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Bulldog Schloithe notches century but team success his goalFriday, July 7, 2017 - 3:30 PM - by Chris Pike

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BEING in some remarkable career-best form makes this Saturday a good time for Haiden Schloithe to celebrate his 100-game milestone with South Fremantle but while he's proud of the mark, it's team success with the Bulldogs he craves.

Schloithe is another proud product of Katanning to play with South Fremantle and having achieved colts success playing in the 2011 premiership and then being rookie-listed by Fremantle.

He made his league debut at South Fremantle in 2012 and didn’t take long to cement his spot, and he has remained ever since splitting roles between being a strong ball-winning and hard running midfielder, and a dangerous and clever half-forward.

Along the way, Schloithe has played for Western Australia twice in wins over the NEAFL and VFL, and won the 2014 WJ Hughes Medal as South Fremantle's fairest and best in the best season of his career up until the one he's having right now.

Schloithe has still played strongly the past two years since his fairest and best win but injury led to him missing 12 of the 43 games.

But the 24-year-old is fully fit in 2017 and the results have been remarkable. He is averaging 30.7 disposals a game and hasn’t gone below 22 in any match this season while going beyond 30 on nine occasions. His past five games alone has seen him average 32.4 touches.

But it's much more than the numbers. He rarely misses a target by hand or foot, and generally uses the ball in an attacking and damaging manner. He's also dangerous forward having kicked 17 goals for the season and 12 in the past four games.

Reaching a milestone like 100 games is always a big achievement, but to do so in the form Schloithe is in right now has him that little bit more excited for Saturday against Claremont at Claremont Oval.

"It's obviously a pretty special milestone. If you had told me six or seven years ago that I would have already reached 100 games for South Fremantle footy club, I probably would have said you were kidding yourself," Schloithe said.

"But here I am and to be able to play my 100th game this weekend with all my good mates is obviously something pretty special. It was in those first couple of seasons in the seniors here where I really felt part of the club.

"Obviously when you're playing colts you are pretty young and don't really take it all in, but when you make your league debut and play your first handful of games, you start to realise how much the club means to you."

Schloithe is looking forward to having some extra family and friends on hand on Saturday to help him celebrate the milestone at Claremont Oval, but aside from that he knows it's an important game against a Claremont team having won all three games this year back at its redeveloped home.

"I don’t think we have the best record in milestone games over the past couple of years so hopefully we can change that this weekend and get the win," he said.

"Obviously it's my first really big milestone but I'll try and treat it the same as every other week. But as I'm about to run out on Saturday I know it will be something a little bit special for me. It will be good have my family and some friends from Katanning there showing their support.

"It's going to be a huge game. They won all three of their games there so far so they are finding their early season form again. Obviously it will be great to go back to Claremont Oval. I haven’t played there for a while so it will be good to see what they've done there."

Schloithe is proud to now get his name etched onto the No. 1 locker at South Fremantle and he was always proud to wear the number in honour of his father.

He'll also never forget his Katanning roots having grown up idolising, and being babysat by, Kyle Hams and Ashton Hams, and coming through along with Tim and Kade Stewart, and James Laurino.

"To get your name on any locker is obviously a pretty big thing and to wear the No. 1 that my dad wore for his whole career in Katanning is something pretty special to me as well," Schloithe said.

"There has been a few guys that have come from Katanning to play for this club. Obviously we all got played together in the league team a few years ago and that was special.

"A lot of my friends and family are from down there, and they come up to support the club and they are all pretty heavily involved as supporters. Ash is still here as well obviously so the Katanning Football Club and South have a pretty good bond I think."

Schloithe has threatened to have the type of dominant season that he is having in 2017 the past two years but the injuries interrupted that.

Being fully fit this year is one thing he puts down to his outstanding form but also the fact that he has so many strings to his bow in terms of the way he plays, and positions he can play that makes it hard to shut him down completely.

"It helps a lot to be healthy. To have a full pre-season and then to not have any injuries this year has really helped my game. Touchwood I can stay injury free and build on it more the second half of the year," he said.

"I've always prided myself on being able to play multiple positions and if you're not winning too much footy in the midfield, then it's pleasing to be able to go forward and hit the scoreboard. I just try to do whatever I can to help this team win.

Schloithe isn’t getting too carried away in thinking about the form he is currently in because he knows you are only ever as good as your last, or next, performance.

It's the consistency that he has shown so far in 2017 that he's most proud of.

"I try not to think about it too much, I just go out there and try to continue to play my role for the team. Whether I'm playing really well or it's not my day, I just have to continue to grind away and find a way to help our footy club win games of footy. 

"Luckily this year I've been able to play some really good footy. The most pleasing thing is probably that I've been able to back it up week in and week out when in the last couple of years I might play three or four good ones together, and then drop away with a couple of not so good ones. It's been really pleasing to back it up each week."

Another big factor in Schloithe's form is being alongside Tim Kelly in the midfield. The pair are in career-best form and complement each other both when on the ball, but with both capable of going forward as well.

"TK is obviously having a pretty special year and it probably helps both of us that we are playing good footy so it's hard to lock down on us both," Schloithe said.

"But it's not just us either. Dylan Main is having an incredible year as well, Shane Hockey is starting play some really good footy again and it just helps that so many of us are going well."

As Schloithe looks back on his two years when on Fremantle's list as a teenager, he will always be grateful for the opportunity but in hindsight he probably just wasn’t ready for the AFL like he would be if given the chance now.

"I was 18 and had only been living in Perth for a year when I found myself on Freo's list and had just come out of colts. The difference between country footy and colts is huge, and then being drafted as an 18-year-old kid I was still pretty raw to everything," he said.

"I absolutely loved my two years there and learned a lot under Ross who is a fantastic coach. But I'm 24 now and have obviously matured, and have been playing senior footy for six years so my body has developed. I feel I have developed a lot as a person and footballer so if I'm lucky enough to get that opportunity to take it with both hands."

Schloithe isn’t focused on what his future might hold though. His sole focus is on trying to make the 2017 season as successful as possible for the Bulldogs after having his first taste of finals at league level last year.

"It was obviously disappointing the way we finished our campaign last year," Schloithe said.

"I think that gave everything that burn for pre-season when we came back and hearing Ashton talking about his premiership years and how good it was to celebrate, it makes us all want to achieve that and experience it itself. 

"Our aim is to try and get another three or four wins as quickly as possible to lock away a spot and then we'll reassess and go from there. Team success is my main priority and to be able to do it this year would be pretty special."