Australian Football Celebrating the history of the great Australian game


South Fremantle

For almost a decade after the second world war South Fremantle had indisputably the finest team in the WANFL. Indeed, so consistently successful were they when pitted against interstate opposition that a good argument could be made for their also being the strongest team in Australia at that time.

During the ten year period from 1945 to 1954, South won six premierships and were runners up twice, finishing third and fourth on the other two occasions.

In 1948, the club undertook a three-week tour of the eastern states during which victory was achieved in all four matches played, against a combined Goldfields team (by 16 points), a combined Collingwood-Fitzroy side (by 54 points), Canberra (by 29 points), and New South Wales (by 36 points). Three years later, crack VFL team Collingwood went under by 39 points at Subiaco, a fate which was shared by Footscray in 1953 (by 46 points), and Carlton in 1954 (by 19 points). Even more impressive were victories in 1954 over a South Australian No.2 state side in Adelaide by 7 points, and over Collingwood in Melbourne by 20 points. The general consensus in Victoria at the time was that, although perhaps lacking somewhat in the height and weight divisions, South Fremantle would more than hold their own in the VFL. Whether or not this is true is of course impossible now to verify, but what can not be doubted is that, during the first decade or so after world war two, South Fremantle boasted an extremely accomplished side indeed.

Unfortunately, the remainder of the history of the South Fremantle Football Club has been nowhere near as illustrious, and South’s overall total of thirteen flags is comfortably exceeded by three other clubs and matched by one. Nevertheless, a club’s reputation does not rest exclusively on its tally of premierships, and down the years South have carved out a unique identity for themselves which is based as much on intangible attributes like determination and fighting spirit as on the tangible evidence of success such as premierships and medals won.

early struggles

The South Fremantle Football Club came into existence in 1900, in part from the remnants of the Fremantle Football Club which, because of escalating debts, had just been forced to disband after more than a decade as arguably Western Australia’s premier club.

South Fremantle’s first ever match took place on 26th May 1900 against East Fremantle. Press reports indicate that South Fremantle’s team was essentially the same as that which had ended the previous season wearing Fremantle colours. It was not an auspicious start, however, as East Fremantle won by 26 points, 5.7 (37) to 1.5 (11).

Any thoughts that the newcomers would prove easy pickings were quickly dispelled, though. A week later South Fremantle downed reigning premiers West Perth 6.15 (51) to 5.10 (40) and for the remainder of the season the Southerners proved competitive but not quite good enough to wrest the premiership from their near neighbours and soon to be arch rivals, East Fremantle.

The admission of North Fremantle and Subiaco to the competition in 1901 brought the number of competing sides to six and, for a while at least, assured South Fremantle of at least four easy wins each season. Despite this, East Fremantle and West Perth in particular regularly proved to have the Southerners’ measure, and indeed for three seasons from 1902-4 even finals participation proved unattainable.

The 1905 season saw Midland Junction enter the WAFA and South enjoyed their best campaign to date, heading the ladder after the home and away season with 15 wins from 17 matches. However, a semi final loss to West Perth brought the season to a premature and highly unsatisfying conclusion.[1]

Despite its competitiveness on the field, South Fremantle was in dire trouble off it, and in 1908 it seemed certain that, owing to heavy debts, the club would go the same way as its predecessor, Fremantle. However, following an emergency meeting the club members and supporters dug deeply into their pockets and sufficient money was raised to enable the club to continue.

Ultimate success still proved elusive, however, and South remained essentially a middle of the road side until 1914 when they reached their first ever challenge final, only to lose to East Fremantle.

a long awaited breakthrough

It took another two years before South Fremantle had a team capable of going all the way, but for some time prior to the start of the 1916 season there appeared to be every prospect of the club being forced to go into abeyance because of a lack of players. Fortunately, there was an upsurge in interest as the season approached and, after some patchy form during the first few matches, the team’s performances improved dramatically. South Fremantle qualified for the challenge final by virtue of victories over West Perth by 21 points in a semi final and minor premiers East Fremantle in the final. East Fremantle provided a sterner challenge in the flag decider, but once again South proved to have their measure. Final scores were South Fremantle 7.12 (54) to East Fremantle 5.5 (35) with the victors best served by centre half back Frank Collins, centreman Norm McIntosh, half back flankers Gordon Tuxford and ‘Bonny’ Campbell, and ruckman Hector Groom.

