HE achieved everything and more he could have imagined in a dream first six years of his WAFL career before taking a year off, but Claremont captain Ian Richardson is as motivated as ever for more team success as he becomes the ninth Tiger to 200 games.
Richardson reaches the 200-game mark with Claremont this Saturday at Claremont Oval against West Perth and by doing so joins fellow Tigers David Crawford (200), Les Mumme (206), Wayne Harvey (217), Lorne Cook (229), Kevin Clune (231), Graham Moss (254), Ken Caporn (273) and Darrell Panizza (274).
It's yet another accomplishment in a glittering career from the hard-leading, long kicking left-footed half forward who has assumed the captaincy in 2018 trying to lead Claremont back to some of the success he was part of over the opening six years of his career.
With 199 games under his belt for Claremont to go with a career that includes 385 goals, six appearances representing Western Australia, a Simpson Medal, a fairest and best award, two leading goalkicker awards and two premierships, there's plenty to be proud of too.
"My first year I was in the senior squad was 2007 and I was playing reserves the whole year and couldn’t crack it for a league game, and that drove me a little bit harder to break in," Richardson said.
"I made my debut Round 1 the next year and luckily haven't been dropped since and have only missed a couple of games through injury. I never take my position for granted and am proud to play for Claremont every week and want to keep that going.
"I haven't really thought about the milestone too much until this week and it is obviously a pretty good achievement and something I'm very proud of," Richardson added.
"I also got to meet a lot of the other 200-game players from Claremont this week and a lot of the older boys were very proud of me. That showed how much it meant to them and how much it means to me now. I'm very proud of it."
Richardson burst on to the scene in 2008 with Claremont adding life to the forward-line coming off the shock 2007 Grand Final loss to Subiaco, with the Tigers left flat after a third loss on the big day in the past four years.
What he delivered immediately was remarkable. While Claremont struggled in 2008, Richardson didn’t and had a remarkable rookie season kicking 62 goals including three hauls of seven.
He starred in the WAFL State Team's win over Queensland in Townsville, winning the Simpson Medal booting five goals. He went on to win Claremont's fairest and best and leading goalkicker awards too.
Richardson continued to star kicking another 46 goals in 2009, 59 in 2010, 41 in 2011, 52 in 2012 and 50 in 2013 while playing State football for WA in each of those seasons but it was the team success he was most proud to be part of.
Following difficult 2008 and 2009 seasons, Claremont would go on to dominate the league from 2010 through to the end of 2013. In that four-year period, the Tigers won four straight minor premierships and had a record of 69-18 (with one draw).
There was heartbreak along the way though. They lost one of the great WAFL Grand Final to Swan Districts by a point in 2010 having beaten them by 50 points in the second semi-final.
Then they ran out of steam late in 2013 despite a dominant season losing finals at home to West Perth and East Perth to bow out in straight sets.
They won the 2011 and 2012 premierships in between, though, and they remain the highlight of Richardson's career but that whole four-year period really was such a pleasure to be part of.
"I hadn’t played in any of those previous Grand Final losses until the Swans one when we had been minor premiers and had beaten them convincingly in the semi-final," he said.
"That was heartbreaking and it's hard to ignore everyone calling us chokers and how we'll never win a Grand Final. But we were determined to prove them wrong and we all worked hard in 2011 to get back there again. To finally get over the line and prove everyone wrong is something I'll remember forever.
"We didn’t want to be one-hit wonders either. We wanted to prove that we could do it for a sustained period and won another one in 2012 and they were both definitely the highlights of my career.
"We had another good year in 2013 but unfortunately couldn’t quite get to the Grand Final that year but from 2010-2013 was a period where we had a lot of wins and it was a lot of fun to play in."
After playing 130 games up until the end 2013 after starting in 2008, Richardson took a break to travel in 2014 and Claremont's fortunes suffered after those dominant four years and they haven't quite been back in the premiership race since.
But Richardson sees no reason why this current group can't make a run at success with Anton Hamp and Haydn Busher holding down the defence, Jye Bolton and Kane Mitchell leading the way through the middle and a dangerous forward-line that includes himself and Tom Lee.
He certainly feels the current coaching staff will give them every chance led by Darren Harris, who he rates as the best coach he's played under which is saying something considering that group includes Roger Kerr, Simon McPhee, Marc Webb and Michael Broadbridge.
"I'm really confident that this group is on the right track. The main thing is that the coaching staff is as awesome. Harro is easily the best coach I've played under in my career, he's just a really good bloke and people person, and motivator," Richardson said.
"We've got great assistant coaches too with Craig White, Andrew Embley, Geoff Valentine, Kepler Bradley and Steve Armstrong. They really pull the boys into line and show them the way. The playing group is definitely starting to click.
