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Cook earns life membership, premiership his remaining goalFriday, July 6, 2018 - 8:26 PM - by Chris Pike

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AS he was racking up individual achievements as South Fremantle captain, all Ryan Cook wanted was a premiership with the Bulldogs and that's still the case ahead of his 150th game that will see him earn life membership.

Cook arrived at South Fremantle in 2011 after being delisted from Collingwood and he had such an immediate impact that he played State football and won the WJ Hughes Medal in his first season at the Bulldogs where they reached the finals.

The esteem he was immediately held in saw him named captain at South Fremantle in 2012 and he went on to lead the Bulldogs in 117 matches to be the longest-serving skipper in the rich history of the Bulldogs.

Along the way, he won another fairest and best award while being runner-up on two other occasions and he represented the WAFL State Team in six of his first seven seasons in the league.

But what was missing for a lot of that time was team success. South Fremantle didn’t play finals in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and Cook desperately wanted to achieve success with the Bulldogs to go with the remarkable individual accolades he was accomplishing.

He celebrated his 100th game in 2016 with a win against Peel Thunder and at that time, his stated goals were to earn life membership at South Fremantle and to play in a premiership.

Cook will now achieve the first of those goals this Saturday when he plays his 150th match to earn life membership at South Fremantle when the Bulldogs take on Claremont in NAIDOC Round at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

It's an honour that means the world to Cook and he's glad to get to celebrate it on home turf.

"I had my 100th here against Peel and I looked at the fixtures this season and it was always going to be at home unless I missed a game along the way. I'm very excited that it will be at home in front of the home fans," Cook said.

"It's exciting. It was eight years ago that I first came over just on a whim for a bit of a journey. And eight years later I'm still here and people say it's gone quick, but it hasn't. It's been good and I've thoroughly enjoyed every season and each season has been different. 

"The 100 games did feel like a while ago so the last few years seemed pretty long. But it's exciting. I've been to a few life members days now in my time here and they are fantastic days. Going to the first one, to see what it meant to each person it was something I wanted to achieve.

"You see the names and faces at the life members days is just amazing and the leaders are now invited to those occasions, and I think it's good they can see what the day is like and feel what it means to so many people. 

"I'm just going to be happy to hopefully finish this game with a win and then forever be able to enjoy the beers on those life members days in the years to come."

For Cook, the club's motto as the Premier Family Club rings true because the South Fremantle Football Club has become the closest thing he has to family in Western Australia.

And his achievements as the longest-serving captain, dual fairest and best winner and now life member will see him go down in history as an all-time great.

"It's just a super special and proud moment. When I first came over I had just been delisted and I wanted to try something new. I had been in the VFL for five years and I just wanted a new experience," he said.

"Once I was told the news that I was chopped, the thought of coming over here was exciting and I didn’t know how long it would be for. But the first time I came down Jaymie Graham and Ryan Murphy were here, I was with Paul Hasleby, Toby McGrath, Craig White and there were just so many names. 

"A few of them are life members too and Hayden North and Josh Head are others who showed me the way early on here. Then they started to move on and there's been a big transition to where we have all these young guys here now and I'm an old, wise head. 

"It's just been fun and to be a life member of this footy club, I have no family over here, so these guys and this club is my family. That includes the coaches, the staff and the fans and board members. We are called the Premier Family Club for a reason, you do get that feeling around here."

So while Cook is now about to achieve life membership with South Fremantle, his remaining goal is that elusive premiership. In those first five seasons it seemed like a lifetime away, but South Fremantle has played off in the last two preliminary finals only to lose to Peel in 2016 and Subiaco in 2017. 

Cook feels that they are now well placed and hungry enough to go further in 2017.

"Subi are out in front and then there's the peloton, which we are just at the head of at the moment. We are aiming for finals, whether we finish second or not who knows, there's still a bit of footy to be played," Cook said.

"I don’t think we've played our best footy yet and I see that as being good for us because we are still trying to put four quarters together. We just need to maintain our efforts at training, keep our standards up and keep pushing each other.

"Two years ago we hadn’t played finals since my first year so we'd had a four-year spell and then things changed. When Curls came in, we had big pre-seasons and nutted out a game plan that worked for us. 

"We were all on the same page with us and two years ago we got to that prelim and lost here to Peel, and got knocked out. That hurt but I suppose it was good to get a taste of it. 

"Then last year the hunger grew again and we got back to the same spot, and I think we were better than the year before but things didn’t pan out again. That one definitely hurt a lot more and has put a spark in us this year. We know what we're in for come the end of the year, we just have to time it right, play our way and build towards that last month."

This 2018 season is only the second of Cook's South Fremantle career where he's not captain. The first was in 2011 when he first arrived and he decided to hand the baton on heading into the 2018 campaign.

He felt the timing was right and that it would work out well if he was still playing to be able to help out young leaders Dylan Main and Mason Shaw.

"I thought the time was right, I was even thinking it towards the end of the year before but I felt I had to put my hand up one more year and lead the boys," he said.

"But it has worked out well and it's gone perfectly with Dylan Main as captain and Mason Shaw vice-captain for this group. They are primed for the role and it was time for me to take a backseat and help guide these guys along. Who knows how long is left for me so the timing was perfect I thought."

While tremendously proud to be the longest-serving captain in South Fremantle's history, Cook still can't help shaking his head that he holds that record.

"Peter Worsfold was the longest-serving captain before me and I had a fair bit to do with Pete when I first came, he was helping out our leadership group the first couple of years before Harro took over," Cook said.

"He is just a great man and so are all the former captains I've met. I learned a lot off Jaymie Graham when I first came down and then Toby McGrath. That achievement is something I do shake my head with and at those life members days you sit back and look around, and just pinch yourself with the guys who are around."