South’s dominance continued in 1917 as the side finished the minor round second on percentage to East Fremantle before outpointing Subiaco in the semi final and ‘Old Easts’ in both the final and challenge final to take out the premiership in impressive style. The challenge final was a low scoring affair played in wet, windy conditions, and:

In kicking, system, combination and all the main departments of the game South were masters of their opponents. They played solid, wet weather tactics all through and they profited accordingly.[2]

Best for South Fremantle in the 1917 challenge final included followers Hec Groom and Mick Kenny, half back flanker ‘Nashy’ Brentnall, half forward flanker Bill Whiteley, and rover Charlie Stewart.

South Fremantle’s 1918 campaign ended on a demoralising note with a 65 point semi final loss to East Perth, and this defeat signalled the onset of a frustrating twenty-nine year run during which the club were consistently ‘thereabouts’ but never ‘there’.

The 1920s turned out to be a topsy-turvy decade for South. The club made the finals on seven occasions but also suffered the ignominy of finishing last in both 1920 and 1925. South also had to endure the embarrassment of being the first side to lose a match to newcomers Claremont-Cottesloe, which entered the league in 1926. On 7th August that year the fledgling side achieved victory by the narrowest of margins, 7.11 (53) to 7.10 (52).

The 1926 season also saw South Fremantle undertake a tour of the eastern states but the era of the club’s invincibility in interstate football was still to come, and both matches played - against Fitzroy and Port Adelaide - ended in defeat.

The 1930s opened promisingly with consecutive finals appearances in 1930-1-2, but the next five years brought only 42 wins from 116 matches, a wooden spoon in 1936, and no further taste of the September action. The 1930s saw club nicknames become fashionable and for a time South Fremantle gloried in the inspiring label of ‘Seaside Reds’ (as distinct from Perth, who were known, equally imaginatively, as the ‘City Reds’).

By 1939 South Fremantle once again had a side capable of matching it with the best but a lack of big game experience proved to be their undoing as they went down by 19 points to East Perth in a high scoring first semi final. The following year, however, a 19.16 (130) to 17.13 (115) second semi final victory over Claremont earned the team justifiable premiership favouritism for the grand final re-match a fortnight afterwards. Alas, however, it was not to be, as a combination of injuries to key players and poor kicking for goal gave Claremont the edge in a closely contested game. Final scores were Claremont 13.13 (91) to South Fremantle 9.20 (74) before a crowd of 19,876.

The 1941 season saw the debut of eighteen year old full forward Bernie Naylor who would go on to amass in excess of 1,000 goals in a 194 senior game career which went on until 1954 (with a three year gap when the WANFL senior competition went into abeyance because of the war). Naylor managed a comparatively modest 60 goals during his debut season but gave a better indication of what was to come when he booted 9 of South’s 15 first semi final goals in a 17 point win over Claremont. The side managed a further 15 goals in the preliminary final a fortnight later but became only the second team in WANFL history up to that stage to register 100 points in a finals game and still lose. East Fremantle won by 39 points, 21.13 (139) to 15.10 (100), but went down in the grand final to West Perth.

"one of the most impressive concerted spells of success ever managed by a major club"

South Fremantle’s record during the under age competition which the WANFL conducted from 1942-4 was poor (sixth out of seven clubs in 1942, and last of eight in both the following seasons) and did not engender confidence for the resumption of the ‘real stuff’ in 1945. Unknown to everyone, however, South were about to embark on the greatest decade in their history, indeed on one of the most impressive concerted spells of success ever managed by a major club anywhere in Australia.

