Tuesday, 23 October 2018

NEW INTERVIEW: Neil Whyte (EFFC / Applecross) talks about East Fremantle FC's modern-day problems.

Jack Frost1 (WAFL Golden Era website): What do you think explains East Freo's lack of premiership success since 1998?
Neil Whyte1: Many used to say that it was the number of players lost to the draft into the AFL, but this is no longer an excuse as it has been going on for way too long. There was a great crop of talent when I was designing the EF Football Academy conditioning program which started in 2005. My theory is that, if there is significant talent in the pool, then surely there is a spillover that can be utilized naturally at League level. Then it is up to coaching staff to unify the group with a common goal, to set standards etc. What I noticed was the club was not functioning as a team. Staff were disconnected from one another. i.e. I didn't know what the Physio was doing or saying to players and vice versa...he wouldn't know what I was doing either. I was gobsmacked on my first day at the club seeing colts guys doing weight training in the gym before skills training on the oval. Now, in my world as a pro trainer, this is a cardinal sin just asking for trouble. It's a bit like somebody is running a study to see how many injuries could be sustained...how many hamstrings they could tear etc ha ha. The senior coach at the time did not see eye to eye with my approach...especially when I extracted the colts players out of the weights room who had terrible form...and they were being overseen by a strength and conditioning coach!!! David wanted the boys in the gym to put on muscle, but I had to explain to him it's not that simple...and there is a process...and requires an individual plan. Anyway, I don't know how the club has been functioning since I left...but I would say it is still struggling for cohesion based on the results. Overall though...I really don't understand how the club has struggled for many years now. I can appreciate how the facilities are a bit run down...but this has nothing to do with football ability and training...it does have something to do with a certain percentage of players maybe not wanting to play for EF if the facilities are not up to scratch or if people start talking. So I think it is important for the club to either upgrade the facilities or agree to co-lease Fremantle Oval which appears to be an option at the moment.

I would like to add that Australian Rules football training methods can often be 'old school', particularly at WAFL level. The methods I tried to introduce to EF were much more cutting edge, but they were not ready for it. AFL are much more responsive to change and growth. So I also think that, when clubs are not prepared for progressive change, they can be stuck in the same old same old. This is what I sensed at EFFC in terms of its conditioning for its players.

JF2: What was your experience doing the 1991-92 pre-season at EFFC under head coach Ken Judge?
NW2: I was attempting to make a comeback into football after missing five seasons of football. I was 23 years of age. I kept myself quite healthy and reasonably fit, so that was a help. I got into playing drums and music as a teen which tended to get in the way of my sport. I suppose I was gifted with good motor skill coordination that was developing a lot during my teens...I spent a lot of time playing sport (cricket and football) and athletics. I still knew a lot of guys and some of the staff knew me, i.e. Rod Lester Smith, who knew my older brother Greg, who looked destined for league when he copped some injuries. Greg was fairest and best in first year at Colts and was more than competitive against Brian Peake in intra-club scratch matches...in fact he beat him convincingly on at least one occasion. Anyway...so pre-season was going well until I badly sprained my ankle..it was nearly a break...took me a month till I could walk on it again. Ken couldn't understand how long it was taking. Pre-season was your typical Aussie rules 'old school' pre-season training. I couldn't believe that once we were made to do exercises on the concrete in a car park at Wireless Hill, including 'crunches'. I saw players' backs for the next week with red marks down their spines, ha ha. To cut a long story short, I nearly got in the squad after the intra-club scratch matches, but he advised me to play for Applecross Sunday League as they were based at EF Oval. He was going to watch games and, if I was performing, he said he would be prepared to pull me out of Sunday League. However, I never got my Mojo...I think missing five seasons made a significant difference to my feel and spatial awareness. I still had some skill..but it wasn't quite the same along with my fitness level. And I just couldn't get going at Sunday League and get any momentum. This was very disappointing seeing as I had been a strong Junior - I won the 17's competition best player and was runner up in 16's. I was frustrated because I saw players at the club that I used to play with and against in juniors...some had progressed significantly, others not so much.

