Family-focused Hams looks to celebrate 200 with daughter

Friday, August 3, 2018 - 5:12 PM by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle's Ashton Hams can't wait to celebrate his 200-game milestone with his daughter on Saturday as he racks up yet another remarkable achievement in a career that's coming to a close.

Hams made his South Fremantle league debut way back in 2004 and it has been a remarkable journey ever since with him racking up 199 WAFL games at the Bulldogs heading into Saturday's clash with West Perth at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

Along the way, he has played in the 2005 and 2009 premierships alongside twin brother Kyle while winning the Simpson Medal as best afield in the 2009 Grand Final win against Subiaco. 

That led to him earning a crack in the AFL at the West Coast Eagles where he played 39 games before returning full-time to South Fremantle in 2014.

Since coming back to the Bulldogs, he has earned life membership by reaching 150 games, won the 2015 WJ Hughes Medal as fairest and best and represented Western Australia three times including winning a Simpson Medal in 2014.

That's quite the list of achievements and now on Saturday he will become just the 19th player in the history of South Fremantle to play 200 games for the club, but there's not too many matches left now for the 31-year-old.

He has decided this will be his last season in the WAFL and he hopes a big win on Saturday against West Perth can kick start a charge towards a third premiership after South Fremantle has lost in the previous two preliminary finals.

"I'm excited about it actually. I probably shouldn’t be, but I am and it has been a long journey. The body is pretty fragile and I'm just ready to move on. I went around again because we were so close to a Grand Final so the aim was to win that this year," Hams said.

"I came together with family and we decided this would be it and I'm just excited to hopefully go out with a bit of a bang. 

"We know Subi is going to be hard team to beat but anything can happen in finals and hopefully we are the team to have a crack at them. That mission starts this weekend because we've been down for a couple of weeks and we need to get on a bit of a run before finals."

As much as the 200-game mark is something special to reach, it was life membership that meant the world to Hams and with that ticked off by getting to 150 games, what he now can't wait for is to run out onto Fremantle Oval on Saturday with daughter Emmi and wife Tess on hand.

"It's pretty special. I probably didn’t think I was going to get there and I thought last year was going to be it, but I'm lucky enough to have played enough games this year to get there," Hams said.

"It's going to be good on Saturday but this one might be more for the family. Getting to 150 got me life membership and that was my real goal, but this one is going to be special for me to run out with my daughter and do that. 

"I've never done that before and I saw Kris Miller do it about eight times, but this will be the first time for me and it was a big reason to want to get to 200 so we could share it as a family. She might not remember it but it will be special for me and Tess to run out with our daughter.

"I'm pretty pumped that it's going to be at home. My folks are coming up and other family are coming up, and a lot of friends will be there. It is going to be a special day and being my first milestone at home makes it that extra bit special. It will be nice to run out there for one of my last times so it will be something I treasure for the rest of my life."

Aside from his 39 AFL games at the top level, all of Hams' football has been with South Fremantle and as he approaches his 200-game milestone, that's something he takes tremendous pride in. 

"It's something I will look back on in a few years and it will mean more, but you just don't realise how hard it actually is to play 200 games with the commitment required," he said.

"You probably won't see it too often because a lot of the younger guys might hang in there for 100 or so games before going to the bush or amateurs without the same commitment. 

"It's pretty full on with three nights of training a week and a full Saturday and Sunday morning for recovery so a lot of younger guys don't really like that. 

"I'm proud that I've got to 200 games but more importantly we need to get a win. It's a big game for the club and we need a win not for my 200th, but for our season because we still want to finish second.

"It's probably something else that isn’t going to happen too often with you doing it for the one club. it is something I thought about four or five years to give up on the AFL dream and come back to South Freo. 

"It happens everywhere with not much loyalty these days and you even look at the NBA or AFL or whatever the sport is, it's all a big business and most guys play at different clubs. This is my 15th year at South Freo including a year in the colts so that's pretty special and I'm proud I've not gone anywhere else to play outside of the Eagles obviously."

With a career that has had so many highlights, it's never easy to pick out any one moment but for Hams it will always be the 2009 premiership.

His performance that day where he was named best on ground and won the Simpson Medal saw him earn a crack in the AFL and not only that, but he got to share in a premiership triumph with a whole host of teammates who are lifelong friends.

"That game is definitely the highlight. We had the 2005 one too but we were young then and were only 18 as part of a bit of an older crew," Hams said.

"So to be part of it in 2009 with all our best mates like White, McGrath and all those boys to win a flag with them was the highlight. 

"To play with the twin brother again it was pretty special to get two with him, but we were that little bit older and could appreciate it more. That 2009 Grand Final is certainly the highlight."

As the years have gone on, it would be a brave soul to suggest that Hams has matured a great deal, but certainly what is important in life to him has changed.

After seeing Kyle dedicate his life to his young family and move back to Busselton, Ashton now is a father and husband as well, and it's been the greatest thing to happen to him.

"It's been huge, they definitely change your life and all for the good. It is crazy how just last year when we lost the prelim final and you are shattered after the game, but I was lucky enough to have my little girl running through the middle of the boys yelling out 'dad, dad, dad'," he said.

"That brought a smile to my face and made me realise that footy is a big part of life, but it's not the biggest and there is more to life. She is it and she's everything at the moment which is why we can't wait to run out with her on Saturday."

Coming out of the AFL system, it was also a challenge for Hams to find a job that could satisfy him as well but this year he has started working at the Fremantle branch of Clontarf College and it's suiting him right down to the ground.

"It's been awesome, I'm absolutely loving it. I was on camp with 11 boys this week and I'm working with Clem Michael and Phil Gilbert so that's making it a lot easier," Hams said.

"They are absolute legends and make it easier to work there with their support. To see these boys is great and it's only been a short time, but you see their attitudes changes towards school and footy is such a rewarding job. 

"I'm very lucky to be working at Clontarf, especially at Fremantle which is only five minutes from home so that makes it even easier. I'm absolutely loving my job along with footy and family so everything's going well and I'm loving life."