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Harris and Tigers 'unbelievably hungry' for Grand FinalSaturday, October 3, 2020 - 4:46 PM - by Chris Pike

HE is a premiership captain and coach himself, and his skipper has two WAFL flags to his credit, but he has no premiership teammates left in the Claremont team with coach Darren Harris in no doubt his group is 'unbelievably hungry' to change that.

Harris is no stranger to Grand Final glory having being the premiership captain and Simpson Medallist at West Perth in 1995 before then being the coach of the Falcons team that was triumphant in 2003.

Then his captain Kane Mitchell knows all about success too having been a key player in Claremont's last premiership teams of 2011 and 2012, but with Tom Lee missing selection for Sunday's Grand Final, those two will be the ones with premiership experience at the Tigers along with Ryan Nyhuis at Peel Thunder.

Claremont takes on South Fremantle in the decider for 2020 at Fremantle Community Bank Oval having booked their spot in the Grand Final with an emphatic 47-point second semi-final win at the same venue also against the Bulldogs.

Not only does Claremont have its league side in the Grand Final on Sunday, but the reserves and colts have also qualified setting the stage for a potentially history-making day for the Tigers to see if they can replicate what Subiaco did by winning all three grades in 2018.

It might have only been two years ago, but that was only time a club has won colts, reserves and league premierships in the same year and Harris is fully aware of how good of a day Sunday could turn out to be for Claremont.

Having that shot at history is part of what makes Harris so proud to still be involved in WAFL football as well.

"The great thing about WAFL footy and I hope it remains forever is that it is all about the community," Harris said. 

"It's about all the people in your area and the zones, and we go up to the Kimberley down to the Great Southern, and all those people that come together get to grow and be really young men. 

"When you are lucky enough to be rewarded by having three teams in a Grand Final, everyone gets to experience that on the day and that's the first great achievement for the footy club. Now we have to make sure we turn up and do the job. 

"We are extremely proud and you think about coaches of junior footy clubs in our zone, you think about all the staff who have been involved with me over the last four years and there's a definite reward for that effort."






The best memories from football that Harris has is the premierships he has been involved with whether as a captain at West Perth in 1995, as coach at the Falcons in 2003 or AFL assistant coach with the West Coast Eagles in 2006.

Those are the memories that stick with you and he has no doubt this Tigers group has the necessary hunger to create that lifetime bond with each other on Sunday with a victory.

"I feel really grateful that I'm still involved in the game and I'm also really grateful that I get the opportunity to go and potentially win a Grand Final again because that's the greatest feeling you can have in football. That's why we do it," Harris said. 

"There's a lot of things around the edges like helping young men and your community, the ultimate is to have that success. The mateship that remains with premiership teammates remains forever and you stay connected with that group of people forever. That's the opportunity we have on Sunday and because of that we will be unbelievably hungry."

Claremont played a terrific second semi-final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval two weeks ago to earn their spot in the Grand Final. 

While Harris obviously liked what he saw in that 47-point victory against South Fremantle, he isn’t getting too carried away given the Bulldogs had won the previous four meetings between the two sides including last year's qualifying and preliminary finals.

He has been around too long to know that a good last up performance guarantees anything two weeks later, but Harris still couldn’t be happier with the form and confidence the Tigers are bringing with them into Sunday's Grand Final.

"What has happened before is just history and we played them two weeks, and we played really well, and if we can repeat that we give ourselves a great chance. But I think the two teams are evenly matched on the back of last week and I think you'll know a fair bit about the game 10 minutes into it," Harris said.

"Anyone who has watched footy throughout this season will have seen every team have those ups and downs. We had our little bit of a lull and stayed the course on it, but saw the things we needed to fix and fixed them up. 

"Then we came out and our last two games have been really good and that's the way we want to look. I think every team in this competition has had their ups and downs, and if you dwell on the negative of that it can affect your performance. But we focused on what we look like at our best and we've been able to get that right as a result."

There is a great mix in the Claremont team that Harris is coaching too. You have a captain with premiership experience in Mitchell and then senior players desperate for their first WAFL flag with Anton Hamp, Jye Bolton, Haydn Busher, Bailey Rogers, Ryan Lim, Jared Hardisty, Alex Manuel and Declan Mountford.

There's then that next tier of emerging leaders like Declan Hardisty, Tyron Smallwood, Harry McCracken, Oliver Eastland and Rylie Morgan along with youngsters Max Spyvee, Rylie Morgan, Ben Edwards, Tom Baldwin and Jack Lewsey.

The group is topped off by Alec Waterman, Callan England and Ryan Nyhuis who have spent time in the AFL system and it's that collective group with their varying levels of viewpoints and experience that Harris hopes gives the Tigers the perfect mix on Sunday.

"I think everyone's experience adds to what your team is and what your culture is, and whether we have 18 or 19-year-old kids or 30 or 31-year-olds who have played a lot of footy, their relationship with each other definitely helps with the way we play," Harris said. 

"We've been big on making sure that we mentor each other and that a lot of our craft work is about helping your mate and having that cross pollination of ideas and helping each other be the best they can be. 

"All that experience comes together and we're very collaborative about how we go about it so you take it all on board and then try to simplify it as much as you can to play a game of footy."

Another intriguing factor of Sunday's Grand Final is that the two coaches are such good friends having played in a WAFL premiership together in 1995, shared a flag as coach and player in 2003 and even early in Todd Curley's coaching tenure at South Fremantle, Harris helped him out.

Harris doesn’t expect that to have any impact on the game obviously but it will give the winner some extra bragging rights for a little while.

"It's just the usual Todd Curley short jokes that I have to put up with and I have a couple about his hairline. But it's all in good fun and we are just really good mates," Harris said.

"We have enjoyed a lot of good success together in 1995 and 2003, and we remain pretty close as family and friends. That will remain but obviously we are both going to do everything we can to make sure our football clubs are successful come Sunday."