Neil Whyte (aka Whitey).
JF3: Has East Freo lost that culture of success and how can it be brought back?
NW3: The club has certainly lost the culture of success, and yes, of course, they can get it back. The club has a magnificent history. Going back in history they had a low point in the 1960's for only about six seasons, probably their lowest results ever up until that point, before they bounced back at the beginning of the 1970's. It is a reminder of how successful and consistent the club has been since it started in 1898. In the 70's, 80's and 90's they were a solid consistent club. But it has been an absolutely woeful and humiliating period for best part of the last 20 years (since late 90's). I suppose I see this as a new era and nothing lasts forever mentality. The world is changing and evolving rapidly and I think EFFC is fully immersed within all of this change. I think Subiaco in recent years have developed a winning culture...and hopefully EFFC can develop a similar version in their own style and way in the future.

JF4: Is East Freo's zone good enough now given aging of the population in the traditional heartland suburbs plus multiculturalism?
NW4: It is hard to keep up with zoning because they keep changing it, ha ha. For sure, my area that I grew up in of Ardross, Applecross, Brentwood, Mt Pleasant...was beginning to struggle for numbers even when I was playing back in the 1980's. I couldn't believe that in 1978 Brentwood had an under 18's side, which my brother played for and won the competition fairest and best with. By 1982, Brentwood struggled for numbers and combined with Ardross to form Karoonda, which then eventually changed to what is now known as Booragoon. On another note, I never could work out or find out who was behind changing the quarter lengths from 25 min in 16's and 17's to 20 min which in recent years applies to 14's, 15's, 16's and 17's. It still makes no sense to me...surely 16's and 17's should have longer quarters??? Anyway, I feel the club has plenty of potential talent coming through...it is what you do with the talent that counts. We also have to remember the country regions as well, so numbers aren't the problem. I think every WAFL club will be going through similar circumstances. Of course there are more options for kids now. When I was a kid and teen, there was a strong tradition of Aussie Rules football in winter and cricket in the summer. And athletics was in between. Nowadays it is more diverse including soccer (Perth Glory inspired), basketball (Wildcats inspired), Rugby (Western force inspired), Baseball (Perth Heat inspired), extreme sports (X games inspired) etc. Multiculturalism has certainly played a part in this new movement in recent years with other sports. This has made it much tougher now for funding, volunteers and sponsorships across the board in all of these sports. We don't have a big enough population to allow all of these sports to thrive, and this has been proven to be true. However, there is one massive incentive for parents to send their kids to AFL...their pay is potentially much grander than other sports, and 40 players are listed on a senior list at AFL level. Other sports have much smaller numbers such as Cricket, Basketball, soccer, baseball etc. This is why the AFL have paid attention to attempting to make the game 'cleaner' and less violent to parents to encourage them to play Aussie rules. So the entire issue is quite complex now and extends much further and beyond simply 'aging suburbs'...however, yes, multiculturalism has played a significant role in a changing landscape.

[Note: Neil Whyte started the EF Football Academy in 2005; was the colts fitness coach; and was the fitness coach for development squads. He developed a time-line of development for 14-18-year-olds predominantly. After a stellar junior career (not a Stella career - that would be me!), he played a few colts games in 1984 whilst also playing 17's juniors at Melville. Then he completed pre-season 1984-85 when Graham Melrose was coaching the colts team. At the age of 23, he returned to EFFC and completed the 1991-92 pre-season with the senior team under coach Ken Judge before drifting across to Applecross in the then Sunday Football League.]

Friday, 5 October 2018

ARTICLE: "Did the Spirit of Football die when Roy George moved from Applecross JFC to Karoonda?"

Applecross JFC stalwarts Roy "The Spoon" George (centre) and Doug "Dougie" Stirling (right), 23 years on.
Did the spirit of football die when Roy George moved from Applecross JFC to Karoonda?

