Long journey for Wulff

John Townsend
Craig Wulff. Picture: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian

Craig Wulff's bid to become one of the most experienced first-time premiership players in WAFL history was inspired by his minor role in East Perth's 2002 flag triumph.

The Royals captain was in his first season in 2002 when East Perth completed their premiership hat-trick.

"I was 18 and only played four matches that year," he said.

"I wasn't in the best 22. But if I hadn't gone through the experience of watching them win that season, I don't reckon I would be here today.

"Seeing how much fun they had in winning that flag spurred me on to chase the same dream."

Wulff was yesterday cleared to play his 225th senior match in the grand final against West Perth on Sunday when he accepted a reprimand for rough conduct against Claremont's Jesse Laurie in the preliminary final.

Wulff will become the WAFL's third-most experienced maiden winner if East Perth triumph.

Stan Nowotny was in his 256th match when Swan Districts won the 1982 flag and Austin Robertson played his 230th game when Subiaco ended their 49-year premiership drought in 1973.

"If someone said that you had to play 220-odd games before you got to play in a WAFL grand final you would think they were joking," Wulff said. "It would be a fairytale to win it."

Wulff is 30 but remains one of East Perth's pivotal driving forces whose enthusiasm and commitment is an inspiration.

A late bloomer who made his State debut last year and was part of the team that beat Victoria this season for the first time since 1991, Wulff revealed that winning a flag would surpass even that memorable achievement.

"I am not taking anything away from State footy but this is the one I really want," he said.

Claremont premiership players Ian Richardson, Mitch Andrews and James Thomson will have next season off to travel overseas while seven veterans - Andrew Browne, David Crawford, Andrew Foster, Trinity Handley, Chad Jones, Paul Medhurst and Byron Schammer - are poised to retire.

Goal umpire Lauren French has been axed from the grand final line-up after her erroneous decision to pay East Perth's Mat Seal a goal in the first quarter on Sunday. Replays showed the ball came off the boot of Claremont defender John Williams.

Field umpires Stuart Parry, Justin Orr and Scott McPhee have been appointed to the grand final.