First Grand Final a deserved reward for Bewick

Saturday, September 21, 2019 - 6:06 PM by Chris Pike

THERE are precious few fairytales in football and getting what you deserve doesn’t really exist, but reward for your dedication and perseverance can eventuate and it's hard to imagine a more deserving player to reach a first Grand Final this Sunday than Shaun Bewick.

Bewick will play his 154th WAFL game on Sunday and it will be the first Grand Final of a career that started back at West Perth where he and twin brother Rohan began to continue the rich family history with the Falcons firstly in the colts before he graduated to league level by 2009.

The finals heartbreak began there for Bewick with a first semi-final loss to Swan Districts and then a preliminary final loss to Subiaco in 2011 before he felt he needed a change and if he didn’t find another WAFL home, he'd likely move on altogether.

But South Fremantle and then coach Paul Hasleby came calling and saw a role for the hard-running youngster on the wing with the Bulldogs. While he's played virtually every position on the group across 123 games since, the move to South Fremantle is one that he will forever cherish.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges along the way too including going without finals for his first four season for South Fremantle while West Perth won a premiership in 2013 and reached another Grand Final in 2015.

There have been times where Bewick had to dig deep to reinvent himself and find a way to continue his career too when someone with less character, perseverance and a remarkable work ethic would have taken the easy option and put in the too hard basket.

But that's not in the character of Bewick and that's why he is held in enormous respect by everyone at the South Fremantle Football Club. Now that he has his name etched on the No. 6 locker, it's hard not to be delighted for him to be about to play in the first Grand Final of his career.

The 29-year-old has achieved everything he has during his career though nothing but hard work and dedication. 

He is one of strongest runners at the club, but you only become that through hard work and the fact that he is now among the most versatile players at the Bulldogs he has become invaluable. 

None of that guarantees you anything, but as Bewick knows the end of his career is approaching, the reward to be about to play in a first Grand Final against Subiaco at Optus Stadium on Sunday is something he'll forever treasure.

"It really does feel like a reward for all that time and effort at the moment. After those last three prelims and how we fell short, two of those times we realise they were against very good teams but last year we let one slip and choked to be honest," Bewick said.

"This feels like some reward for the hard work we've put in and it's so exciting to finally have my opportunity in a Grand Final. I've played in two reserves Grand Finals and while they were great, it certainly doesn’t compare to what this week is. 

"It's also a good feeling to get this chance because after I left West Perth they won the premiership two years later in 2013 and then when we lost those prelims the last three years, I probably thought I'd missed my chance. But to be here now I'm just really excited and I can't wait for Sunday."

When he was younger Bewick was quite the stubborn young man and wanted to be a midfielder and was reluctant to think he could be anything else. 

But now 11 years into his career as a WAFL footballer, what he takes pride in more than anything that over the course of 153 games he has proven himself an effective wingman, lockdown defender, attacking half-back, tagging midfielder, ball winning on-baller, pressure forward or a goalkicking forward. 

The fact that he now has so many strings to his bow is a great sense of pride and the total opposite way he felt earlier in his career.

"I was actually having a chat to our assistant coach Tony Walters leading up to my 150th and we talked about the different roles I've had over my career. At the start of my career I used to hate when a coach would tell players they needed more than one string to their bow," Bewick said.

"I thought I was a midfielder and nothing else but in my early days at West Perth I was played as a defender and not with a lot of success, but I still got that experience. 

"Every now and then I would play up forward and I used to hate getting thrown around everywhere but as the years have gone on, certainly at South Fremantle, that's what has saved me probably and prolonged my career. 

"It's certainly made me more valuable to the team I think and while I might not have an impact somewhere, I can always go and play somewhere else. And if we get an injury, I like the fact that I can be the first person called on to go plug a hole or I can be used anywhere really that the coach needs me. 

"It's been a long journey and something that was frustrating at times, is something that I'm so proud of that now I'm near the end of my career that I can say I've played 100 games for South Freo and I have my name on the locker alongside some of my great mates. I'm so pumped that my name will be there forever."

