Horsley learned from the best, now the benchmark at SubiacoSaturday, May 13, 2017 - 9:32 AM - by Chris Pike

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KYAL Horsley had some all-time greats to look up to when he joined Subiaco in 2007 and the biggest thing he learned from them was how important it was to set the example for the younger players no matter how you are feeling yourself.

Horsley joined Subiaco from Kalgoorlie in 2007 and he was immediately in awe of the all-time greats that he was suddenly training with.

The problem was, when he realised that the warm up at training was actually just that, he thought he would never make at this level.

Well he did. And Horsley has cemented himself as an all-time great of the Subiaco Football Club as he prepares to play his 150th game to earn life membership this Saturday in the top-of-the-table clash against South Fremantle at Leederville Oval.

Horsley reaches 150 but big game the focus for Lions skipper 

Growing up in Subiaco's zone, Horsley might have not always followed the Lions but he did by the time 2004 rolled around.

He then saw them win two premierships in three years and by 2006 with Brad Smith, Allistair Pickett, Mark Haynes, Caine Hayes, Aidan Parker, Luke Newick, Ben Keevers, Chad Cossom, Todd Holmes, Jarrad Schofield, Greg Broughton, Blake Broadhurst, Ben Randall, Marc Webb, Darren Rumble and even Matt Priddis were leading the way, and it was a daunting group to begin training with.

What Horsley would soon learn is that those players didn’t rely on sheer talent. They worked incredibly hard and set the training and professional standards of the club which he quickly learned from and followed.

Now a decade later and as a triple premiership player, dual premiership skipper, two-time fairest and best winner, two-time state representative and having played 14 games in the AFL with the Gold Coast Suns, it's Horsley who is the benchmark at Subiaco.

He is now the player for all the youngsters at the Lions to follow the lead of and there couldn’t be any better example in the league.

"I've always had so much respect for Subi. I lived in Kalgoorlie so I was in their zone growing up and they were pretty dominant winning in '04, missed out in '05 and winning in '06, and watching from the outside I had so much respect for them," Horsley said.

"My family actually barracked for West Perth so there was a bit of an alliance there, but when I moved up and got in the inner sanctum of the club, straightaway I felt at home.

"Actually my first thought was that I didn’t think I would survive, I thought I would be thrown straight out the door because of how strong they were.

"But I scraped through and hung on, and to now build to 150 games for the club is something I'm proud of. The players, the support staff and coaches I've had over the journey has been a huge honour to play with and for."

While he quickly found his feet obviously, Horsley looks back to that first training session in 2007 when he arrived from Kalgoorlie, and did have his doubts he would ever make it.

"I came down after Australia Day and the first thing I remember is the warm up, which I thought was the full session," he said.

"I thought we were all done and I was pretty happy with how I went but then I realised that was just the warm up and we had the whole session to go.

"I think I was cramping about 10 minutes after that. I understood it was going to be a lot of hard work, but until you are doing that hard work you just don’t understand how tough it will be. "

Horsley couldn’t help but be overawed by some of the champions he was suddenly training with in 2007. But what he quickly realised was that if he followed their example, he could learn a lot from them and now he tries to set a similar example for Subiaco's young players coming through.

"There was some real legends of the club. Jarrad Schofield was there and so was Brad Smith, Aidan Parker, Marc Webb, Mark Haynes, Allistair Pickett," Horsley said.

"They were all absolute superstars and then playing alongside them, and seeing how hard they work and how good a people they are, you realise that they are better than you ever gave them credit for.

"That was a huge shock coming from Kalgoorlie but they were extremely welcoming and just by watching them, they set your standards which you carry on for years after."

There were several players who made sure that Horsley quickly settled in at Subiaco, but it was hard-at-it and prolific ball winning midfielder Mark Haynes that stood out to him and as someone he tried to model his game on the best he could.

"Chad Cossom, Ben Randall and Blake Broadhurst were probably the ones who took me under their wing and showed me the ropes and made me feel welcome, and explained to me how hard you had to work and what was required," he said.

"But the one who stood out by watching was Mark Haynes. He is probably the best player I played with at this level.

"He was an absolute freak and just by watching how hard he trained, and how much he cared about the team helped me set my mindset on what I thought would make a successful footballer in a successful team."

Having had that amazing leadership early in his career, Horsley is now in his fourth season as Subiaco captain and he's had some remarkable success having never led the Lions to anything less than a grand final appearance.

But he takes his responsibility as a leader at the club seriously and knows that he needs to be setting the example for the whole club along with his fellow members of the leadership group.

"The leadership at the club sits down and talks about how important it is to set the right example," Horsley said.

"Even if you think you're sore and can't really be bothered and have had a tough day at work or have lots going on, we understand that the young guys are looking up to us whether we want them to or not.

"That almost drives us to keep putting in to a level what we think we're capable of. That drives our success and helps fast track the young guys. That is definitely at the forefront of your mind for every training session. Any time you might start to slack off, you remember that."

Horsley is much more than just an inspirational captain though. He very well could be the best and most damaging player in the WAFL still as he approaches game 150 on Saturday against South Fremantle.

But after the knee injury he suffered at the Gold Coast Suns in 2013, he doesn't take any moment for granted.

"It is nice to still be playing OK, but after doing a knee you appreciate every time you play and every training session. You realise that the end is never as far away or as close as you might think," he said.

"I could go out this weekend and touchwood my knee might go again and it might be it, or I might play another few years and be fine. Once you have a serious injury it makes you cherish what you have a lot more and makes you take nothing for granted."

For virtually all of Horsley's entire 149-game career with Subiaco he has been part of a premiership contending team.

He is now in his ninth WAFL season and has played in six grand finals and won three premierships.

He missed selection in the 2007 premiership-winning team so 2010 is the only season Horsley has played where Subiaco hasn’t made a grand final.

That is quite remarkable but Horsley knows it's because of their hard work, not any fluke.

"We work extremely hard for it and the older guys when I first got to the club set those standards with how hard they work, and that's something I have always remembered," Horsley said.

"When I came back, I felt I had to be setting that standard they set. When I retire I'll probably be proud of the sustained success we've had, but at the moment it's a lot of hard work to try and maintain it so it takes of some of that shine of how proud you are."