JAYDEN Schofield has become one of, if not the best, attacking defenders in the WAFL and as he approaches his 100th game on Saturday he desperately wants to help East Fremantle back to being a powerhouse of the competition.
Schofield could never quite settle his position or find the role that best suited his attributes as a hard-running, highly skilled natural ball winner once he returned to East Fremantle after an AFL season with the Western Bulldogs in 2011 on the back of starring in the Sharks' 2010 colts premiership.
He did play 68 league games but also 15 in the reserves over those first four seasons back with the Sharks and he readily admits that he never really felt settled or confident in his ability to be a consistent league performer.
That was largely because he hadn’t settled into a position or role that best suited him. That all changed at the start of 2016 when Rob Wiley arrived as coach and told him he would be playing at half-back and would be given every chance to show what he was capable of.
The response was a strong 2016 season by Schofield averaging 22.9 disposals across 17 matches and he has gone to another level again in 2017.
The 25-year-old is averaging 26.5 disposals a game and while never breaking the 30 barrier last year, he has done so six times so far in 2017 and been a standout performer in an East Fremantle team that has won just the one game.
Now that he's settled in the role that best suits him as a running and creative half-back, Schofield has never been happier with his football.
"I'm loving it at the moment. Ever since Rob came to the club at the start 2016, end of 2015, I had been in a bit of a rut going nowhere with my football," Schofield said.
"But he said that there was a spot for me at half-back and it was mine to lose, and ever since then I've been so confident in my role. Just knowing I have Rob in my corner and that he has so much confidence in me is great and I just love playing off half-back. It's just so easy to get a kick there, so it's good."
Schofield never felt settled or played a role he was fully comfortable with until Wiley arrived at the start of last season and put him at half-back and left him there.
"When Stav was coach I was never really confident in myself. I was getting beaten constantly and then I'd go out of the team," he said.
"I seemed to always be the one getting dropped which is my own kind of fault, but ever since Rob came in I've only played one ressies game last year when my form wasn’t up to scratch.
"But ever since I've come back and had so much confidence in myself and fellow backmen in playing that role. That running game and explosive half-back seems to suit me pretty well."
Schofield will play his 100th game with East Fremantle this Saturday against Perth at East Fremantle Oval with a host of family members making sure they are there from Geraldton.
"It's definitely a privilege and not many blokes nowadays play 100 games of WAFL or senior football so I'm very proud and humble to be about to pull on the Sharks guernsey for the 100th time," Schofield said.
"Mum and dad will be down, and my grandparents will be along from Mandurah. They are at every game so they support me every week, but mum and dad will definitely be there on Saturday. My two brothers will be there I'm pretty sure and my sister will be as well so it will be good."
While Schofield is proud to reach the 100-game mark with the Sharks, it won't mean that much on Saturday unless they get the win over the Demons and likely move off the bottom of the ladder.
"We just want the four points and to get our second win on the board really. It's not about me, it's about the team. It is something I guess I'll look back on at the end of my career, but this week the focus is all on the four points," he said.
"If we bring four quarters of football we feel we can pretty much match any team in the WAFL. It's just lapses for quarters and 10 or 15-minute patches where teams put us to the sword. If we bring four quarters this week we know we'll be right in the game."
The 2017 season couldn’t get worse for East Fremantle with the 145-point WA Day Foundation Derby loss.
But the Sharks responded well to only lose by three points to Claremont before beating Perth the next week on the back of a dominant second half for their first win of the season.
East Fremantle hasn’t won since, but were strongly competitive last week against Swan Districts on the back of losses to Peel Thunder and East Perth.
The response to that horror derby performance has been a win and another two games the Sharks could have won. Schofield feels they have done well to get things back on track to some degree,
"After that derby pretty much the whole club had a sit down meeting about what has to change and how we can get better," Schofield said.
"That was a player driven meeting and ever since then we had some pretty good one-on-one meetings with each other about how we felt. That was a pretty intense meeting but since then it's been all positive and even though we haven’t won every week, we have seen a lot more positives.
"Our form has been pretty consistent the last four weeks even though it wasn’t great against East Perth. But other than that we've been around the mark and just losing to Swans on the weekend hurt us a bit.
"But we are very confident for Saturday even though we know Perth can play some good footy on their day. We are feeling good about this weekend and looking forward to the challenge."
Schofield had a standout colts career with East Fremantle culminating in the 2010 premiership where he had 14 possessions and two goals in the win over Peel Thunder with coach Steve Malaxos settling him at half-back.
That Sharks team included the likes of Sam Menegola, Aidan Tropiano, Scott Hancock, Sean Henson, Cameron Eardley and Max Duffy.
From there he was drafted into the AFL by the Western Bulldogs and had a good season in 2011 playing seven games at the top level and appearing capable of having a bright future.
But he made the decision to return home and while he'll always be grateful for the opportunity, has never regretted it.
"When I first came down to Perth to play colts, Steve Malaxos put me to half-back and I had never played there in my life. I was always a wingman/half-forward through my juniors but pretty much Stav made me a half-back," he said.
"Then when I was at the Bulldogs I played a bit of half-back and wing, and then coming back to East Freo I played a fair bit on the wing, but half-back is my spot. That's where I'm more confident and I can read the game and I like having the game in front of me from there. I'm totally enjoying it there and that's my spot.
"It's something that I'm proud of what I did at the Bulldogs. I played drafted and played games, not many people out there can say that. At the time it was a hard decision to leave but I made that decision, and have no regrets. Life's too short to have regrets really, but it was a great time of my life and I look back on it fondly."
Schofield has never been happier in his football than right now with East Fremantle despite the one-win season to date for the club.
He remains confident the future is bright and that they will be able to look back on 2017 as the year when they developed back into a WAFL powerhouse again on the back of the number of young players who received opportunities.
"East Fremantle is my home and all my best mates are there. I've got some really close mates at the club and all the coaching staff is right behind me so I can't see myself going anywhere else at all," Schofield said.
"I see our future being so bright. This year is a bad one for us, but it gives us a chance to blood all these young kids. We've had 18 debutants which is a record and they bring so much energy and excitement to the team.
"That gives us older guys a lot of confidence that the club is heading in the right direction. Next year we might recruit and top up with some players, but at least now the younger guys are getting that taste of league football and that will help them in the years ahead. I'm really confident that next year and the years ahead that we'll be a powerhouse again."