Karoonda Reserve, Booragoon.
Back in the 1970s, Perth was still a traditional and very much mono-cultural city. Each primary-school had a local junior football club which was independent of the school but, in most cases, used the primary-school oval for training. It was almost compulsory for boys to play Aussie Rules football in the winter and cricket in the summer (as well as possibly Little Athletics). However, even then, times were beginning to change and a few junior football clubs, namely the smallest ones attached to the smallest primary-schools, were beginning to struggle for numbers. As a result, in East Fremantle Football Club heartland, just to the west of the Canning River, Ardross JFC (with its red-and-white South Fremantle guernseys) merged with Brentwood (with its red, blue, and white guernseys similar to the Footscray guernseys of the early-1970s with one red and one white horizontal stripe against a royal blue background). This merger created an early junior mega- or super-club which lacked the same connection to district as the other junior clubs and the two original merged clubs had. This merged entity was called Karoonda JFC, and it kept the red, blue, and white of the two merged clubs in a new and trendy guernsey design. It was called Karoonda JFC because its home ground was Karoonda Reserve, located on Karoonda Road, Booragoon. Although its players and officials might deny this, it became something of an upper middle-class club because that part of Booragoon had opened up for housing only a few years before and was home to upwardly mobile upper middle-class families. The section of Booragoon on the western side of Riseley Street was even newer, having mostly opened up in the early-1980s. By 1983-84, Karoonda had begun to attract the more serious footballers who were aiming at a professional career, including, most notably, Mike Broadbridge (although it was also his local junior club).
I played for Mount Pleasant JFC (the Mounties) Under-14s in 1982 under the legendary coach Craig “Craigo” Campbell, who was a charismatic and flamboyant Malcolm Brown type personality. He would do unheard-of things, at junior level, like host rowdy and fun players’ teas at his home in Mount Pleasant, a few blocks from the river. I think he needed that male-bonding environment especially because he had two daughters and no sons. However, by Year 10 of high-school (1983), Mount Pleasant could no longer field a team. They may have had an Under-16s in 1983, I can’t recall.
Applecross JFC was going to field an Under-15s team, so I joined up, perhaps recruited by my high-school friend, Roy “The Spoon” George. Applecross JFC, with its red, black, and white St. Kilda guernseys, was also a small club catering only to the small suburb of Applecross which, even then, boasted an aging population and was showing the first signs of gentrification. Under-15s was different from primary-school football, which was relatively even and egalitarian with most players not being too dissimilar to one another in playing skill and fitness; most young people then lived active outdoor lives at least while in primary-school. At primary-school level, all clubs were roughly equal in strength (just as in sprints racing) and any club could pretty much beat any other club on any given day.
By contrast, by Under-15s, a big gap had emerged between those footballers who were fit and saw football as a possible career path and those who were regular smokers and casual drinkers and who were just in it for mate-ship and enjoyment. Players of the first type tended to be attracted to Karoonda while players of the second type were recruited that year to play for Applecross. As a result, there was a massive gap between the quality and ability of these two teams although Applecross had five or six reasonable footballers and everyone who pulled on that underdog St. Kilda guernsey (a poor-performing VFL/AFL club at the time) tried their very hardest every single minute of action. There was one game, Applecross versus Karoonda, at our home ground of Gairloch Reserve (named after an obscure Scottish lake), when the home ground advantage counted for nothing, and Karoonda beat us by about 40 goals to one point (say 40.25 to 0.1 or similar). The great Mike Broadbridge played on the half-back flank and still kicked ten goals against me that day. Years later, I was surprised Mike never made it to the VFL/AFL; I guess a VFL/AFL player would have scored more goals against me! We had just enough players to field a team each week, but we struggled for numbers and so we had to accept even the very weakest of players (and I include myself in that category). We might have gone one or two men short for certain games.
Gairloch Reserve, looking south to Macrae Road.