While Bewick has put together a career he deserves to be proud of, it's had numerous challenges along the way both in terms of heartbreaking finals losses including preliminary final defeats at both West Perth and South Fremantle.

There's also been times where Bewick hasn’t been guaranteed a league spot or has found himself with stints in the reserves, and most players when presented with such obstacles pull the pin on the dedication required to continue in the WAFL.

But not Bewick which is why he is so universally respected and ultimately when he looks back even though watching West Perth win the 2013 premiership was tough, the move to South Fremantle is the reason why his WAFL career has continued at least long enough to reach Sunday's Grand Final.

"It hasn’t been tough at all to see West Perth do well without me there, I feel like a South Fremantle person and I always have from the moment I walked through the door at the club, and I always will once I stop playing," he said. 

"When they got to that first Grand Final in 2013 and they won it while we hadn’t played finals at league level at South yet I did have some question marks, but we won a reserves premiership that year too. 

"Certainly I was a little bit envious of my mates who played in a premiership that year but ever since then I've never thought about anything they've done over there. I completely consider myself a true South Fremantle person and am very proud of that."

Bewick has been such a key part of the South Fremantle team over the past four years too where they have finished second on each occasion at the end of the home and away season, but lost three straight preliminary finals before last Sunday.

But the Bulldogs broke through with that win over Claremont to reach this Sunday's Grand Final against Subiaco and Bewick is proud that he can still call the likes of fellow 100-game players Brock Higgins, Blayne Wilson, Haiden Schloithe, Steve Verrier, Zac Strom, Adam McIntosh and Jason Maskos, among others.

Getting to a Grand Final would mean plenty no matter what, but to do it with teammates who for the most part he has been with his entire South Fremantle career makes it mean all that much more.

"It would have been very easy to think it wasn’t going to happen for this group especially this year with the amount of guys that left after last year's prelim," Bewick said. 

"With this group we have now, there's a good collection of guys around my age where we've all played around 100 games and I'm really proud to have played with those guys. We've all got our names on the lockers now and it's something we'll all look on and be proud. 

"Then it would be even better if we can get a flag together to top it all off. I can tell this group of guys are just so hungry and how much we want it. 

"It's just so exciting to have this opportunity and I couldn’t think of a better bunch of blokes to win a flag with and then have our reunions to look forward to for the rest of our lives. 

"The reason it's such a good bunch is why I've stuck around this long to be part of this coaching staff and playing group, and everyone at the club that make it a special place to be. A flag would then be a good reward for everyone."

Bewick will be just one of 20 South Fremantle players on Sunday playing in their first WAFL Grand Final, but he is grateful that they can call on the experience of Blayne Wilson and Nick Suban to help them in the lead up while coach Todd Curley is no stranger to the big stage either.

"I really feel like we are ready. It might be the first Grand Final for most of us, but over the last three or four years we've played in a lot of finals," he said.

"And I know Subi have been in all the Grand Finals lately, but because they've been finishing on top they've been getting those weeks off and have been playing two finals most years, but we've played there. 

"So we certainly have some finals experience even if not in Grand Finals even though Blayne Wilson has played in two Grand Finals and Nick Suban has played in three WAFL flags and an AFL Grand Final. 

"They have been a real driver in helping us know what to expect and how Grand Finals are played. Those two are great in helping us get prepared."

Now that the first Grand Final of his career is so close and knowing that he will get to play in front 20,000-plus people on Optus Stadium is almost enough for Bewick to feel the need to pinch himself to make sure it's really happening.

"I'm so excited about the thought of running out there on Sunday. I remember looking around in the warm up in one of the earlier finals this year when players were kicking goals and I was really enjoying the roar of the crowd," Bewick said. 

"That was when 3 or 4000 people were there so to now take that up tenfold is going to be a really exciting, and a new experience. I've played on Subi a couple of times in those reserves Grand Finals, but this will be a different level and I'm just really excited that I'm finally getting the opportunity.

"Optus is pretty hard to get onto and if this is what it takes to get to play on there, then I'm pumped that we've got into the Grand Final and I can't wait for it and it feels like a bit of a reward to get a once in a lifetime experience."