get up for the game and not for me, but mainly for the club to give us a good chance of still playing finals. If we beat them we'll know we are in pretty good form heading toward finals too," he said.

"The times we have played them we have always said we can beat them, we know what we need to do and what to execute. But it takes four quarters to do that and hopefully we can do that on Saturday. 

"We find that relentless pressure is the key to it and that's the same against any opposition, but especially a team like Subiaco. Then we just need to take all of our opportunities and make sure we concentrate for all four quarters because any sort of slip up will see them make you pay."

If that means Manning has another crack at shutting down Bernie Naylor Medal leader Liam Ryan from Subiaco too, he'd be all for that challenge once more.

"It's pretty much up to Bill, if he wants me to go on him again I'll be happy to," Manning said.

"I think I'm one of the lucky ones who haven’t copped a five-goal haul on my head so far, but you just have to play smart against him and know what he likes doing and try to deny him that. Then as soon as we win the ball I try to hurt him going the other way.

"I'm pretty much happy to play anywhere but down back is good because I get to see everything in front of me and I like being a bit of a party pooper. 

"I get a kick out of spoiling a mark that a forward might think he has in the bag. Just like doing a hard tackle that stops a goal or I like winning the ball and kicking the ball into the forward-line and it turning into a goal. Whatever Bill wants me to do I'll do it to the best of my ability."

Any milestone provides the chance for some reflection and two things that immediately spring to mind for Manning are the 2013 premiership triumph and then the historic state game victory in Melbourne earlier this year against Victoria.

The second semi-final win against Claremont at Claremont Oval in 2013 isn't far behind either considering that Tigers team was playing off for a fourth straight grand final berth having won a fourth successive minor premiership.

"There's quite a bit that stands out when I reflect but the biggest one would have to be the premiership year. We had a big win beating Claremont to get into the grand final first of all after they had been so dominant," he said.

"To then win the grand final is obviously a big memory. Then this year being part of the WA state team to crack the 113-year drought against Victoria in Melbourne was great to be part of that piece of history."

Playing in the physical nature that he does is something that Manning started when he was young, he always liked watching those who played in that fashion and it's no surprise that's not the way he goes about his football.

"I've always been a bit of a rough nut since I was a kid and then I grew up watching the likes of Campbell Brown, Beau Waters and Byron Pickett, I just loved how they would never hold back and went for it," Manning said. 

"I get enjoyment out of watching that type of play and that's why I like rugby, and that's the way I try to play. I have always liked watching hard hits so I've tried to bring that into my game and at the same time I like to think I'm a fair player. I do focus on going for the ball and playing in a fair way.

"Personally what gets me going is laying a big hit or tackle or crashing through a pack and I'm sure my teammates are the same. 

"When I see Rodda, Boots or someone go in hard that can really make everyone else walk a bit taller and that can flow through the whole team. I guess that's what I try to bring when I lay a big tackle or something. You can hear in the teammates' voice how upbeat they get and how it gets them going."

As much as he thrives on that physicality, going for a run with the ball or kicking a long goal, or setting up a goal, is something he doesn’t mind too much either.

"I do take pride in the other parts of my game too and it's good to have a lot of different tools to my game because if a club tries to stop me from doing something, I can pop up and do something else and that screws up their plan," he said.

"It's just good that I try to be a player who you can't stop completely because if the other team focuses on one area I find something else that I can try to be better at."

As he prepares to become a 100-game player with West Perth, Manning couldn’t imagine himself ever wanting to play anywhere else and he's excited about the future with the new facility to be open in 2018 at HBF Arena.

"To see what I started with when we had the little tiny room with the green floor and an L-shaped gym to now have the bigger facility we have now, and to look forward to what we'll have next year is definitely an eye-opener to see what it started at and what it will have grown into," Manning said.

"I've never really looked into or thought about playing at any other club and all through my junior career I stuck to one club before I arrived here. 

"Then ever since I got here, I have wanted to stay here and our fans love us, the coaching staff has been great and I've only had one senior coach and couldn’t have asked for a better one than Bill. The club is great and to play 100 games here means everything to me."