Despite being without Bernie Naylor, who was still to return from military service, South Fremantle played excellent football for much of the 1945 season to finish the home and away rounds in third spot with 12 wins from 20 matches. Rover Steve Marsh, in his debut season, was especially prominent, as were ruckman Jack Reilly (who was named club fairest and best), centreman Harry Carbon, centre half back ‘Scranno’ Jenkins, and second ruckman cum full forward Alby Higham.

In the first semi final South Fremantle played all over Swan Districts to win by 44 points, and when they repeated the dose in the preliminary final against West Perth they had a lot of people tipping them as likely premiers. However, on grand final day South’s local rivals East Fremantle proved much too accomplished, winning with ease by 36 points, 12.15 (87) to 7.9 (51). South Fremantle’s era of greatness still lay a couple of years in the future.

Had the side been capable of kicking straighter in the 1946 first semi final, however, that era of greatness might well have arrived sooner; Subiaco downed the Seaside Reds by 3 points, 16.4 (100) to 14.13 (97), after South had squandered numerous comparatively easy scoring opportunities late on. Given that Bernie Naylor topped the league goalkicking list for the first time that year with 131 goals, the failure to convert is all the more surprising.

Naylor booted another ton the following year, and this time his team mates came to the party too, as the side won 16 out of 19 home and away games to head the ladder comfortably going into the finals. Included in those 16 wins was a 4 point triumph over East Fremantle at Fremantle Oval in round four which brought to an end a WANFL record 35 consecutive wins by the easterners. A then record minor round crowd of 17,538 was treated to an absorbing tussle during which there were never more than a couple of goals separating the sides.

In the finals, South were twice confronted by West Perth, winning impressively by 43 points in the second semi, but failing to play to full potential two weeks later when the margin of victory was a somewhat disappointing (from a South Fremantle point of view) 15 points, after the Cardinals had led by 17 points at the final change. Nevertheless, over the course of the entire season South Fremantle had clearly been the dominant side in the competition, as was evidenced by the fact that, in addition to the premiership, the club provided both the top goalkicker in the shape of Naylor and the Sandover Medallist in the person of Clive Lewington.

Best players for South in their 13.8 (86) to 9.17 (71) grand final triumph watched by 25,112 spectators included wingman Eric Eriksson (Simpson Medal), rover Steve Marsh, follower Percy Renfrey, ruckman Jack Reilly, centre half back ‘Scranno’ Jenkins and wingman Frank Price.

Many observers have nominated South Fremantle’s 1948 combination as the finest in the club’s - some would say Western Australian football’s - entire history, but despite this they still only managed to finish the home and away rounds in second place behind West Perth. The second semi final was not without its problems either as West Perth led at half time by 20 points before a strong second half surge saw the red and whites home by eight points. The grand final re-match, watched by a crowd of 28,660, was tough going also as South somehow managed to surrender a 32 point long break lead to turn around at lemon time 3 points adrift. With the game there to be won, however, the side lifted, and strong performances from Simpson Medallist Doug Ingraham on the ball, half forwards Laurie Green and Jack Murray, ruckman Jack Reilly, centreman Clive Lewington and follower Don Wares brought a 13.9 (87) to 8.15 (63) win.

A rash of injuries to key players in 1949 brought a slump to third place but South opened the 1950 season with 15 consecutive wins and went on to take out the minor premiership. The second semi final saw another ‘Clash of the Titans’ against West Perth, but on this occasion the Cardinals played more like altar boys as South eased their way to a 27-point win. It was a vastly different story a fortnight later against surprise grand finalists Perth, though, as South almost managed to kick themselves out of the contest before a late goal from Wares brought victory by a single straight kick. Perth led 11.10 to 8.19 at three quarter time with South adding 4.4 to 2.1 in the final term to snatch victory. Captain-coach and centreman Clive Lewington won the Simpson Medal for best afield, while rover Steve Marsh, wingman Eric Eriksson, half back flanker John Crook, ruckman Don Wares and half forward flanker Alby Western were also prominent.

