Latest News

WAFL Milestone | Aaron Black 200 GamesSaturday, September 12, 2020 - 9:42 AM - by Chris Pike

HE could retire right now and be viewed as an all-time great but West Perth captain Aaron Black feels potentially not even two-thirds into his remarkable WAFL career already as he gets ready for game 200 on Saturday.

The career that Black has put together after making his league debut as a 17-year-old back in 2010 has been simply remarkable and he already has achieved more than enough to satisfy most people.

The now Falcons skipper is about to play his 200th game on Saturday against Subiaco at Joondalup's Provident Financial Oval and he does so as a 2013 premiership player, 2014 Sandover Medallist, 2015 and 2018 Breckler Medal winner and a six-time state representative.

That's more than enough for any mere mortal to be content with, but Black feels far from done yet approaching the milestone game and then ahead of another finals series with the Falcons.

That premiership in 2013 was special obviously but the Grand Final losses of 2015 and 2018 to Subiaco have left Black with a feeling of having unfinished business in terms of winning another flag, but the bigger picture is something he has his eyes on too beyond winning games and premierships.

"You obviously play for premierships and that's the one. We've played in three in only won one, and losing two Grand Finals really burns so there's still that drive there to keep winning games of footy," Black said. 

"I don’t know that the personal accolades are the best thing about footy, they are just a bonus to your team success. You generally win individual awards when your team is playing well for me it has just become about leaving the footy club in a better place than it was when I got there. 

"And that's in a whole lot of areas like in helping develop young leaders to leave the club with five, 10 or 15 quality leaders rather than one, two or three. 

"And creating a really good culture for the boys who are younger to carry on and to make sure it's a winning culture, and I think all that sort of stuff breeds success and that shows my change in attitude a little bit over the years as I move into the back end. 

"Your priorities change and what you value and what you want to get out of footy changes a little bit even though the drive is there to win. But the overall development of people around you is just as important to me."



To become a 200-game player at West Perth while still only aged 27 and with 10 years of WAFL football behind him means that Black has every reason to feel like he has plenty left in front of him.

As for the milestone itself, it's a proud moment for Black to stock of what he has achieved as he prepares to lead his team out against the club that has become their great rivals and stumbling block during his career to date in Subiaco.

"It's a pretty cool feeling to be honest. I guess when you start your career just to play one game is always the aim and the goal, and you never really think you'll end up having that sort of longevity and especially at one footy club," Black said.

"It's definitely something that I wanted to achieve was to play a lot of footy but putting a number on it was never a thing. But just to be involved at a footy club for so long and consistently play good football, and be involved in winning teams has been an awesome experience. 

"And to be involved with so many amazing people, administrators, club people and it's been a fantastic journey. I am one of the older guys in the team now and your perspective does change, and the way you play changes over time but it's definitely an amazing achievement and one that I'm proud of."

Given Black started his career as a teenager with West Perth at WAFL level and he became a premiership player aged just 20 and won a Sandover Medal at 21, he's always been viewed as a young player for much of his career.

The reality is now he's one of the senior players at West Perth and indeed one of the oldest, he is now into his third season as captain and he is embracing the role and responsibility now as a leader and role model for the younger players at the Falcons.

"It was probably around the time when VB left the footy club and it was my second year as captain when I realised I really was one of the senior players now," he said.

"We still had Strijky and Lours around but aside from that I was one of the oldest guys and now we don’t have anyone at our club over 30 except for Mike and it gets to a point where you just look around and realise most of these guys are younger than you.

"I remember looking around early in my career and look around and everyone, and see all these guys I remember watching when I was younger and realising I had so much to learn from them. 

"So you watch them intently and then all of a sudden you don't look up to them anymore and feel their equals, and then the younger guys are looking at you, and you are doing the teaching and they are looking up at you. 

"It might have been around the time I got into teaching and educating as well that I realised I was moving into the back end of my career and wasn’t in the front end anymore."

He is the 22nd man to play 200 games with West Perth and while Mel Whinnen's record of 371 might be out of reach and potentially so is Bill Dempsey's 343, there's no question Black can't set his sights now on becoming just the third Falcon in history to get to the triple century.

The fact that he has reached 200 games without missing too many games at all along the way and given he is playing as good football right now in 2020 as ever before, and with him having avoided any serious injuries to keep himself sidelined so far, it's all pointing to plenty of years left for him.

