HAVING to undergo a knee reconstruction and come back from a badly broken ankle have made the journey far from easy and a form slump in 2014 had him doubting himself, but South Fremantle defender Adam McIntosh is proud to reach 100 games as he aims for finals success.
McIntosh made his league debut with South Fremantle back in 2011 having had to do a significant apprenticeship to earn that chance under dual premiership coach John Dimmer, but his first stint was short-lived to do a knee injury suffered early in Round 5 against Swan Districts at Steel Blue Oval.
He was back for the start of 2012 and aside from a stint in the reserves in the back half of 2014 and then missing the second half of 2016 with his horrible broken ankle, McIntosh has cemented himself as one of the most consistent and reliable mid-size defenders in the WAFL.
Whether it's doing a strong defensive job, helping his teammates or providing run and carry out of defence, McIntosh has now played his role for the Bulldogs tremendously over 98 games without a finals appearance.
He was out with his knee injury in 2011 and his broken ankle last year when South Fremantle has been playing finals but last Saturday he broke his finals drought and now game 100 this Sunday will be in the first semi-final against Swan Districts at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
Given the challenges he's had a long way and how much the club means to him and how he wanted to make his mark on South Fremantle, reaching the 100 games means a lot to the 27-year-old.
"It means a lot to me to get to 100 games. It has been a focus of mine for the last couple of years to try and get to the 100-game milestone and to get my name on that locker is massive for me," McIntosh said.
"It would have to be one of my biggest achievements outside and inside of footy in my life. I'm proud to have just played one game here, but to now be preparing for my 100th is a massive honour."
McIntosh is now proud especially to know his name will be going on the No. 7 locker to join the likes of the legendary Steve Marsh and most recently dual premiership star Theo Adams.
"Steve Marsh is on there and the other one I know is Theo Adams who was the most recent one. He was obviously a bit of a powerhouse player," he said.
"I didn’t want to go through the club without leaving my name somewhere so having my name on the locker is something that can never be taken away from me. Becoming a premiership player is obviously even more desirable but to get my name on that locker is massive for me and it's a very proud moment."
There were times that McIntosh thought he might not reach the 100-game mark and it wasn’t quite so much the knee reconstruction in 2011 or broken ankle from last year that had him doubting it the most.
It was a form slump that saw him spend the last half of the season in 2014 in the reserves that had him thinking he might not be able to again be a regular league player.
"It wasn’t so much the injuries that had me doubting getting there. When I did my knee back in 2011 I was pretty young so I knew I had time and I wasn’t thinking about 100 games back then, I was just happy to play one and go from there," McIntosh said.
"But going back to 2014 when I was struggling for form and played a bit of ressies footy, that's when I didn’t think I would make it.
"I wasn’t really enjoying footy at that point, but I never seriously thought about giving it up. I've always thought I could get through and I tried to reinvent myself over that pre-season and things have been OK since apart from the injury last year obviously."
The broken ankle from last year has taken quite an effort for McIntosh to come back from though. It was quite the severe injury and with hindsight he probably pushed it too hard to try and get back during the finals last year.
He was desperate to try and play finals for the first time but the pain just wouldn’t quite go away despite his return to training and he subsequently had to undergo two more operations in the off-season to help the recovery process.
The pain was still something he had to deal with early this season, but he has made a strong return in 2017 playing every game and getting back to strong form in the back-line.
"It was pretty tough last year and especially knowing the guys were going to play finals and you'd have to watch when you had never played in a final before with a few hard years there," he said.
"It was pretty tough and even at the start of this year I had to manage my body and I wasn’t playing as well as I would have liked. There were a lot of tough times there but the body has come right now and I have to keep working on my form, and trying to play well."
McIntosh has now built up his reputation as a tough, courageous and consistent defender in league ranks with South Fremantle over his 99-game career, but it hasn’t always been the case and he has had to work hard on the physical side of his game.
"It is something I've had to work on and when I first started playing back in 2009 I was a skinny kid with speed, and didn’t have that hardness about me," he said.
"After 2010, I had to go away and really do a hard off-season in the gym to put on some size to get some confidence that I could go into contests harder. It's something I have had to work hard on to be able to have those facets in my game."
Having had to wait until his 99th game to play his first final, McIntosh is hoping his 100th is a more enjoyable experience this Sunday against Swan Districts and having finals success at South Fremantle would mean the world to him with how much the club means to him.
"It would mean everything and it's been the goal since I've been playing to win finals. It would mean a lot firstly to win on Sunday so I can experience my first winning final and then hopefully we can go on from there," McIntosh said.
"I just love the culture with the guys and coaches at the club. Everything about the club I love being down here. Even when you are going through some hard times, just coming down here takes your mind off it and it's a great feeling here. It really is a second home to me and I know everyone says that, but it really is for me."
McIntosh is also confident that after last Saturday's disappointing qualifying final loss to Peel that the Bulldogs will bounce back strongly at home again to Swan Districts on Sunday with their season on the line.
"We were pretty disappointed with last Saturday's performance. We thought we didn’t play anywhere near to our best footy and it was pretty frustrating because we showed in that last quarter when we do play well, we can put it on the scoreboard pretty quickly," McIntosh said.
"We worked all year to finish top two to earn this double chance and this is what it's good for. We know Swans won't be easy this week, but we are pretty confident we can beat them if we play anywhere near the best. Hopefully we get the job done and we can reassess from there.
"I watched Swans play on Sunday and they had a fairly different side in than when we played them here last time. They played well and showed a lot of heart, but we are confident that if we play our way we can beat any side on our day. We just have to focus more on ourselves and not them too much, and I'm sure we can take the win."