We had Scott “The Fish” Herring as first ruck-man, and I knew him well from primary-school days at Mount Pleasant; in those days he lived in Davenport Road, Booragoon, and I lived nearby in Hewitt Way, and we would sometimes play cricket and football at the local Layman Park at the foot of my street. In high-school, Fish was one of the tough guys, and a heavy smoker, but he always maintained a good heart and he did not forget primary-school friendships. He had charisma but he also had a good set of values. He was short for a ruck-man at Unde-15s level and I remember him struggling manfully against taller, fitter, and faster opponents all season. Scott grew up in Booragoon and attended Mount Pleasant Primary School so he was one of the very few Applecross JFC players (I was another) who lived outside of Applecross proper and had not gone to Applecross Primary School.
One of our best players was Roy “The Spoon” George, a strong and aggressive key-position player who could play at centre-half-forward or in the ruck. He was a Malcolm Brown / Jason Dunstall / Tony Lockett / Dermott Brereton / Stephen Kernahan type footballer. He was one of our very few players who could have held down a regular spot at a club like Karoonda (which is exactly what did happen, as we will see).
The other Applecross JFC players I can remember are Craig Wright (full-back), Doug Stirling (wing), and David “Blackie” Black. Blackie was probably my best friend in the team, along with Roy, as we had sat next to each other for a few weeks in Science class in Year 9 and I think we were in Photography class together in Year 10.
Craig was a good full-back; reliable, and a strong mark and kick. However, he could not do much to stop the tide of opposition goals as these would be initiated in the midfield and the ball would always be sailing over his head. He was a great kick out from goal; he had a majestic and righteous drop-punt which was accurate and deadly in flight. It would drop suddenly, like an expert’s volleyball serve, and his teammates knew about this and could often mark his kick outs from the goal-square. I remember taking at least one mark from one of his kicks; it was on the half-back flank at Gairloch Reserve in the south-west corner of the ground (the Gairloch Street side but at the Macrae Road end). Maybe that was my only mark for the year! Craig’s kicks could deceive the opposition as they would float magnificently, in the usual textbook way, and then drop suddenly as if shot by a pistol. Wrightie had the integrity of being a guy who had come up through Applecross Primary School, Applecross JFC, and Applecross Senior High School.
Then we had Douglas “Dougie” Stirling on the wing who was one of our top six players without a shadow of doubt. Looking back, I guess we were stacking the back-line which was a common sense thing to do given our team’s shortcomings. There was no-one of quality forward of the wing and especially after Roy left. Doug was slim, fast, and agile; he had pace and was a thinking person’s footballer. It seemed like he was running on tiptoes as he had no presence and could move quickly into empty space without seemingly making any noise. A good comparison would be the Carlton wingman, David Glascott, who was at his peak during the Carlton back-to-back premiership years of 1981-82. The soccer player, Shunsuke Nakamura, who played for Glasgow Celtic, was similar in that, if you watch videos of his goal-scoring efforts, you will see him silently and quickly moving into just the right positions to outwit the defence and score often with a single touch from a teammate’s pass. Doug was in the unenviable position of often getting the ball and not knowing what to do with it as he was always under pressure and we had no-one of any talent forward of the wing.
Roy “The Spoon” George’s departure from Applecross JFC to join Karoonda mid-season 1983 was massive news among our group of mates in high-school and beyond. It caused almost as much of a sensation as when Maurice “Mo” Johnston became the first high-profile Roman Catholic player to join Glasgow Rangers in 1989 (well, perhaps not). It felt, deep down, like a betrayal of sorts. It shook my faith in the spirit of football and the goodness of the world. No wonder that Metallica released an album called …And Justice for All. Applecross needed all the good players it could get whereas Karoonda was already spoiled for choice. Imagine the legendary Doug “Dougie” Hawkins leaving struggling Footscray in the mid-season of 1981 to join a premiership-quality team at Carlton or Tony Lockett leaving St Kilda in mid-season 1985 for Essendon. It felt like that. There was something very depressing, if not morally questionable, about the whole sad affair. It shook your faith in humanity. I played one year for Karoonda Under-16s in 1984 as Applecross didn’t field a team. It wasn’t very enjoyable. Applecross should have demanded a transfer fee from Karoonda for Roy’s services in 1983 and shared the cash out among the players! A free pie and chips and a free ticket to a WAFL game would have been very much appreciated! [By Jack Frost, 5 October 2018.]

