FREDDIE Clutterbuck hasn’t quite rediscovered the form that made him a staple on the wing at East Perth for over 100 games since joining Swan Districts but he delivered a standout performance in last Sunday elimination final and he couldn’t have enjoyed the experience more.
Clutterbuck joined Swan Districts at the start of the 2016 WAFL season having previously played 104 matches with East Perth including the 2014 grand final after growing frustrated with the Royals' alignment with West Coast.
While he did play some good football in 2016 with Swans, he was never quite able to hit full gear after not being allowed to do a pre-season with his new club.
Then after starting 2017 playing the opening six games in the league side, he lost his place and spent some time in the reserves with Swan Districts before then suffering a nasty hand injury.
He got back in the reserves side for Round 19 and then for another league chance in Round 21 against East Perth before a groin injury then looked capable of ending his season at least in the senior team.
But Clutterbuck was back in the final round against East Fremantle and then on Sunday in the elimination final against West Perth at Steel Blue Oval, he produced a stunning performance with 29 possessions for Swans while kicking two crucial goals on the run, including the match-sealer.
Firstly because of form, then because of his hand injury and then his sore groin all gave Clutterbuck reason to doubt he might get back to the league side in 2017 and that he might be able to have the impact that he did in Sunday's win over West Perth.
But he was just glad to repay some of the faith those at Swan Districts have shown in him.
"I wasn’t 100 per cent sure I would get back this year and the team was playing some good footy for most of the season, and the blokes had done a great job," Clutterbuck said.
"But I was pretty lucky to get back in the side and they showed a bit of faith in me. I wasn’t sure I would make it back, but I'm happy to be here and I've taken the opportunity with both hands and hopefully can continue on for a few more weeks yet.
"It's obviously pretty satisfying and I've always known I could play at this level, but a few things haven’t gone my way this year and I've been a bit in and out.
"Some have been my own doing, but to be able to repay the faith to Swans and especially Phil Smart and Greg Harding who got me over from East Perth is just a bit of a relief. The club has been fantastic to me and I love being here, and hopefully I can be here for a few more years yet."
Having played on the wing, Clutterbuck was always an easy target for Swans fans when playing at East Perth. While there is still the odd jibe that comes his way, he is enjoying having their support now especially when they turn out in such great numbers like they did on Sunday.
"It's great fun being on the winning side at Bassendean Oval for a change and having the crowd behind you," he said.
"I used to cop a lot of advice over the fence when I was at East Perth but now it's mostly positive, not all of it though. I'm very privileged to play for this footy club and they've been great for me, and hopefully I can repay the faith that they've showed in me."
Clutterbuck's performance highlighted that the 26-year-old hard-running wingman still has plenty to offer at WAFL level when he can get out there and run, but for him it wasn’t hard to find inspiration on Sunday.
With Tallan Ames having announced his retirement at the end of the season, coach Greg Harding also leaving once the season is done and then his locker buddy Tony Notte celebrating his 200th game, there was plenty of reasons for Clutterbuck and his teammates to rise to the occasion.
"We made mention of those things obviously because Tallan Ames has been a stalwart for this footy club and he is held in such high-regard. He's a fantastic human, a great footy player and he is everything to this footy club," Clutterbuck said.
"The way he embraces the club, the club embraces him back and it's magnificent to have a bloke like that at the footy club. I used to admire him and Tony from afar and now being at the club I realise how important they are. For Tony to play 200 WAFL games is a magnificent effort.
"It's not something too many people get to but the way he goes about his footy, he is so courageous and tough and is a brilliant player. He has many games to come and to get up for those blokes means a lot to us because we love them. Hopefully we have a few games left with them yet."
Clutterbuck always looked up to East Perth's games record holder Craig Wulff during his time with the Royals with great admiration, and now the same is the case of Ames at Swan Districts who will move into outright third place in the all-time games played list at Swans.
Clutterbuck feels honoured to have been a teammate of both.
"Wulffy and Amesy are full of courage and they are the footy clubs that they are part of. The blokes look up to them, they lead around the club with their actions and voice, and most of all they are great people to be around," he said.
"You can ask them anything and they will do anything for you, and they have carried their clubs on their back for over a decade. I've been very lucky to play with both those blokes and I have taken a lot out of it. They have both been great to me and it's a real privilege to be able to call them mates and teammates. I feel very lucky."
Even though Swan Districts had lost its last four games heading into Sunday's elimination final with West Perth, Clutterbuck was confident they could always recapture some good form come finals time.
Now that they have the club's first finals victory since the 2010 grand final under their belt, he sees no reason it can't continue Sunday in the first semi-final against South Fremantle at Fremantle Community Bank Oval either.
"We haven’t played a great month of footy coming into the finals but we were pretty confident that if we stuck to our guns and stuck to what we know, and what got us those wins earlier in the year that we could get it back," Clutterbuck said.
"We were confident coming in and we knew that West Perth wasn’t in great form either so we were confident that if we played our footy, our way we would get the job done and we would grind them down. We were lucky enough to end up getting that score on the board in the last quarter.
"It's a magnificent feeling. It's obviously been a big turnaround from last year and we got guys like Gault, Ellard, Crowley and they've made a big difference to our team and the club with the way they conduct ourselves.
"It's now a great feeling to win a final and we've come a long way from last year, but we are still in it so hopefully we can win two finals and we are looking forward to playing South Fremantle on Sunday on a seven-day break. That will be a fantastic challenge and we are looking forward to that."
Even though South Fremantle will heading into Sunday's first semi-final as warm favourites having finished the season in second position with a 16-4 record and on a nine-game winning streak, they will have had their confidence shaken with a loss to Peel last Saturday.
Clutterbuck is looking forward to putting the pressure back on the Bulldogs on Sunday.
"Finals footy is a whole different kettle of fish so we'll review our game and we obviously have a few different areas we can improve on but we'll go down there with some confidence. We have beaten them before this year so we'll look to do what we do well against them," he said.
"We are confident we can match up OK against them but we know they are a great footy side and footy club. They will come out firing off their loss, but hopefully we can fire and it's a good game of footy with us getting the win and we can progress from there."
Clutterbuck has become used to coming up against his old East Perth teammates over the past 18 months and he's looking forward to bumping into another on Sunday in the form of South Fremantle ruckman Brock Higgins.
"Brock and I are pretty good mates so we stay in touch and I might not speak to him during the week, but when we're out there on Sunday I'll be getting stuck into him and he'll be looking forward to giving me a couple," Clutterbuck said.
"He's been in great form and he'll carry the ruck for them obviously, but hopefully Gaulty can get over him and then I'll speak to Brock after the game with me on the winning side."