Roger Hayden’s legacy at Fremantle continues to grow with the former player and development coach inducted as a Life Member at the club during the Doig Medal Presentation Dinner on Thursday night at Crown Ballroom.
Drafted as a rookie in 2000, Hayden worked his way into the Fremantle side to make his debut in 2002. He played 128 games as a defender until his retirement in 2011.
Hayden then took on a coaching role at Fremantle in 2012 and has now coached at the club for nine seasons.
Traditionally, players need to reach 150 games to become eligible for Life Membership but Hayden’s Life Membership was awarded after the club considered his significant contribution as both a player and coach.
"I’m really grateful to have been a part of everything at Fremantle for the past 20 years and to get recognised with a Life Membership is something that’s really special to me,” Hayden said.
“I’m so thankful to the club for giving a 19-year-old kid from Brookton, a small town rookie, the opportunity to play AFL football.
“I’m grateful I was able to have this opportunity and that I was able to push through and keep playing through some tough seasons with injury.
“At the end of my playing career, the club took me on board as a development coach, so to be here for 20 years now is something that is going to be looked back on with pride for myself and my family.”
Hayden said his fondest memories came while playing finals, enhanced by some stirring moments with the Freo fans.
“As a player, my favourite moments were playing 100 games and to play in a few finals,” Hayden said.
“The first final was an unbelievable experience against Essendon in 2003. The atmosphere at Subiaco that night was something that I’ll never forget.
“The other was at the MCG when we played Geelong in 2010 after we’d beaten Hawthorn in an elimination final.
“To hear the Purple Army pre-game as we were warming up was a special moment - taking in that support all around the MCG.
“I remember looking at a couple boys on the ground doing the warm-up and it just gave me chills to be honest, it was awesome.”
As a development coach, Hayden said he also cherished seeing individual players make the step up to AFL level and succeed.
“To see these young guys coming through and the ones that look pretty close to making their debut. You see them work really hard and watching them play their first AFL game, that’s a really nice feeling,” Hayden said.
“To see the work pay off and then once they get in, for them to keep going and make a career is something that is really special to me as a coach.”
Hayden said he couldn’t have navigated his 20 years involved with the AFL without the support of his family.
“My family has been a big part of everything, the support they’ve shown me throughout my whole time at Fremantle has been unwavering and they’ve got me through a lot of tough moments,” Hayden said.
“When I was hit with injury as a player, they’re there to take my mind off it when I get home. They help me to work through it and inspire me to get back and play.
“I can’t thank them enough, especially my wife and my boys, Mum and Dad and my brothers and sisters.”