Chance Bateman
Chance Bateman

Chance Bateman will add a special touch to his record-breaking tenure at Hawthorn by becoming the club's longest-serving WA recruit when the Hawks play Fremantle at Launceston tomorrow.

Already Hawthorn's first indigenous player to reach 50 games and first Aboriginal life member, Bateman will pass the great Gary Buckenara's 154-game total.

The knockabout 29-year-old said the Hawks were desperate to seal their finals berth with a win, which would leave Fremantle with a major battle to secure a home final.

While teammate Campbell Brown, son of former football wild-child Mal, was born in WA and has played 156 games, he moved to Melbourne at the age of 10 and was drafted from the Oakleigh Chargers.

Bateman, who is optimistic of soon signing a new one-year deal with Hawthorn, made his way to the AFL via his formative years in York and then with Perth in the WAFL.

While it is obvious the loss of his sister Candace in a tragic train accident in 2001 still cuts to his emotional core, it is just as clear that the incident forms part of his determination to make a difference in his life both during his football career and beyond.

Bateman said Buckenara's revered football status would make his games-played record even more special as he passes the skilled forward, whose goal after the siren - aided by a 15m penalty against Melbourne legend Jim Stynes for running over the mark - famously lifted the Hawks into the 1987 grand final, which they lost to Carlton.

Buckenara was Hawthorn's forwards coach when Bateman was drafted to the club with pick No.48 in 1999 and remains a senior recruiting manager.

"When I first came here Bucky was one of our line coaches and he was a great player," Bateman said.

"You don't really think too much about the milestones as they're coming up, but as you pass them you sort of look back with a bit of pride. I'm our first indigenous life member and to have had a small part in the club's history is pretty special.

"I'd stay at Hawthorn for as long as they'd have me, they've been fantastic for me."

Bateman was Hawthorn's third Aboriginal recruit, following Cyril Collard and Willie Rioli.

Outside the 2008 premiership as a major career highlight, he said he was proud of captaining the Hawks in an indigenous round victory over West Coast at Launceston in 2007 when the Eagles were led by David Wirrpanda.

Bateman said the true sense of worth for Aboriginal players was founded on their family's value and strength and that fact provided him with his toughest times when he lost his sister.

Not even two years into his Hawthorn journey, he was desperate to return home to be with his parents and was shattered when he could not work a trade with West Coast or Fremantle.

But poignant words from his father Paul to show the courage to make something of his life created a backbone for his longevity at Hawthorn.

"When those sort of tragedies happen, your normal thinking goes out the window," Bateman said.

"I just thought that if anything like that happened again, I wanted to be close to my family and didn't want to be caught across the other side of the country.

"I'm pretty grateful that after West Coast and Freo both said they weren't interested, that Hawthorn were keen to keep me. I had a chat to dad and he just told me to go back and be a one-club player because he'd always be there and it was only ever a flight to come home.

"Once you hear that from your family, when they are the whole reason you wanted to go back, you tell yourself to make the most of it. When my sister passed away it was probably one of my biggest lessons in life.

"You try and turn those things into a positive if you can and she's been a major inspiration for my career since the accident happened. Once you've been through losing a sibling at that age and you see how much trauma it causes your family and how much hurt and pain you go through at the time, bad form and injuries in footy are insignificant."

Bateman hopes to use his knowledge to help young indigenous players build trust outside their immediate support networks and also to build easier pathways from remote areas of WA to the elite level of football.

"Sometimes indigenous players can get a little bit pigeonholed as being lightly-framed, very skilful, naturally talented and can get put off their games easily," he said.

"But Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli are two of the best trainers I've seen. When we're talking about indigenous players, I'd like people to not just talk about their supreme talents but also the hard work that's gone before that."

The West Australian

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