South reached another grand final in 1951 only to succumb to West Perth by 3 points after a late rally just failed to bring victory. Shortly after the grand final, South trounced VFL finalist Collingwood 22.9 (141) to 15.12 (102) at Fremantle Oval causing Magpie coach Phonse Kyne to concede that “South Fremantle would hold their own in Victorian football”.[3]

The period 1952-4 ranks as the most illustrious in South Fremantle’s history. Bernie Naylor broke George Doig’s fifteen year-old WANFL record of 144 goals in a season when he booted 147 for the year in 1952 as South bounced back after a losing second semi final against West Perth to win their sixth pennant. A 36-point preliminary final victory over Claremont set up the grand final re-match with the Cardinals which saw South Fremantle trail by 27, 30 and 16 points before getting up to win by 21 points, 12.19 (91) to 10.10 (70). Follower Des Kelly got the Simpson Medal, with rover Steve Marsh (4 goals), wingman Tony Parentich, ruckman Norman Smith, full forward Bernie Naylor (4 goals) and utility Colin Boot also performing well. A crowd of 27,201 watched the game.

When the Cardinals turned the tables on South in the opening fixture of the 1953 season a number of so called ‘experts’ were quick to write off the reigning premiers. The facts that the defeat had only been by 3 points and that early season form, in almost any sport, is notoriously unpredictable were conveniently overlooked. In round two, South annihilated Subiaco 30.17 (197) to 5.6 (36) and then proceeded to rack up a further 16 consecutive wins before losing another tight one to East Perth by 7 points. Again, fickle observers were quick to suggest that the red and white bubble had burst, but the side went through the remainder of 1953 unbeaten and many of those same observers were among the first to proclaim South Fremantle one of Western Australia’s greatest ever teams at season’s end.

In the second semi final South Fremantle nudged past West Perth by 11 points but when the teams next faced one another a fortnight later the southerners produced arguably the finest grand final performance in their history up to that point to win by nearly 10 goals, 18.12 (120) to 8.13 (61). Rover Steve Marsh produced his customary grand final effervescence to take out the Simpson Medal, while full forward Bernie Naylor netted 8 goals to take his tally for the season to a staggering 167 - easily a new record for the major football states. Others to shine for South Fremantle in a match variously described as being watched by 34,207 and 31,610 spectators included ruckman Norm Smith, wingman John Colgan, centreman Tony Parentich and back pocket Don Dixon.

Shortly after the grand final South two exhibition matches against third ranked VFL side Footscray, winning by 46 points at Subiaco, and going down by 9 points in a much less intense encounter a few days later at Bunbury. The club embarked on another eastern tour in 1954 during which wins were achieved against a South Australian No.2 side 8.13 (61) to 8.6 (54) in Adelaide and reigning VFL premiers Collingwood 12.10 (82) to 7.20 (62) in Melbourne. Domestically, however, the team struggled to attain the standards of the previous couple of seasons, and 14 wins from 20 was only good enough for third spot on the ladder. Once the finals got underway though the red and whites’ experience came to the fore and comfortable wins over Perth (47 points) and West Perth (24 points) set up a fifth consecutive grand final appearance, this time against local rivals East Fremantle.

If South’s 1953 premiership winning performance had been impressive, the 1954 showing was positively awesome. Watched by either a new WANFL grand final record crowd of 36,098, or slightly less than the old record at 33,464 (depending on which media source you go on), the southerners actually appeared in trouble early on and trailed by 20 points at the first change. However, thereafter they methodically rattled up 18 goals to 3 to win with considerable comfort by 78 points, 21.14 (140) to 9.8 (62). Half forward flanker Charlie Tyson won the Simpson Medal with other strong displays coming from rover Steve Marsh - as ever - full forward Naylor (7 goals for a season’s tally of 133), half back flankers Treasure and Crawford, and ruckman Smith.

A 14.9 (93) to 10.14 (74) end of season win over Carlton at Subiaco lent further substance - if it were needed - to the claim that South Fremantle was, at this particular point in time, the strongest club side in Australia.

