THERE is more reason for Claremont to celebrate in its second game back at the redeveloped Claremont Oval this Saturday with forward-turned-defender Anton Hamp reaching his 100-game milestone with the Tigers.
Hamp came through as a talented colts player at Claremont, was picked up by West Coast as a rookie in 2011 and was viewed as a key forward the Tigers could build upon in the future.
The problem was when he was receiving his first chances in 2011 and 2012, it was a dominant Claremont team and that was nowhere more so than in a forward-line that included Chad Jones, Beau Maister, Tom Lee, Paul Medhurst, Ian Richardson and Gerrick Weedon.
That saw Hamp restricted to 10 league matches and four in the Foxtel Cup in his first two seasons, but by 2013 he had cemented his spot playing 20 games and kicking 34 goals.
Claremont claimed a fourth straight minor premiership as well as Hamp hoped to be part of some more success with the Tigers given they had won the 2011 and 2012 premierships.
But it wasn’t to be and not only is Hamp still craving team success, he has cemented himself as one of the more reliable key defenders in the WAFL as he approaches his 100th game for Claremont this Saturday.
The Tigers will be taking on Swan Districts at Claremont Oval with the timing working out well for Hamp to get to celebrate his milestone in just the second game back on home turf since the multi-million dollar redevelopment.
The 24-year-old is proud to reach the century mark with Claremont after what has been an interesting journey.
"It's good timing I guess to have the 100th at Claremont Oval. I've got a lot of good memories from when we were there early on. Hopefully we get through the game with the win and we can have a bit of a celebration afterwards," Hamp told wafl.com.au.
"I'm going to keep it as normal as possible. I'm lucky that most of my family come to the games most weeks anyway so they will be there regardless. They will probably hang around after the game up at the new bar and enjoy the night from there. Hopefully we have something to celebrate.
"It means a lot to get to 100 games. Obviously Claremont is a great place to play at and I've loved being involved at the club for my eight years now.
"Early on in the first couple of years it wasn’t easy trying to get a game in the league team when we had such a good side in that premiership era. At that stage 100 games didn’t really look like it was going to happen, but a few years in I sort of locked in a spot a bit better and managed to work my way up to 100."
Hamp enjoyed plenty of success at Claremont Oval up until the 2013 finals series that saw the minor premier Tigers bundled out after losses to West Perth and East Perth.
Up until that point, he had only played in two losses at Tigerland so while the three and-a-half year wait has been a long one waiting for the new facilities to be finished, he has plenty of winning memories to call upon.
With Claremont then ending a six-game losing streak to beat East Fremantle last Saturday on the official reopening of Claremont Oval, he still has only ever played in four league losses at the ground and is delighted to be back playing there.
"In my first three years at Claremont Oval we were in the middle of a pretty dominant era. Unfortunately we didn’t get through the finals in the year I had cemented my spot in the league team in 2013 so my last game there before the weekend was the prelim final loss. But before that it was a really good time winning lots of games for us at home," he said.
"It has been a long time coming obviously and three and-a-half years since we last played there. It's such a good facility and everyone has a spring in their step having the new clubrooms up and running. There was a lot of energy around the place on Saturday and luckily, we got the win even if it was a bit closer than we would have liked. A big crowd turned up so that was great as well."
Given he is only 24, there's no reason for Hamp to even be thinking about the end of his career. But the fact that the longer he plays the more he can enjoy the new club facilities is some added motivation after a challenging three years.
"It's an enjoyable place to be and having lots of new gym gear, locker rooms and everything makes it a bit more exciting rocking up to games and training. It provides that bit of added motivation to keep on playing for sure," Hamp said.
"I haven’t really had any issues with the last few years myself, but I know as a club it's tough logistically getting everyone doing the right thing when you have to manage 60 or 70 players with some of the facilities broken up into different areas.
"We haven’t had some of the things that you would normally have so that did make it a little bit tougher as a group, but once you are out on the ground it's not really any different. I'd like to think it didn’t affect us too much but at least it's behind now anyway."
While Hamp's early years at Claremont were enjoyable to be around such a dominant senior group resulting in four successive minor premierships, three grand finals and two premierships, he always knew holding down a spot for him would be tough.
Instead he focused on learning and developing as much as he could under the forwards at both Claremont and West Coast. Then by 2013 he had cemented his place but
unfortunately it wasn’t quite to be with Claremont hunting a premiership three-peat.
"In my first two years Chad Jones and Beau Maister were the two key forwards and I was just a young 18-year-old kid trying to play as a key forward, and it was always going to be tough to take on of their spots when they are such guns of the club and competition," he said.
"That made it tough but I tried to work on my game as much as I could and learn off those guys, and the key forwards at West Coast as well. That's how I went about it. By 2013 I played my first full season in the league side.
"I had a good start to the year which definitely helped my confidence and once I got a few games under my belt I felt I could offer the side something, and that I could help us win. I started to feel good about that and I started to get a bit more consistent after that."
While Hamp was developing as a key forward, by 2014 a lot of Claremont's premiership stars had moved on and new coach Michael Broadbridge was looking to mix things up a little.
After a losing run to open the season, one move he wanted to make was to try Hamp as a key defender. He has remained down back ever since, including this season under new coach Darren Harris, and he feels comfortable there now.
"It was a few rounds into our first season at the Showgrounds, so 2014. We hadn’t had a great start and there had been a bit of a change in our team with players leaving over the off-season so there was a bit of a different team dynamic," Hamp said.
"I was playing forward but was getting a bit more attention with our senior players gone and Broady came to me in Round 5 or 6 to ask if I would go back as a bit of a change up. I was fine with that and had played quite a bit of junior footy as a back so I thought I could be comfortable there and was happy to give it a go. It worked out alright."
Having spent several years now on some of the opposition's best forwards there's every chance that could help Hamp be even more effective if he was ever to return to attack. But for now he's happy where he is coming into game No. 100.
"Lots of the young boys at the club don’t even know that I once played forward, so it's all they know me as. I'm still playing some OK footy down back so I'm happy to keep going with that for now even though I wouldn’t rule out going forward again at some point," he said.
"I have definitely learned a lot off playing against some of the best forwards in the competition and seeing the kind of things they do to have an impact on games. It worked the other way as well when I went back, I knew the kind of defenders I didn’t like playing against as a forward so I tried to do a few of those things."
While Claremont had lost six games straight prior to holding on to beat East Fremantle at Claremont on Saturday, suddenly they are back in the finals mix if they can celebrate Hamp's milestone this Saturday with a win over Swan Districts.
"We are certainly going into each game trying to win and to build up some consistency in our game," Hamp said.
"A lot of those games that we lost in that run of six saw us play some good football, but it wasn’t just for four quarters. If we can start doing that and make use of our home ground, anything can still happen this year."