"His other great contribution was to build up the self-esteem of fat people by telling them that being fat was socially acceptable and that shopping at Kingsize Menswear was far beyond cool".
|Graham "Polly" Farmer and John K. Watts|
TRIBUTE: John K. Watts was an East Perth full-back in the great teams of the late-fifties at Perth Oval, which featured players such as Jack Sheedy (captain-coach), Mal Atwell, Graham "Polly" Farmer, Ted "Square" Kilmurray, and Derek "Chaddy" Chadwick. This team won for the club premierships in the 1956, 1958, and 1959 seasons; and Charlie Chandler's Tree blossomed every season to acknowledge those great victories. My father's family used to often watch East Perth play in the late-fifties, and my father remembers Watts' fast attacking dashes out from the full-back position which was a playing move years ahead of its time. Watts was a policeman during his years with East Perth (1954-62) and he resigned as a policeman only when he moved to VFL/AFL club Geelong for the 1963 season (one year after Farmer joined Geelong). Overall Watts played 166 games for East Perth from 1954-62; 52 games for Geelong from 1963-65; and 53 games for Hobart from 1966-68. He played 12 state games for Western Australia and two for the TANFL. He was born in East Perth on 21 January 1937 to parents Western Australian Police Superintendent James Albert Watts and Eileen Sylvia Watts; grew up in the heart of Royals' territory in Maylands; attended Maylands State School; and was recruited by East Perth from Bayswater Juniors.
How do I remember Watts? His playing career was long over by the time I started following WAFL football as a seven-year-old in 1976. The first WAFL game I ever attended was West Perth versus Subiaco at Leederville Oval on 19 June 1976. Like most people of my generation who grew up in Perth I remember "Wattsy" from his TV commercial appearances especially those for FAI Insurance and Kingsize Menswear. He was known for his sincere joviality; cheerfulness; good humour and good vibes; huge size especially across the chest; and deep booming voice. He was a figure who probably surprised many by growing in fame and public-profile long after his playing career ended which is not a common occurrence. For most ex-players they are well known for a few years after retirement and then they slowly disappear back into obscurity. It was Wattsy's good vibes and genuine warmth (in an era of superficiality and insincerity) which allowed Wattsy to surprise many people by becoming a Perth cultural and media icon beyond football. With Wattsy everything was from his heart unlike those others who, it is often said in crime novels, have a smile which never reaches their eyes.
Wattsy represented, to many people, both tradition and progress. He had played in the elite VFL/AFL with Geelong but he was probably better remembered for his East Perth playing days in that old era when the WAFL was King in Perth from April until September and the VFL was just a Melbourne suburban competition not much better than ours. He was involved in suggesting East Perth and then a composite Western Australian side (later to become West Coast Eagles) join the VFL/AFL. In this matter too he was on the side of progress.
I should mention one last thing which Wattsy achieved in his last decades. Unlike nearly every other current and former footballer, he was able to rise above the old animosity between West Perth and East Perth (West Perth fans loved him too) and, in more recent years, he rose above the new divide in WA football between AFL fans and WAFL supporters. He was seen as a unifying figure, neither belonging to one camp or to the other camp, but rising above both camps, and joining them together momentarily in unity. In a time when football is divided amongst itself, with few people supporting both AFL and WAFL, he represents that bygone romantic era of unity when we all went to Subiaco Oval on those long-ago Tuesday afternoons to cheer on WA versus the Vics (united in our naughtiness in skipping school and work for the day but doing it all for the love of the game).
Wattsy deserves to be remembered not only for his playing career but for the role he played in the media as a cultural icon for many years. His other great contribution was to build up the self-esteem of fat people by telling them that being fat was socially acceptable and that shopping at Kingsize Menswear was far beyond cool. A non-politically correct icon was the perfect person to deliver such a message [by Kieran James, 17 August 2017].
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