Gairloch Reserve looking south towards Macrae Road from Gairloch Street. The view would have been very similar in 1983.
Karoonda Reserve in Booragoon (bottom five pictures). The children's playground replaces the double cricket nets which used to stand here in the late-1970s and 1980s. The club-room is the same as in 1983-84 except for the new section on the far western end which juts forward compared to the rest of the structure (and has no veranda section).

Monday, 20 August 2018

OPINION ARTICLE: "The way forward for the state leagues", by K. James, 20 August 2018.

The way forward for the state leagues (written 2013 with minor updates here and there)

What is the way forward for the tier-two state leagues around the country? The two obvious paths forward, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive, are the “retro” approach of the WAFL and the expansion approach of the Queensland Cup rugby-league competition. A third, out-of-left-field approach would see clubs like Port Melbourne from the VFL apply for and join a competition in another state, for example the SANFL. Obviously this option applies to exceptional cases and not to the majority of clubs in a league. A new issue to have recently emerged (not covered in detail in this book) is the fielding of Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide Power reserves team in the SANFL and West Coast and Fremantle reserves teams in the WAFL. In the WAFL host clubs are presently (as at December 2016) East Perth for the West Coast reserves and Peel Thunder for the Fremantle reserves.

The Queensland Cup, the former Brisbane suburban rugby-league competition, has expanded to include teams in all of the major Queensland coastal cities, not presently servicing an NRL team, including Cairns (Northern Pride); Mackay (Mackay Cutters); Rockhampton-Yeppoon (CQ Capras); and Sunshine Coast (Sunshine Coast Falcons)[1]. The competition has also expanded south-east to the Gold Coast (Burleigh Bears and Tweed Heads Seagulls), south-west to Ipswich (Ipswich Jets), and overseas to Papua New Guinea (PNG Hunters). Toowoomba Clydesdales formerly played in the competition and hopes to re-enter.

On balance, the Queensland Cup has probably been right to follow the expansion course because the Queensland regional cities are of reasonable size (50,000 to 250,000 people) and rugby-league fans in those cities do not have a local NRL team. I recall once watching Central Comets (now CQ Capras) play a Saturday night game under lights within the cosy confines of Browne Park, Rockhampton, where everyone is within 20-metres of the pitch. The club does a wonderful presentation of the whole event there and, with a crowd of around 3,000 people in a cosy ground, the atmosphere is compelling. However, entry prices remain relatively cheap and there is always a vacant seat directly behind the fence for someone arriving a few minutes before kick-off.

Channel 9 televised Queensland Cup matches from 2012 (replacing the ABC) which has provided a further boost for this second-tier league. Television cameras appeared at the grounds of the three north-coast clubs, CQ Capras (Rockhampton, formerly Central Comets), Mackay Cutters, and Northern Pride (Cairns), for the first time in 2012.

Western Australia is a different proposition in that towns in Western Australia are much smaller than those in Queensland (10,000 or 20,000 people compared to 50,000 or 150,000 people) and any expansion club in the former state would probably follow the path of mediocrity followed by Peel Thunder. On balance, I believe that the WAFL competition should not further expand although clearly the Goldfields and Geraldton regions have appeal. Australian Rules football has a long and wonderful history in the Goldfields region in particular stretching back over a century. The WAFC/WAFL hierarchy should keenly study Queensland Cup developments as well as, more obviously, developments in the SANFL and VFL.

I now turn my attention to two interesting 2011 developments involving state league clubs in Hobart and Perth. Firstly, Jason “Aker” Akermanis’ turned out for Glenorchy versus Clarence in the Tasmanian State League (TSL) competition on Saturday night 2 April 2011 in Hobart. Because of the presence of Akermanis this game attracted a record crowd of 8,480 people.[2] It is certainly wonderful to see such an accomplished and decorated player give something back to second-tier football. It is probably because Hobart had and has no regular AFL team that Aker attracted larger average crowds at Glenorchy than he would have attracted had he signed on with a WAFL club.

Secondly, Swan Districts’ players were praised by letter writers to the Brisbane-based Courier-Mail newspaper, Wendy and Darren Schultz of Sherwood, as a result of 64 Swans players arriving via charter plane in Sherwood, Brisbane to assist in clean-up operations after the floods of January 2011.[3] Of course the letter-writers could not refrain from utilizing the expected poor pun of swans taking well to water! The great attitude of the players involved (there are far fewer unmanageable egos at this level of the game) and the fact that Swan Districts could mobilize as many as 64 players quickly suggests that the smaller WAFL club operations can respond more effectively to at least some emergencies than the AFL corporate behemoths. The actions of the Swans club and its players are consistent with the club’s modern (re-)branding as a community-based club with a community ethos. The cleaning efforts got the club some coverage in the Courier-Mail newspaper whereas it would be close to impossible for it to gain newspaper coverage in Brisbane for its actual on-field footballing exploits.

