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Strijk hopes retirement on hold for a monthSunday, September 1, 2019 - 2:05 AM - by Chris Pike

HE had resigned himself to the fact that he had just played his final game last Saturday but now West Perth champion Andrew Strijk's career will at least continue until Sunday and he sees no reason why it can't finish with a second premiership in 2019.

Strijk has put together quite the remarkable career already which started with West Perth back in 2006 and along the way he has achieved everything from playing in the 2013 WAFL premiership while playing 13 AFL games for the West Coast Eagles and represented Western Australia seven times.

Then there is the assortment of individual accolades including being a West Perth fairest and best winner in the premiership year of 2013, winning the Bernie Naylor Medal as the league's leading goalscorer in 2018 and earning life membership of the Falcons.

All of that means that Strijk has a lot to be proud of both in terms of the team and individual success he's now amassed over a remarkable 244-game career with West Perth that still has some legs left in it.

Strijk, at 31 and about to become a father for the first time, has decided that 2019 will be the last season of his career so when West Perth lost to South Fremantle by four points last week, and with Perth leading Peel Thunder, it appeared it would be the last game of his career.

A West Perth loss and Perth win last Saturday afternoon would have meant West Perth missed finals, so as the Falcons left HBF Arena Strijk was sure his career was done as he was chaired off by Tyler Keitel and Mark Hamilton.

He then gave a farewell speech in the rooms only to soon find out Peel had defeated Perth and West Perth would be playing finals and his career will be continuing for at least a 245th game.

To say it was quite the swirling of emotions in a short period for Strijk would be a great understatement.

"It really was a massive rollercoaster of emotions. I was keeping a close eye on the Perth-Peel Thunder scores at the time but our priority was just to win because then it's easy and we were straight through," Strijk said.

"But the fact that we went down and by so little of a margin, that hurt a lot and then I looked over at the score and saw that Perth were up by a couple of goals so it dawned on me that this would be the last time that I would be out on this field and run out with these boys. 

"I became a bit emotional at the time and then we got back into the rooms and after Geoff said his thing, we went into the auditorium and I said a few words to the boys thanking them for everything. 

"It was a retirement speech really because there were a few guys knew of my plan to retire, but I hadn’t told the whole group. Then once I finished, one of the boys turned around and said scores were level between Peel and Perth. 

"Then we all sat in there watching the score update and Peel Thunder got up and we were all cheering, and it was bloody good. So I turned around and told them to forget everything I just said and rushed off to the ice bin to go into recovery mode."

Strijk had every right to then think that last Saturday was at least his last home game for West Perth, but now with a bit of luck despite finishing fifth it's the Falcons that get to play host to the West Coast Eagles on Sunday in the elimination final at HBF Arena.

Strijk sees no reason why the Falcons can't be aiming to win either and advance to next week's first semi-final against the loser of Saturday's clash between South Fremantle and Claremont.

"Then the funny thing is we get to play it at home too. So I thought at least last week it was my last home game so I didn’t waste saying goodbye for completely nothing, but now it turns out we are playing at Joondalup again so it really is Déjà vu," Strijk said. 

"This definitely will be my last game at home but hopefully not my last game though. I think we actually match up pretty well with West Coast and it's probably worked out pretty well for us, although I would have backed us in against Perth as well had it turned out that way. 

"But I think we match up well and they are a very good team, but if we can play the way we know we can play for four quarters, as cliché as it sounds, then I think we're a good chance to get the win and keep our season going. 

"I'm very excited about it because it will be a tough ask, but we are kind of the underdogs going in and we're not expected to go very far so every game is about us just going out and enjoying playing good footy without any pressure."

While there are plenty of reasons that make Strijk's decision to retire at the end of the 2019 season the best one, that doesn’t make it easy. But juggling being a father and a fire fighter while trying to still commit himself to WAFL football was likely going to be too much.

So it made sense for a number of reasons and while it was tough to come to the decision, Strijk's also content with the fact that he's retiring still as one of the best players in the competition.

Especially over the last 18 months since playing deep forward has allowed him to show all his smarts and skill close to goal as the best one-on-one player in the WAFL.

"It was bloody hard to be honest to make the decision. It was difficult because I feel as though I'm still playing pretty decent football," he said.

"I don’t think I'm at the top of my game by any stretch of imagination, but I feel like I'm still contributing a couple of goals here and there while trying to teach the young guys at the same time.

"So from a football point of view it was difficult to walk away while I felt I still contribute, but that was one of the things I wanted to do. I wanted to leave on my terms and I didn’t want to be forced out the door, I wanted to walk out the door. 

"My wife, Nicole, and I were talking about it for a couple of months and with the little girl along the way, which is just so exciting, because I work shift work I really needed to give my family a bit more time and football had to wear the brunt of that. 

"I'm really looking forward to that next stage now in our lives with Nicole and our little girl."

While Strijk isn’t yet in reflection mode while his career is still on-going and he remains hopeful that 2019 could bring him the second premiership of his career with West Perth, he is deservedly proud of everything he's accomplished with that 2013 triumph at the top of the list.

"I've been very fortunate and I know a lot of blokes who might have been better footballers than me but never got the chance at the next level so I feel fortunate to have got that opportunity," Strijk said.

"Although I did work bloody hard for it so I do feel like I earned it at the same time and I'm proud of myself for getting there. I committed a lot of work into this game but with those accolades, they are all fantastic and I'll look back and be proud of myself, but it's the 2013 premiership that was the one thing that stands out to me. 

"That's the thing that really that cements my career. I do hope I had two or three, though, and I'm still hoping we can add 2019 onto that list, but winning that premiership will always stand out above any of the individual accolades I accumulated along the way."

It has been a remarkable achievement by the West Perth playing group over the past 18 months to block out the off-field trouble the club is in to continue to give their all on the field and remain such a competitive and spirited outfit.

That saw the Falcons reach an unexpected Grand Final in 2018 following a stunning preliminary final upset over South Fremantle and for Strijk, it's a spirit among the players at West Perth's he has always been proud of being part of.

"It just speaks to the character of the group. I've been involved with West Perth for 15 years and we've probably had that sort of group every year," he said.

"It's just that West Perth spirit and that Garlic Munchers mentality where we get written off quite a bit but we always keep fighting. You go back to the 1999 and 2003 premierships and they went in as underdogs, and certainly in 2013 we were and we won all three of those. 

"It's just a really good club to be part of and obviously we are going through some struggles financially, but no matter what we always come out and play for the jumper which is really pleasing and an honour to be part of."

As Strijk prepares to move into retirement, he remains buoyant over the prospects of West Perth moving forward on the field as well with the amount of talent with growth still left in them.

"There are guys who haven’t actually played too much football still and are just coming through now who I have a lot of confidence in them taking the club forward," Strijk said.

"That was part of what I said to the group after the game on Saturday when I thought that was it, I basically told them that with the nucleus there is still there they are in a good place. 

"With Blacky and Nelly as leaders with the rest coming through, the club is in a really good spot and it could be a pretty exciting couple of years coming up. There's still a lot of development in the guys but that's a good thing and you don’t want to plateau, you want to still have a lot of potential. 

"Even with guys who have been around for a while, they still have growth in them like Brayden Antonio, Kris Shannon, Keegan Knott and Corey Chalmers. They have been around a while but can still develop further by becoming bigger parts of the team, Rudy Riddoch is another one. 

"If they can all take that to the next level they are going to be a really good team moving forward."