“a felicitous combination of interlocking circumstances”

The claim could not be made for much longer, however. In 1955 South ended the minor round with a series of resounding wins to once again top the ladder but then, inexplicably, their season collapsed in a heap. Perhaps over confidence was to blame, or perhaps, as sometimes happens, the side had simply lost the all consuming hunger to succeed which most champion teams seem to possess. In any case, whatever the reason, consecutive finals losses to East Fremantle (by 19 points) and Perth (12 points) have to be seen as representing the end of an era. Nevertheless, South’s decline was not immediate. Indeed, the side managed to reach the 1956 grand final against East Perth, but in front of a crowd of 34,959 the Royals were always in control before a late surge by the southerners reduced the final margin to a comparatively respectable 13 points.

In 1957, South Fremantle missed contesting a finals series for the first time since the end of the second world war and the glory days were well and truly over.

The next decade and a half was a time of persistent mediocrity interspersed with occasional glimmers of promise. The WANFL during the 1960s was a highly competitive and fairly even competition in which significant fluctuations in fortune from one season to the next proved fairly commonplace. Transformations such as those of Swan Districts and Claremont which went from wooden spooners to premiers in 1960-61 and 1963-4 respectively gave supporters of other clubs hope, but sadly South Fremantle appeared to be immune to the yo-yo syndrome, remaining firmly in the category of also-rans throughout the decade.

Things would eventually change, however. The 1969 season produced South’s fourth wooden spoon of the sixties and there appeared to be little on the horizon to promote cheer. However, thanks to what the club’s official history described as “a felicitous combination of interlocking circumstances”,[4] the 1970 season brought a dramatic reversal of fortunes, on a par with those experienced earlier at Bassendean and Claremont Ovals.

Briefly, the circumstances in question were:

  • the ‘delayed benefits’ accruing form the coaching methods of former Melbourne veteran Hassa Mann; appointed coach in 1969 after a ten season 178 game VFL career Mann took some time to get the players on his wavelength, but once he did the effect was significant;
  • the intensive (and quite innovative by WANFL standards) pre-season fitness campaign engaged in by the players under the supervision of professional fitness advisor Rodney Rate;
  • the arrival of former Collingwood and Preston player Len Clark;
  • the return of former player John O’Reilly after eight seasons in the VFL with Carlton and Footscray;
  • the rapid and marked improvement shown by youngsters such as Danny Civech (who won the 1970 club best and fairest award), Tony Ryan and Don Haddow.

Notwithstanding all of this, during the home-and-away season South Fremantle had to accept second billing to Perth, which defeated South in all three home and away meetings and finished a game clear at the head of the ladder going into the finals. However, once there the Bulldogs, as South Fremantle were by this stage popularly known, exhibited the full scope of their abilities, downing the Demons by four points in the second semi final and overwhelming them 15.7 (97) to 6.18 (54) a fortnight later in the ‘big one’ before a crowd of 40,620.

The press were generous in their acclaim:

There is little doubt that the pre-match attitude of the rival teams had a bearing on the result. South, whose last grand final appearance was in 1956, were at fever pitch in the days leading up to the game. But for Perth (premiers 1966-68), the novelty of grand final football had worn off .[5]


South showed that their vulnerability in adverse conditions was a myth when they mastered conditions that were thought to favour Perth, turning the second half of the grand final into a runaway victory .[6]

The Simpson Medal went to rover Brian Ciccotosto for a display of “courageous defensive roving”,[7] with sterling performances also coming from half back flanker Danny Civech, centre half back ‘Big Tom’ Grljusich, centreman Don Haddow and ruck rover John Dennis.

The 1970 premiership did not spark a major run of success, however. Indeed, just two seasons after winning the flag the club was back at rock bottom managing only 6 wins for the year and collecting another wooden spoon. Even when things improved during the middle years of the decade ignominy was close at hand. In 1975 the Bulldogs played off in the grand final against old rivals West Perth but were on the end of a WANFL grand final record 104 point hiding. There were further finals humiliations in store. In 1976 Perth ousted South from premiership contention in the preliminary final by nearly 10 goals, while two years later, in Malcolm Brown’s first season as coach of the Bulldogs, East Perth almost doubled the dose, winning by no fewer than 112 points at the same stage. A 20 point victory over Claremont in the 1979 second semi final teed up a mouth-watering ‘derby’ grand final against East Fremantle, but once again the gods were not smiling on South. The Sharks won 21.19 (145) to 16.16 (112) before a record crowd of 52,781 and no one at Fremantle Oval derived any consolation from the rapturous accolades bestowed on both teams in post-match media analyses.