Swans’ act represents existential acting-out of a strategic re-branding which is really just a tinkering and a slight re-emphasis of attributes that the club has possessed throughout its life. The concept of a community-based club assisting a community on the other side of Australia is an interesting one and it suggests innovative ways and approaches for tier-two clubs to carve out niche markets and brand-names for themselves which do not involve fighting head-on the hegemonic AFL clubs. The Foxtel Cup (2011-14) also offered some hope and extra meaning for second-tier clubs around Australia as players and supporters got to test themselves out on the national stage. However, the games should have been played at the clubs’ traditional home grounds instead of as curtain-raisers to AFL matches. With the Foxtel Cup axed the only hope for forgotten traditional tier-two clubs now is a rebel competition outside the auspices and control of the AFL.

To return to the topic of ground redevelopment and rationalization, Subiaco Oval today is a fully corporatized ground, sold out to West Coast season-ticket holders for West Coast home games, and surrounded on all sides by homogeneous grandstands and the ubiquitous, horrible, plastic bucket seats. The once great traditional ground with the atmospheric, concrete terracing, so close to the play on the Roberts Road scoreboard wing, is now a hollow corporate shell and is completely distasteful for traditionalists. As the French philosopher Michel Foucault would have said, the corporate people aim to control, physically as well as psychologically, every aspect of a football supporter’s game-day environs and experiences. They cannot understand that some people like to watch games from grandstands but others prefer either grassed banks or concrete terracing.


[1] Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queensland_Cup [accessed 4 November 2016]; http://www.qrl.com.au/intrust-super-cup/clubs.html [accessed 4 November 2016].
[2] Source: Anonymous (2011a), “Akermanis can still draw crowd”, The Courier-Mail [Brisbane, Australia], 4 April, p. 63.
[3] Source: Schultz, W. and D. Schultz (2011), “Swans arrived at right moment”, Talkingpoint [Letters to the Editor], The Courier-Mail [Brisbane, Australia], 26 January, p. 50.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

ARTICLE: "My tribute to East Fremantle FC of Moss Street", by K. James, 7 August 2018.

I grew up in East Fremantle territory in the 1970s and 90% of students at Mount Pleasant Primary School supported the mighty Old Easts. The East Fremantle austere culture of success and pride was in the air you breathed, you could have bottled it. They probably should have. The East Freo winning culture is now in decline and disarray. I hope it can be restored to its former greatness. I suggest a head coach who played in one or more East Freo premiership teams is what is needed; make more use of the ex-premiership players around the club. What is Murray Wrensted doing now? I'm not saying it has to be him but someone of that profile is needed. A big name from the past is needed to rejuvenate the club. Since Glasgow Rangers appointed Liverpool and England star Steven Gerrard recently the whole club and supporter base was rejuvenated before a game was even played. Robert Wiley was a great player but he played for Richmond and Perth Demons in eras when those clubs were not shining examples of excellence and stability off-the-field (read Mal Brown's book where it recounts how shocked Browny was after leaving South Fremantle to join Perth in 1985).

Here is the section of my book, written a few years back (around 2013), about East Fremantle FC:

East Fremantle Oval, where the aloof hostility and relentless force of the home team and home crowd are matched only by the winds blowing in from the Indian Ocean only a few kilometres away, has always been regarded as a remote and inhospitable place. It was (and is) the most difficult traditional WAFL ground to reach by public transport as it does not have a nearby train service. People were required to either take the low-profile local suburban bus services (numbers 146 and 154 in the 1980s) up Marmion Street from Fremantle or the high-frequency flagship 106 route along Canning Highway from either Perth or Fremantle. Taking the 106 meant walking from Canning Highway through vaguely hostile back-streets to the northern corner of the ground where one was met by barb-wire fencing and the rear of a tin shed. A trip there during the 1980s was the local WAFL equivalent of journeying to Millwall Football Club’s famous Den ground in south-east London.