"We were underperforming at the start of the year, but we've done things to fix that up and we are starting to click. We are confident if we stay on this track we can get a lot more wins in the future.
"Our back-line is gelling awesome, the midfield is strong and we have a lot of goals to kick in the forward-line. I'm confident this team is on the right track for more success."
Richardson came through at Claremont at a time where he had some great players and leaders to learn from and while the time has gone quickly, he is now in that position to be the role model for the young players at Tigerland as captain and he feels he's grown with that responsibility.
"When we won the premierships I was 24 or 25 and starting to become a senior player and was getting involved in leadership meetings and stuff like that, but I still felt like one of the younger boys and wasn’t thinking too seriously about leadership," he said.
"But I had the year away and came back and after that, realised that I was one of the older boys and have been vice-captain the last three years, and captain this year.
"I guess when I came back I realised I had to step up more now because we had a very young team looking to get back up the ladder. That's when I realised I had to show a bit more leadership around the place."
Anthony Jones and Jaxon Crabb, as Claremont captains, Sandover Medal winners and former AFL players, provided Richardson's first role models when he joined the senior group and they were two reasonable role models to have.
But especially in those first six years of his career, to learn from and develop under and alongside the likes of Michael Cousens, Clancy Rudeforth, Chad Jones, Trinity Handley, David Crawford, Luke Blackwell, Beau Maister, Tom Matson, Rory Walton, Andrew Browne, Byron Schammer and Paul Medhurst provided some grounding.
"The first two that stood out when I was coming through were Anthony Jones and Jaxon Crabb with the way they were so professional by training hard," Richardson said.
"You could see that on the weekend that resulted in them playing so well and they were Sandover Medallists who played AFL footy, both of them. They showed me how hard you need to work and going through the work I had other hard workers, Clancy Rudeforth was an especially hard worker.
"He was a real inspiration to me and one of my good mates. Luke Blackwell was another who trained to a high standard and so did Andrew Browne, and more recently Kane Mitchell is a freak with his fitness and work he puts in. Between all of them you pick up different things, but at the end of the day the common denominator is that hard work will get your results."
Richardson always hoped one day that he would be held in the regard that he put those Claremont greats in at some point of his career, but he knew that nothing but working hard, performing consistently and setting the standards over a long period was going to make that happen.
To now be captain in 2018 for the first time is something he's proud of and he takes seriously his responsibility to set the right example.
"You always want to gain the respect of your teammates and I wanted to become a respected player one day like those guys were that I looked up to," he said.
"That was the aim, but obviously you have to get there slowly and chip away at it. Over the years I've slowly built up a bit of respect and reputation hopefully, but that's something you have to earn from others and not just give to yourself.
"I'm very proud to have been voted in as captain by the other players. It means a lot to be highly-regarded by them and the coaches.
"It wasn’t something I really aimed for because we had Jake Murphy the last couple of years doing a really good job, but unfortunately he's had a lot of injury issues and he's taken a backseat and now stepped away from the game this year.
"Once I knew he was doing that, I took it upon myself to be the next leader in line and I felt I had to step up my leadership responsibilities. We worked hard on that over the pre-season and still are during the year."
One player that Richardson has spent much of his career playing alongside is the now retired Beau Maister. He retired following Saturday's win against Swan Districts at Claremont Oval and while Richardson respects the decision, he will miss him.
"It was very emotional actually. Poor Beauy decided to call it quits to look after his long-term health which is definitely understandable and a respectable decision. He's been at the club since he was 17 and I've played most of my career with him except when he was in the AFL," he said.
"We've played a lot of footy together and he's such a passionate club man who loves the Tigers. He was sad to leave but he didn’t want it to be all about him, he just wanted the club to get a win and we all put in that extra one per cent to get it.
"It worked out really well and we got over Swans in the last quarter and he kicked the goal that sealed it in the finish."
Richardson is also glad that he took the chance for a break from the WAFL in 2014 to explore the world and reignite his passion to return to Claremont for the second half of his career, which he sees no reason why can't continue into 2019 and beyond at 30 years of age.
"I could have kept on going but it's hard in the WAFL working full-time, a lot of players are studying too and then coming to training. It does take a toll in terms of your family life and social life, it doesn't leave time for much else," Richardson said.
"I felt like I just needed a break and was keen to do a bit of travelling and see the world, and got that ticked off and out of my system. I came back refreshed and keen to have another crack at it.
"I'm happy I did and hopefully it extended my career a bit longer too by having that break. I feel like I'm still playing good footy and at the end of the year I'll see how the body is feeling, have a chat to my family and partner but I'm feeling good at the moment."