A year later the disappointment was forgotten as South covered themselves in glory on grand final day with an emphatic 58 point victory over Swan Districts. Throughout the 1980 season it was clear that South and Swans were easily the best sides in the competition. Swan Districts opened the season with 13 consecutive wins but significantly it was the Bulldogs who brought their run to an end with an 11.21 (87) to 10.8 (68) triumph at Bassendean. South finished the season on a high with 12 successive victories before disposing of Swan Districts by 10 points in a hard fought second semi final. A crowd of 46,208 turned up for the grand final re-match expecting another close tussle, but when the Bulldogs rattled up 8.7 to 1.5 in the second term the contest was effectively over. Livewire South centreman Maurice Rioli won the Simpson Medal for best afield, while rover Noel Carter, centre half back Joe McKay, ruckman Stephen Michael, wingman Benny Vigona and centre half forward Wayne Delmenico were among the others to shine.

South had double cause for celebration in 1980 as Stephen Michael won the first of two successive Sandover Medals after having finished runner-up the previous season.

"competitive if not quite pre-eminent"

Somewhat surprisingly, the 1980 grand final represented the zenith of South Fremantle’s achievements under Mal Brown. In 1981, the side again reached the grand final, but effectively kicked itself out of contention, registering 12.24 (96) to Claremont’s 16.15 (111). The remainder of the 1980s, with the exception of an unconsummated minor premiership in 1983, and a humiliating 67-point loss to Claremont in the 1989 grand final, did little to get Bulldogs supporters’ pulses racing. In 1987 there was even the ultimate ignominy of a twelfth wooden spoon, but on the whole, as throughout most of the club’s history, South tended to be competitive if not quite pre-eminent.

The 1990s brought the false dawn of a losing grand final clash with East Fremantle in 1992, an achievement on which the side proved unable to build. It was not to be until 1997 that the Bulldogs would finally become reacquainted with that winning feeling. Top after the minor round the Bulldogs fought their way through to a ‘derby’ grand final confrontation with East Fremantle. The Sharks had the added incentive of celebrating their centenary year[8] and, in front of a vocal crowd of 32,010, held sway for much of the match. However, the last quarter belonged to South as they overran their opponents to win by a single straight kick. Evergreen Bulldog coach John Todd later affirmed:

“I never lost hope because I have always maintained that 30 points in the modern game is not enough. If you can blow it out to 50 points you are normally safe, but with 30 you are never safe and all we had to do was turn a little bit around at the start of the last quarter. We were playing behind our opponents and allowing them to have first shot at the footy. We had to turn that negative into a positive and be more aggressive at the ball ... which we did.” [9]

South Fremantle’s winning goal came after a 50-metre penalty awarded to Warren Campbell two minutes from the end which brought him within goalkicking range. Arguably a more decisive moment came with just seconds remaining on the clock, however. Wayne Roser of East Fremantle took a snap shot at goal which hung high in the air above Bulldog defender Peter Kelly as two Shark forwards converged on the scene. Kelly never flinched, taking a great saving mark, and East Fremantle’s last chance to tie the scores was gone.

Following the 1997 flag triumph, the Bulldogs were for several seasons little better than a middle of the road side, with a losing grand final against East Perth in 2001 (by an ignominious margin of 82 points) the nearest they managed to come to recapturing past glories. (South had entered into a temporary affiliation arrangement with Fremantle at this stage which might in part explain the sudden upsurge in their fortunes in that Dockers players not picked for the AFL could be included in the Bulldogs' WAFL team. Perhaps crucially, grand final victors East Perth were involved in a similar alignment scheme with West Coast.)