Given East Fremantle’s great success, as the club with the most premierships won in the WAFL[1] (West Perth is second[2]), a trip to East Fremantle Oval usually meant a resounding defeat at the hands of the home team. East Fremantle had and has an amazing culture of success, whereby anything less than a grand-final appearance is viewed as a disappointment and a bottom-four finish is simply beyond the pale, the end of the world, and totally unacceptable. As an example, East Fremantle’s history book comments about the 1975 season as follows: “What went wrong?” The author Jack Lee cites the club’s magazine Scoreboard which stated: “All sorts of excuses will be put forward for our failures in 1975, but the simple truth lies in the simple statement that we just weren’t good enough”. However, this “failure” was actually a season when the club won 10 games, lost 11, and finished fifth out of eight clubs. Such a result would not have been considered a major failure at some other WAFL clubs including perhaps West Perth which often finished fifth or sixth during its premiership “drought era”. Full Points Footy’s John Devaney comments indirectly on the East Fremantle winning culture in the following passage:

“As far as on-field performances go, the twenty-first century has, to date, been far from auspicious, with the club failing to qualify for the finals every season between 2003 and 2009, and even succumbing to the rare, if not quite unique, indignity of wooden spoons in 2004 and 2006. Restoring the club to what many would argue is its rightful place at the forefront of the West Australian game is going to be far from easy, but the [East Fremantle] Sharks have faced stiffer challenges over the years, and triumphed, and it would surprise no one to see them challenging seriously for premierships again within the next two or three seasons”.

However, Brian Atkinson correctly points out that:
“[T]o balance East Fremantle’s great successes in the 20th century, perhaps reference should be made to their disastrous start to the 21st century. In the first 11 seasons of the 21st century from 2001 to 2011, East Fremantle have only made the finals twice, 4th in 2002, and 3rd in 2010. They have finished 9th (last) twice, 8th once, and 7th three times”.[3]

The only other Australian Rules club in Australia with a similar long-term winning culture to East Fremantle is the club John Devaney has supported since childhood, Port Adelaide Magpies in the SANFL. How the East Fremantle winning culture gets retained and transmitted from one generation to the next, especially in these days of the WAFL as a feeder-league with a high regular turnover of players, is itself amazing. Nearly all football followers in Perth, including me, have total respect for East Fremantle, its successes, its culture, its sheer force and (long term, historical) dominance, and its complete professionalism. For Fat Pam’s West Perth cheer squad to take such a large and organized group with flags and floggers to East Fremantle Oval in August 1981 is also worthy of tremendous respect. This is especially so given that this match was between fifth (WPFC) and seventh (EFFC) on the ladder and West Perth was four premiership points outside the top-four before the game. As it was West Perth only one won more game for the season and finished in sixth position with 8 wins and 13 losses (percentage 77.3%).


[1] As at 26 December 2016.
[2] As at 26 December 2016.
[3] Brian Atkinson, personal e-mail communication to the author dated 19 November 2011.

Facebook comment by Neil GardnerRemember going with mates to games and meeting Hank Cox with his flag as a teenager. He came to every game home & away for years regardless of weather. Everyone knew Hank. His health has declined sadly and he can't get to games now, but my heroes were blokes who wore that jumper and you could go and see them for an autograph after game.

I got the privilege at 20 years old to run water for some of the blokes I worshipped. Now I'm older but still timekeeping and we recently celebrated the 20 year reunion of 1998 premiership teams with 17 of 21 league blokes who played that day attending. Also our Colts and Amateur Colts teams attended as well. Incredible to share that moment. Next year is 40 years since the biggest attended crowd in WAFL history saw Old Easts beat arch rivals South by 33 points in a memorable game. WA celebrated 150 years and Old Easts won that, then celebrated the WAFL centenary in 1985 with another flag beating Subi by 5 points - unfortunately we were away on a family holiday and got home a week after.

The first flag I saw in person was 1992 when the Sharks stormed home in another derby GF to win by 4 goals against the odds.

To buy the book MORE GARLIC WITH THE CHIPS PLEASE: West Perth Football Hooligans 1984-86 by K. James (U.S. letter size, 21.59cm x 27.94cm, £9: http://www.lulu.com/shop/kieran-james/more-garlic-with-the-chips-please-west-perth-football-hooligans-1984-86/paperback/product-23740655.html

To buy the book MORE GARLIC WITH THE CHIPS PLEASE: West Perth Football Hooligans 1984-86 by K. James in U.S. Trade size, £6: http://www.lulu.com/shop/kieran-james/more-garlic-with-the-chips-please-west-perth-football-hooligans-1984-86/paperback/product-23740637.html

OPINION ARTICLE: "The simple pleasures of lower-tier football", by K. James, 6 August 2018.

