DURING his early struggles at the Essendon Football Club, 200 games felt like a lifetime away to Sydney Swans defender Ted Richards.

In five years on Essendon's list, Richards managed just 33 games.

"Going by that ratio," he said, "it was going to take a long time to make 200."

He lived in constant fear of the dreaded tap on the shoulder letting him know he'd been dropped once again, and at that stage, 200 games seemed virtually impossible.

"I didn't think I was going to make 50 games, let alone 200," he recalls.

Forced to face his footballing mortality a number of times both as a Bomber and a Swan, Richards decided he wouldn't die wondering.

He put his head down, committed himself to the cause, and on Saturday night against Collingwood, Richards will bring up the milestone.

"It was a massive thrill earlier in the year to play my 150th for the Swans and get life membership here, but 200 games is really exciting," he said.

"It took me five years at Essendon to play 33 games.

"Even in my first year at Sydney I played a fair bit of football, but still had some hiccups along the way and was dropped in my first year.

"At times I didn't know if I was just going to get the one contract here or have a longer career."

No fewer than 70 games in his first three years as a Swan was a remarkable return considering his early troubles, but he wasn't out of the woods just yet.

In 2010 Richards was again at the crossroads, stuck in the reserves and out of contract at the end of that season.

But an injury to Craig Bolton opened the door to his return to the senior side and three years on he can now call himself a premiership player and an All Australian, two honours he captured last season.

Despite his success, however, that fear of failure has never left.

"That habit had set in from my time at Essendon," he said.

"It was just one, two, or three games together at Essendon and then a bit of time in the twos.

"I really had to get over that looking over my shoulder.

"I think it's healthy to play with desperation every week and you want to earn your spot, that's healthy, but you don't want to be too hard on yourself.

"I remember a quote from Robert Harvey, who played 300 games but at no stage did he feel like he wasn't one or two games away from being dropped.

"That's something I still apply to my game now."

Harvey, in fact, played 383 games and it's fair to say that sort of figure is out of Richards' reach.

But he is now one of the first Swans picked every week and is a real favourite of coach John Longmire, who spoke earlier this week of his admiration for Richards' perseverance.

You would think his current standing and some of his recent accolades would allow Richards to stop being quite so hard on himself.

While he is clearly more comfortable, the 30-year-old remains his own biggest critic, stating this season hasn't been as consistent as the form he displayed in 2012.

But he knows there is still time as the Swans gear up for the business end of the year, starting with a date with Magpie spearhead Travis Cloke at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

"I've been pretty hard on myself because I've got that expectation that I want to be at my best every week," he said.

"I haven't been up to the same level I was at last year.

"In patches I think I've still played some good footy, but just like every player in the AFL wants to be at their best every week, that's the pressure I'm putting on myself.

"At round 20, I really want to be playing good football for the team right now."