HARD work has never been foreign to him, but increased opportunities in the last 18 months has seen Wes Lammie emerge as one of the best ruckmen in the WAFL and now he's preparing himself for another battle with Claremont and Andrew Ruck this Saturday at Steel Blue Oval.
It took until the departure of premiership ruckman Llane Spaanderman after Round 14 last season for Lammie to finally receive the chance to carry the ruck for Swan Districts and he has grabbed that opportunity with both hands ever since.
Lammie always has had elite endurance especially for a player of his size, but he has worked continually hard on his ruck and ball skills, and it is all paying off handsomely.
This season, he has not only led the league with 488 hit outs at almost 29 a game, but also has averaged almost 14 disposals a game and last Friday night, he drifted forward for his first goal of the season in Swans' hard fought 35-point victory over South Fremantle at Fremantle Oval.
It was hard work for Swan Districts to shake off the Bulldogs, but they eventually did to maintain second position on the ladder heading into this Saturday's home clash with the ladder-leading Claremont.
"Having the bye and having a few games go our way last week, we were really aware of what was at stake this week and that second chance is something that we are really hungry for. With a bit of luck, we should get that now and that was the big aim coming into this week," Lammie said.
"They had a really young group and they came out really hard. They had obviously done a lot of study on us and knew what they were up against. We knew that they were going to come for us and that's something that we have to get used to especially over the last couple of weeks.
"We need to weather that initial pressure from teams, but to get the job done in the end was a great effort by the boys. After half-time, we probably got back to how we play our best pressure footy and moving the ball quickly and long. It was really good."
Swan Districts could remain a slight chance of top spot or certainly secure second with a victory over Claremont this Saturday, but with the Tigers having won their last five games by an average of 108 points, including a 97-point victory over Swans in Round 16, Lammie knows how big of a task it is.
"Obviously now we focus on Claremont going into next week and it's exciting and a top-two clash. We definitely won't be taking them lightly and it's a great challenge. From us going into next week against Claremont it's just about getting our physical presence and our pressure footy right," he said.
"They are a terrific side and have shown that over the last few years now but if we can get our pressure footy right and get our hardness at the contest where it needs to be, that's going to be our big focus. Obviously they are a hard running side, have a great midfield and it will be a focus of ours just to get the pressure right and put on a really good show."
Lammie will again lock horns with Andrew Ruck in the ruck battle again this Saturday. After the Round 16 clash, Ruck was just back from his knee reconstruction and said that he was given the run around from Lammie so both are looking forward to taking on one another again.
"Before he got injured he was probably the premier ruckman in the competition and obviously given his knee injury fitness-wise it set him back a bit, but he's definitely a very smart and skilful player," Lammie said.
"They are the sort of players that you want to play on and test yourself against. I'm looking forward to the challenge and I have no doubt that he's going to be a lot stronger than he was five or six weeks ago. He always puts on a really strong contest and he's really passionate."
Swans could still welcome back Ryan Davis, Wayde Twomey, Murray Newman, Michael Walters and Lachie Neale either in the lead-up to the finals or during them, and Lammie has no doubt they could all make a huge impact.
"That class of player and their experience is crucial. Davis and Twomey played in a flag for us before and AFL footy so in September they are going to be super important," he said.
"Murray Newman, Lachie Neale and maybe even Michael Walters are terrific and super talented young players. We love having them and if we can swing a few of them back into the side it will put us in a really good position."
Second position and the opportunity to either advance straight to the grand final or host a preliminary final is something that Lammie feels is crucial, especially after the horror six-win season last year in their premiership defence from 2010.
"To our group with where we came from last year I think the double chance is super important to us. Not that we have a lack of faith in our ability, but just given we have a lot of young kids in the group," Lammie said.
"If we get it right on any one day, though, we can match it with the best of them and that double chance is always good to have. Obviously we would love to win and go straight through, but we will see what happens."
Lammie was patient in biding his time for regular opportunities to play in the ruck with Swan Districts and now every time he runs out there in the black-and-white jumper he's trying to repay all those that have shown faith in him.
"To me just to get consistent opportunities has been great and I've enjoyed the faith that Greg Harding and the coaching staff has put in me. Hopefully I can repay the faith a bit and keep being consistent and play my role in the side," he said.
"That's all I really want to do and if I can do that for another few weeks then who knows where we will end up. Fitness has been something that has always come fairly naturally to me so it has been the other aspects like the skills that I try to keep improving on."
Lammie has played all but one game this season taking his career-tally to 52 and while through the middle of the year his body was feeling the wear and tear from carrying the ruck virtually all by himself, it now is feeling good and reasonably fresh.
"In the middle of the year there was definitely some fatigue creeping in and some niggling injuries, but the last two byes strategically have been really good," Lammie said.
"We've played blocks of three games and our medical and rehab staff do a really good job in managing our workload and I'm feeling as good as I have done at any stage of the year now. That's really positive going into the end of the year so hopefully we have four or five games to go and the body can hang in there."