The simple pleasures of lower-tier football (written 2013 with minor updates here and there, FC United of Manchester still plays in the National League North)

The WAFL is now similar to non-league English soccer (and lower-tier Scottish leagues), far down what in the UK is termed “the pyramid”, where games are run professionally; the clubs have traditions; and the crowds are small but dedicated. The WAFL has lost, for the most part, its army of “fair-weather fans” that used to attach themselves especially to clubs like East Perth and South Fremantle back in the day. The club diehards have remained, by and large, with the clubs except perhaps for some previously staunch West Perth fans disillusioned by the move to Arena Joondalup. The VFL/AFL era has been a real existential test of people’s loyalties. In the WAFL’s Golden Era, people would declare and pretend that they were hardcore fans of this or that WAFL club but in those days the competition was glorious and people’s loyalties were not really tested. Existentially speaking, those 800-1,000 committed supporters of each WAFL club that continue to attend WAFL games weekly have proven themselves to be the most committed WAFL club supporters by their actions. The great, traditional, ex-NSL, ethnic soccer clubs, such as Adelaide City, Marconi Stallions, Melbourne Knights, Preston Lions, South Melbourne, and Sydney United, are now relegated to the Victorian Premier League (VPL) or the equivalent competitions in the other states, and are in exactly the same position as the WAFL clubs.

Montrose 2 Elgin City 0, lower-tier Scottish soccer.
WAFL football is now still very enjoyable, but in a different way, as these days you can spread yourself out, there are empty seats often to your right and left, and the queues for the toilets, food, and beer are small and manageable. The WAFL is now like the Western Australian premier league soccer, rugby, and rugby-league competitions have always been in that the atmospheres can be wonderful partly because you can assume that all of your fellow spectators are dedicated and knowledgeable insiders! If you do not allow your mind to wander into that place of comparing the new to the old WAFL you will find that attending WAFL games today is quite enjoyable.

Interestingly, disillusioned Manchester United fans set up in June 2005 a community-based club, FC United of Manchester, which plays to small but dedicated crowds in cosy, compact stadiums in a minor league (National League North) below and outside the Football League (sixth-tier of the pyramid, five tiers below the English Premier League)[1]. Each club financial member owns one share and gets one vote regardless of her / his financial contribution(s). With an average crowd of 1,969 for the 2008-09 season, up to and including 9 November[2], FC United was then drawing around five times as many people, on average, as the typical club in its division. After moving from Gigg Lane to Broadhurst Park in May 2015, the club averaged a gate of 3,394 in 2015-16, a season-on-season increase of over 57% and the fourth highest attendance in non-League football. The club’s record home crowd is 6,731 people at Gigg Lane, Bury versus Brighton & Hove Albion, FA Cup Second Round, on 8 December 2010[3] beating the previous record of 6,023 people versus Great Harwood Town on 22 April 2006[4].

United FC is an organic and authentic community-based response to the increasing corporatization of soccer and the alienation that now exists between fans and players and between fans and administrators at English Premier League (EPL) level. The grassroots WAFL clubs are the equivalent of FC United of Manchester whereas the West Coast Eagles are the equivalent of Manchester United.


[1] Source: Fuell, T. (2009), “Fans doing it for themselves”, Non League [United Kingdom], December, p. 104; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_League_North [accessed 4 November 2016]; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.C._United_of_Manchester [accessed 4 November 2016].
[2] Source: Non League magazine, December 2009 issue, p. 102.
[3] Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.C._United_of_Manchester [accessed 4 November 2016].
[4] Fuell, “Fans doing it for themselves”, p. 104.
Port Adelaide Magpies supporters, Foxtel Cup match versus Claremont, Subiaco Oval, Saturday, 16 July 2011 (attendance: 1,000).
Port Adelaide Magpies supporters, Foxtel Cup match versus Claremont, Subiaco Oval, Saturday, 16 July 2011 (attendance: 1,000).
North Adelaide supporters (SANFL).
South Fremantle Cheer Squad (WAFL) (formed 2002).

NEW INTERVIEW: Neil Whyte (EFFC / Applecross) talks about East Fremantle FC's modern-day problems.

Jack Frost1 (WAFL Golden Era website): What do you think explains East Freo's lack of premiership success since 1998? Neil Whyte1...