"a somewhat topsy-turvy time"

The next few years were unmemorable, until a 2005 season in which the Bulldogs lost just 3 of 20 minor round matches to qualify for the finals in second place. A comprehensive 60 point second semi final demolition of minor premier Subiaco followed, and in the grand final a fortnight later a defiant Claremont was shrugged off after a closely fought opening term to the tune of 56 points. It was South Fremantle’s first ever win over the Tigers in a grand final, following losses in 1940, 1981 and 1989. Bulldogs centreman Toby McGrath won the Simpson Medal, with other fine performances for the victors coming from centre half forward Theo Adams (four goals), centre half back Jaymie Graham, and half forward flankers Ash Hams and Justin Crawford. The 2006 season saw the Bulldogs once again contesting the grand final, but on this occasion they found a highly polished Subiaco combination too strong, and went down by the embarrassing margin of 83 points. South were competitive for most of the first two quarters, but after half time they were relentlessly and consistently overrun. In 2007, the Bulldogs bowed out of premiership contention at the preliminary final stage, losing heavily to eventual premiers Subiaco after comfortably accounting for East Perth in the previous week’s first semi final.

Over the past decade the Bulldogs have endured a somewhat topsy-turvy time. In the ten seasons from 2008 to 2017 they qualified for the finals on five occasions with the highlight coming in 2009 when they reached the grand final and comfortably accounted for Subiaco. The Bulldogs won the match in the third term when they pulled away to a 15.10 to 7.11 lead, and although the Lions fought back they never posed a realistic threat and South won by 18 points, 17.11 (113) to 13.17 (95). It was the club’s thirteenth senior grade flag. More recently the Bulldogs got as far as the 2017 and 2018 preliminary finals in which they lost respectively to Subiaco and West Perth.

Among the champion players to wear the red and white jumper with distinction in the 1980s and ‘90s were 1986 Sandover Medallist and eventual Geelong skipper Mark Bairstow, dynamic on-baller Scott Watters, flame haired utility Brad Hardie (winner of the Tassie Medal in 1984, and a Brownlow Medallist with Footscray after he went to the VFL), powerful key position player Jon Dorotich, 1989 Sandover Medallist Craig Edwards, versatile and tenacious English policeman Marty Atkins, and a panoply of West Coast Eagles stalwarts such as Peter Matera, John Worsfold, Glen Jakovich and David Hart. The formation of the Fremantle Football Club and its admission to the AFL in 1995 has had a pronounced impact on South Fremantle, and will doubtless continue to have significant implications in years to come. For example, as already intimated in 2000 and 2001 the Dockers and Bulldogs engaged in an alignment arrangement whereby Fremantle players not selected to play in the AFL were made available to South. Furthermore, the Dockers elected to use Fremantle Oval as their training and administration base while, somewhat less objectively, it would also appear that the ‘blue collar’ ethos being cultivated by the Dockers is a good deal closer in spirit to that of the red and white fraternity than to their blue and white counterparts. This deliberately concocted image is more a result of marketing strategy than a reflection of the club’s actual membership base and management philosophy, but, however indirectly, it can be argued that the South Fremantle influence is continuing and indeed expanding as football in Western Australia simultaneously strides and totters its way further into a new millennium. 


  1. Unfortunately for South Fremantle, the challenge system of playing finals would not be introduced until the 1909 season.
  2. From 'The West Australian' and quoted in The South Fremantle Story 1900-1975 Volume 1 by Frank Harrison and Jack Lee, page 143.
  3. Ibid, page 81.
  4. The South Fremantle Story 1900-1975 Volume 2 by Frank Harrison and Jack Lee, page 179.
  5. Geoff Christian in 'The West Australian' quoted in The South Fremantle Story 1900-1975 Volume 2 by Frank Harrison and Jack Lee, page 181.
  6. Ibid, page 181.
  7. Ibid, page 181.
  8. Following the somewhat questionable example of the AFL, East Fremantle, which was formed in 1898, elected to regard its centenary season as being the 100th since its inception rather than the equivalent year - in the Sharks' case, 1998 - in the following century.
  9. From 'The West Australian', 29/9/97.


* Behinds calculated from the 1965 season on.
+ Score at the end of extra time.