"It's pretty cool to reach 200 games playing the way I am because I probably didn’t have the season last year that I wanted to. I was probably a bit up and down, and I was a bit all over the shop with things off-field and I was struggling a bit with the balance in that area of my life," Black said.

"You don't really know how things are going to go coming into another season after something like that, and I definitely found it reignited my passion to be at the footy club and play footy. I found a better balance off-field and that's definitely really helped my form. 

"I just want to keep playing and there's nothing better than competing during a season and being the best you can be in a sport that you absolutely love. I've been lucky enough to play consistently and regularly for a long period of time, and I don’t want to take that for granted. 

"If I get an opportunity to play another 10 years then I'm going to take that opportunity to play another 10 years. I jokingly said the club can lock me in for another eight years if they wanted just to set myself that challenge. 

"Things do obviously change but right now I've got a passion to keep playing and to play as long as I can, and I'd like to think I have at least another 100 left in me and I'll go from there."

Helping Black get to 200 games so quickly is without question helped by the fact that his body hasn’t let him down along the way and nor has his form.

He has been able to play through pain and avoid long-term injuries, but also has continued to evolve his game and grow in different areas all the time while avoiding any form slumps, which is something he is rightfully proud of.

"That all comes back to a bit of luck really but in saying that I'd like to think I am reasonably efficient and don't have the greatest running style or aren’t the most explosive person going around," he said.

"But I think that's almost worked to my advantage a little bit and then it's about playing through a lot of painful niggling injuries. I had plantar fasciitis for a year and-a-half, I had osteitis pubis for another year and-a-half but I was able to find a way to still perform while experiencing a fair bit of pain. 

"That was probably due to the way that I move where it didn’t really affect how I move. There's a lot of luck in it too and knowing your body and what you can work through and play through. 

"No doubt nowadays we can be a little bit too protective over somethings that our bodies have the ability to perform through. I've just grown to know my body and know what it can handle, and I've been lucky enough not to miss too many games."

Reaching a milestone like 200 games does provide an opportunity for reflection and when Black thinks of the coaches he's had, he'll forever be thankful for what Wayne Orsi did for him backing him in to play colts football early.

Then while he didn’t always appreciate how hard Bill Monaghan pushed him at the time, upon reflection he knows that helped him achieve what he has in his career and he needed that approach from a coach even if it's a different relationship he now enjoys with Geoff Valentine.

"In terms of coaching, everyone who has been involved at the footy club has had a big influence on me but the biggest I have no doubt was, and God bless him, was the late, great Wayne Orsi," Black said.

"He showed a lot of faith in me to play me as a 15-year-old in the colts program and he was incredible for my development and my personal belief. He was a really big fan of mine early on and showed a lot of faith. 

"That initial faith and belief in me from him sort of transferred into me and I built this belief in myself that I could be a high-level and talented footballer. I still do thank him for all the things that he did for me early on. 

"Then to Bill obviously for showing faith in me to play senior footy at 17 and to run with me. He only dropped me twice in my first full year and that was sort of it. 

"He pushed me unbelievably hard and rode me pretty hard, but when I look back on it now I realise I wouldn’t be where I am now without him pushing and challenging me as a footballer and person. 

"I wouldn’t be a premiership player and Sandover Medallist without him giving me the opportunity and doing the things he did. And then playing under Geoff is a totally different experience. 

"He's a people person and he gives me a lot more freedom and power to share my thoughts and my experience to him, and he's really open to taking on my feedback. 

"We've built a lot of respect based on our relationship in that regard so I've really enjoyed playing under him and I hope to keep doing that for the next five to 10 years."

East Perth might be the established rival for West Perth, but there's little doubt during Black's career that the rivalry with Subiaco has continued to grow and it's only fitting his 200th game turns out to be against the Lions.

It's a big game for both clubs as they try to cement their spots in the finals for 2020 starting a week later and Black would love nothing more than get a win over Subiaco to put themselves in a strong position for a crack at the premiership.

"It's going to be an exciting day. They've been the benchmark for such a long time and they still have some quality players running around out there, but we are ready to knock them off and we think it's our time to knock them off and set them back a little bit," Black said. 

"We are really looking forward to that challenge and we know it's going to be a tough game, but we will focus on playing our way and we have a really good opportunity to put ourselves in second spot with a chance to go into a Grand Final against South Fremantle.

"We want to take that opportunity. It's a big game and I think we're ready for the challenge."