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PROUD FALCON REACHES 150 WITH A WIN ON HIS MIND

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 3:06 PM by Chris Pike
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HE is already one of West Perth's most decorated players as he reaches 150 games to earn life membership but all Aaron Black is looking for is a win come Saturday's to keep the Falcons' finals hopes alive.

Ever since he made his league debut for West Perth in Round 16, 2010 as a 17-year-old, Black has been a permanent member of the Falcons line-up.

Initially starting his career in tagging roles and then developing himself into one of the hardest working and running midfielders and wingmen in the competition, the accolades began to come his way as he continued to rack up plenty of games and achievements at a young age.

Now Black is still only 24 years of age as he prepares for his 150th appearance with West Perth this Saturday with a finals spot potentially on the line up against Claremont at Claremont Oval.

That will see him earn life membership and that is another significant achievement to add to his growing collection that has already seen him play in the 2013 premiership, win the 2014 Sandover Medal, claim the 2015 Breckler Medal as club fairest and best and represent WA on four occasions.

While Black would like to celebrate his milestone game on Saturday for a win to create that memory, his focus is solely on the fact that West Perth must beat Claremont to be any chance of playing finals once again for 2017. That's all he cares about ultimately.

"The 150 kind of takes a backseat to what we are trying to do as a club. Footy seasons are rollercoasters and you never know what is ahead of you until it actually happens," Black said.

"I don’t remember playing in a season where we are playing another side to try and make the finals in the last round so that's a different experience. It's a massive week and game for us.

"We've had a pretty bumpy season and we've had some good periods and more disappointing ones of late, but if we put ourselves in a position to play finals by winning on Saturday, you never know what can happen. Our focus is to try and get there now and I'm really looking forward to this week.

"It's a great opportunity for us and it's a chance for a lot of younger guys in our team to make their mark in a game that means a lot. If we put a good performance in then we could show to other clubs that if we make finals we won't be a pushover. 

"I think that's important to us and for our mental application moving forward to believe what we're doing is the right thing, and to believe in ourselves that we can be successful."

To have achieved everything he has aged just 24 is quite remarkable and Black's passion and commitment to the game and to West Perth is showing no signs whatsoever of diminishing as he desperately tries to help the Falcons beat the Tigers on Saturday to try and play finals again in 2017.

But looking at the bigger picture, he couldn’t envision himself playing anywhere bar West Perth but in order to achieve some bigger game targets like 200 and even potentially 300, he wouldn’t be surprised if that would be helped with a year away from the game at some stage.

"I don’t think my passion for footy will ever subside but if I think extremely long-term towards wanting to play 200 or 300 games if I can at this footy club that's something I like the thought of. But to get to that point, I might get to a stage of needing a mental refresher because I've been doing this since I was 17," he said.

"That's not me saying that I want to give footy away or that I'm not passionate for the footy club and want to extend my career, but having that mental refresher and giving the body a break at some stage might not be the worst thing for me. 

"I wouldn’t be surprised if by doing that one year at some stage, that I could come back and then achieve those 200 or 300-game milestones where if I keep playing non-stop, I might end up having to stop playing altogether a bit earlier. 

"My body has taken a beating over eight years and I've played a lot of footy when I haven’t been 100 per cent, and I'm sure it's the same for a lot of players. 

"A mental and physical refresher is definitely a thought but you never know what's around the corner. I would love to play 300 games for West Perth and whatever I think will be best to achieve that and help the club be successful is what I would want to do."

Already a premiership player and fairest and best winner at West Perth, to now become a life member while aged only 24 still is something that is high up there with things Black has achieved throughout his career.

"Firstly it's a pretty big honour to become a life member of the West Perth Football Club," Black said.

"It's a really prestigious club and has been around for over 130 years so in comparison to how long it's been around and how many players have come through the club, there's a small number who have played 150 and become a life member. 

"To do it at 24 years of age means I've played a lot from a young age and I'm proud of what I've achieved in that time and got to 150 games while still being relatively young. I'm really proud of that and hopefully that can continue on for a while yet.

"I love the West Perth Football Club and it drives me every week to try and have more team success. I'm really proud to have achieved everything I have at such a proud club and now life membership is a significant moment for me to reach."

Black has played alongside of great, veteran West Perth players who have achieved the 150-game milestone to earn the life membership but most reached the mark late in their career and that highlighted to him how much it meant to each of them.

That's why Black is so appreciative to get to the mark when he has and it was six-time leading goalkicker and 188-game player Anthony Tsalikis who will always stick out to him as someone who had to work tremendously hard to earn his life membership.

"He didn’t play league footy until he was 20 or 21 and for me that shows the persistence and dedication that it takes from some guys to make it initially," he said.

"To then go on and play more than 150 games like he did shows the dedication it takes to play league footy and how persistence can pay off. His story is one that stands out to me and I repeat it to a lot of people. 

"I played with a lot of guys who made it to 150 games and another one was Jason Salecic who was a fantastic leader and inspiration to our footy club. I tried to model myself on him as much as I can and spend as much time around him as I could, and he set such a fantastic example at the footy club. He's someone who a lot of people still look up to and try to model themselves on."

Having already seen the facilities at HBF Arena improve for the senior players in his time at the club with the new gym facility being built, Black can't help but be excited by the brand new, multi-million dollar building that is now close to being completed to be the sole home of the West Perth Football Club at the venue.

"When I first started we had that little shoe box of a gym that was probably the same size as my garage at home," Black said.

"We would get 25 blokes in there at a time doing weights during pre-season and then going out to do running so being able to tough it out through those times to what we've got now, which is a lot better facility but not the best, has been a good step forward. 

"Even that was a morale booster and for now what we are looking at being built on the sidelines now for us is something we are really buoyed by. I'm excited by it and I think a lot of the players are as well. Just to have a facility we can call home and we can go and use anytime will be great and it's something we're all looking forward to."