MICHAEL Swan has had to overcome plenty to reach a special milestone this Saturday and it could hardly be on a better occasion as the East Perth co-captain plays his 150th game for the Royals in the top-of-the-table clash against Swan Districts at Steel Blue Oval.
There could hardly be anyone that plays with as much passion or feels as strongly about the success of his football club as Swan does with East Perth, and now the skipper is rewarded for that, along with his commitment and perseverance, as he reaches his 150th game this Saturday.
With top spot on the line against Swan Districts, it's a massive occasion as well and Swan has shown a love of the big moment right throughout his career, so he can't wait to lead his team out there against Swans on his special day.
"It doesn’t get much better. It has been a long-time coming to get to 150 games and I'm really proud to be able to represent the club for a 150th time," Swan said.
"For it to be in a top-of-the-table clash makes it even better and it should be a really good game of football. We will be looking forward to it and no doubt they will be as well so it will be a really good game of footy. It should be lots of fun out there."
Swan arrived at East Perth in 2003 on the back of the premiership hat-trick that his brother David was a star member of, and has become a tremendous servant and contributor himself in some hard times.
There has been tough times individually as well, but he has been a star whether in the middle or up forward when playing and been captain every year now bar one since 2006.
He knows that those hard times make the good ones all the more enjoyable and that could not only include this Saturday in his 150th game, but also come September with the way East Perth is playing right now.
"It will be something that I look back on really proudly to say that I'm a life member of the East Perth Football Club. This is my 10th season and it hasn’t been an easy ride at all," he said.
"There has been lots of ups and downs, and challenges, but that makes you really want to savour and enjoy the good times because there will be down times in your career. It's all about how you deal with the down times as to what makes you a better person and footballer."
Swan's journey to 150 games with East Perth has been far from easy and there were times several years ago as he was battling debilitating groin problems that it seemed a far-reaching goal that he was unlikely to make.
After battling the problem, surgery eventually fixed it and after a strong finish to the 2009 season, he has been able to put together strong campaigns in 2010 and 11, and now is playing tremendous football again this year mixing up between forward and stints on the ball.
Reaching a milestone like his 150th game to earn life membership at East Perth, a club that means the world to him and his family after the success his older brother had, makes all those hard times worthwhile though.
Swan also wanted to pay tribute to any WAFL player who has stuck it at. With the multiple days of training and it taking up your weekend, when you combine that with work, study and family life, it is a massive commitment to play 100-plus games at this level.
"It was four years ago when I wasn’t sure if I would be playing on again because of the injuries I had. I had to have surgery and sitting in a wheelchair for two weeks left me wondering if I would even be able to run again properly," he said.
"To be able to come back from that is something I'm proud of and once I do finish up my career I will appreciate even more of what I've been able to achieve. Now to play 150 games is a great achievement and it's not an easy thing to commit to WAFL football.
"Anyone who has played more than 100 games at this level should be really proud of their efforts when they finish their careers because the commitment is huge. It takes over your whole life and there's no way around it, but it's something that anyone that has played more than 100 games should be commended."
Swans have been tremendous this season as well as East Perth with the black-and-whites currently on top of the ladder with dominant forwards in Ash Hansen and Tim Geappen, strong back-line and good running brigade including Matt Riggio, Tom Roach, Shaun Hildebrandt and Marlon Motlop.
Swan is looking forward to the challenge of taking on an in-form and talented team in his milestone game.
"They've got a lot of very good, hard players at the football and it's similar with us," he said.
"When you get that intensity at the footy between two sides sometimes things can get a bit heated, but it's going to be such an exciting game to play in. It's going to be won in the middle like it was when we played them down at Manjimup, and we are looking forward to the challenge."
As for last Saturday's 59-point win over South Fremantle, that was the first time East Perth has won at Fremantle Oval since Round 18, 2003. Only Craig Wulff and Swan played that day so it was good to get over that hoodoo and also do it having made some changes to the team.
Brett Eades and Nick Kommer went out suspended, Kyle Anderson was injured and Stephen Mansfield and Tim Martin also made way for Zac Clarke, Anthony Kyanga, Don Stirling, Tyson Rudd and Steven Payne.
The thing with the East Perth team of 2012 is that the depth is strong and everyone knows their role when they come into the team.
"It was me and Wulffy the only one who played in that game. Souths have had it over us for a long time and since 2003 when we last won here, so it was obviously really good to get that win," Swan said.
"We had five changes this week and that's the most we've had all season, and the guys who came in have been performing well in the reserves and came in and did their job. Kyanga kicked those three important goals in the first quarter, Don Stirling came back for his first game of the season and Tyson Rudd made his debut and acquitted himself really well. We do have guys who know what job they need to do when they come into the team, and they are doing."