TO CELEBRATE the 60th anniversary of the introduction of semi-pro football in WA we kick off our series highlighting some of the most notable achievements (by teams and individuals) in those six decades by paying tribute to East Fremantle Tricolore, the first team to win three successive league titles.
The greatest rivalry in the early years of play-for-pay football in WA was between Perth Azzurri (the driving force in the push for change to professionalism in 1960) and East Fremantle Tricolore, two clubs with an ethnic Italian background.
Azzurri won the first semi-pro crown in 1960 under the newly-founded Western Australian Soccer Federation banner (and again in 1962) – but Tricolore stole a march on their major rivals by snaring three-in-a-row championships (1963, 1964, 1965).
They claimed their first title in 1963 on a huge goal difference margin from North Perth, the club which had the previous season switched from amateur to semi-pro status after dominating the old strictly-amateur WA Soccer Football Association for many years.
Ace striker Johnny McInroy scored an astonishing 48 of Tricolore’s 105 goals (including eight in one league game against Britannia) from 18 games. A post-war record then, and still a record.
Their triumph in 1964 was achieved by a 10 point margin over North Perth – but what made it more significant was that the East Freo side had gone through that season unbeaten, winning 16 and drawing two games.
They were the first club to be crowned as unbeaten champions in the new regime and scored 89 goals in their 18 games, with McInroy getting 41 of them. The little Scotsman’s total included a stunning NINE hat-tricks.
The leading scorers in 1964 were: 41 Johnny McInroy (Tricolore); 20 Nino Segon (Azzurri); 18 Rod Reid (Tricolore); 17 Bob Mayle (North Perth); 16 Hugh Miller (North Perth); 15 Jim Jurjevich (Swan Valley); 13 Len Dundo (Swan Valley).
Tricolore took out the 1965 title by five points from Azzurri, with McInroy again in sensational form with 35 goals from 18 games.
McInroy, who was the top scorer in the first five seasons of the new organisation, was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame WA in 1996 and was upgraded to the Hall of Legends in 2005, becoming one of the four original Legends (the others are Gary Marocchi, Ron Adair and Robbie Dunn).
Before the split changed the face of football in WA, McInroy had set records under the old Western Australian Soccer Football Association banner, including getting nine goals in Tricolore’s 12-2 thumping of Perth City at Wauhop Park in 1959. He had been the leading goal-getter two years in a row (1958, 1959), so his five-in-a-row under the new body gave him the crown for an unprecedented seven successive seasons as the most lethal striker in WA. The next best is three-on-a-row by Len Dundo, which he achieved twice (1972,73,74 and 1976,77,78).
McInroy retired from the game in 1966, but three years later made a successful comeback by again topping the goalscoring charts with a haul of 20. He had a one season stay in Sydney but for the rest he remained loyal to one club, Tricolore, helping them to 10 major trophies
Other notable performers in Tricolore’s golden spell in the 1960s were Graham Oughton, Rod Reid, Bob Lynn, Ray Magennis, Pipo Crifo, player-coach Tony Monks, Eric Edmonds, Neil Morson, Henry Marchant and goalkeeper Frank Franken, the father of Socceroos keeper Tony Franken.
Tricolore were champions again in 1970 (with Azzurri runners-up) with Bobby Hynd their top scorer with 33 goals, and they took the title again in 1972. Hynd got 23 that season – and it turned out to be the East Fremantle club’s last league crown. They also won the D’Orsogna Cup in 1972, and again in 1976, 1978 and 1979.
Ironically, neither Azzurri nor Tricolore exist today as senior pro outfits. They merged, along with Balcatta Etna, in 1987 (Bayswater were also invited but opted not to join the amalgamation) to form the club that was initially known as Perth Italia and is now Perth SC.