WHEN Football West contacted the Football Hall of Fame to unearth our finest footballers to have represented the State over a 118-year period, I felt it could be a task that would produce more of a controversial outcome than that of congratulatory.
So, it was decided to split the years into three eras and produce three quality State sides, in the hope it will become easier to choose an eventual overall squad of Western Australian champions.
Given WA’s remoteness to the rest of the country, let alone the rest of the world, it was practically impossible to find senior representative-type fixtures during the foundation period of the sport. Organised football commenced in May 1896 with some 80 eager footballers playing within four clubs. Fremantle Wanderers became Perth’s first league champions, followed by Civil Service, Perth BAFC and Crusaders.
Since some of the early football was also played (albeit socially) in mining towns, Yilgarn side Southern Cross became the first opponents to visit the city for representative type games in July 1896, when the team reportedly had approximately 60 members. They were beaten 4-0 by Fremantle Wanderers at Cottesloe but rebounded to beat a Perth XI two days later.
A reciprocated visit to ‘The Cross’ took place in August 1898 with local side Rangers losing to a Coast XI by a Fred Burt goal. Coast vs Goldfields friendlies continued to be played until March 1902 when the State’s first official State representative match took place at Fremantle Oval versus an English Test Cricket side that had just concluded a tour of the eastern seaboard and were sailing back to England.
The British Football Association of WA secretary Alex Peters, together with their chairman Capt Robert J White, successfully enticed the overseas troupe to take the field while their ship was being restocked and refueled at Fremantle Harbour. Almost 5000 people attended the game that was won comfortably by the visitors 4-0.
Cricket Test elevens continued to be the State’s opposition until they embarked on a successful tour of the eastern states in 1909. Ten games were played including two against the powerful New South Wales team, whereby WA drew the first and were defeated in the second. Overall, WA won three of the games and drew five, losing just twice. An astonishing feat given the teams they played were their first bona fide football opponents.
WA’s first game against a team from Europe took place in 1927 when Czechoslovakia-Bohemia played three games in WA during a tour of the country.
The 1902-1960 period consisted of players of mostly of an anglo/celtic-centric background, until an influx of displaced people from other countries after WWII arrived from around the mid-1950’s. The first-eleven I have chosen consists of three Scots, two English, two Australians, a Czechoslovakian, Burmese, one from Poland and Northern Ireland. The formation I chose, 5-3-2, was consistent in this period.
Alex ‘Sandy’ Marr arrived from Scotland in 1913 and was snapped up by the Caledonian club, who as it turned out commenced official competition that same year. Renowned for his imposing presence between the posts, Sandy made his State debut in July 1920 against an Australian Naval Fleet XI.
Defender Harold Boys became the first West Australian-born player to represent an Australian select side, when they faced the might of a powerful England Amateur team in 1925 at Thebarton Oval, Adelaide.
Another West Australian in the same national eleven was forward Walter Gardner who represented the England Amateur International team.
Frank McShane was a tenacious, nuggety defender with South Perth who was the first recipient of the Ledgar (best player) Medal in 1952.
Mira Ulehla was a tall superlative left-half or centre-half who played for Azzurri, winning the Ledgar Medal in 1957.
North Perth midfielder Con Purser was the State’s only representative at the 1956 Olympics, having made his State debut two year earlier.
Ron Adair is synonymous with Western Australian football since his arrival from Northern Ireland in 1949. He made his State debut just one year later, before going on to captain Australia in 1955 against Austrian team Rapid Vienna.
Wolverhampton-born striker Jack Conduit was renowned for his powerful shooting on goal for Victoria Park. He made a scoring debut for WA in 1927 against Czechoslovakia-Bohemia, and spent a year at English side Blackpool in 1934.
Jimmy Gordon was arguably the most prolific goalscorer in Perth prior to the Second World War, since his arrival from Scotland in 1912. He is reported to have scored over 70 goals in a single season.
Burmese-born winger Doug Stewart arrived in Perth in 1955 after representing Burma at the Manila Asian Games in 1954. He became a double-national representative when he played for Australia against Stanley Matthews’ Blackpool in 1958 and Scottish team Hearts the following year.
‘Joe’ Szymanski arrived in Perth in 1950 and had a sparkling football career with Cracovia and Azzurri. He made his State debut came in 1952 against an Australian XI at the WACA Ground and starred at the 1954 National Championship with five goals.
Stan Eastham was appointed State coach in 1953, having represented England at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games and played in Australia with an England Amateur side the following year. He played briefly with Perth City in 1951, coached in New Zealand in 1952 before a permanent return to WA.
WA Dream Team XI 1902-1960
Alex Marr (Caledonian)
Harold Boys (Claremont)
Frank McShane (South Perth)
Mira Ulehla Azzurri
Con Purser (vc) (North Perth)
Ron Adair (c) (Maccabean)
Walter Gardner (Perth BAFC)
Jack Conduit (Victoria Park)
James Gordon (Northern Casuals)
Doug Stewart (North Perth)
Joe Szymanski (Cracovia)
Frank Franken (North Perth)
Edmundo Faletti (Azzurri)
Syd Hinton (Thistle)
Alex Mansfield (Perth City)
Alan Beale (Spearwood Rovers)
Stewart Johnson (South Perth)
Jack Smethurst (Queens Park)
Coach: Stan Eastham
PIC ONE: Con Purser and Ron Adair. PIC TWO: Alex Marr (left) with the 1938 Caledonians team. PIC THREE: Jack Conduit. PIC FOUR: Walter Gardner. PIC FIVE: Doug Stewart.