Explore the History of australian football

​Bruce Campbell (Subiaco)

​William "Tiny" Willis (Subiaco)​​

​Subiaco skipper Wally Steele

The contest was always willing and vimful but somewhat stodgy and cramped as a result of the determination of as many men as possible to be everlastingly “on the ball”.[1]

Subiaco and Perth played off for the 1915 WAFL premiership in front of what was described as “a record crowd”[1] at Perth Oval. The teams had qualified for the final after winning their respective semi finals, Perth at the expense of East Perth by 25 points, and Subiaco in a thriller against South Fremantle by 7 points. During the home and away season the two sides had met in round six at Subiaco Oval with the Maroons achieving victory by 16 points, round thirteen at the WACA when Perth had turned the tables with a 19 points win, and round twenty at Perth Oval when Perth had again emerged triumphant, this time by the rather more comfortable margin of 34 points. Subiaco managed just 1 more win than Perth during the minor round and so a close game was confidently anticipated.

In the opening term Subiaco, their captain Steele having won the toss, kicked with the aid of a slight breeze and attacked aggressively from the start. Perth’s defence, however, stood firm, and when the first score - a behind - arrived it was the Rednecks who secured it. Subiaco then retaliated strongly and after a scuffle just in front of goal umpire Orr - who was the league’s secretary at the time - awarded a free kick to Maroons skipper Wally Steele who converted. The remainder of the term saw each side enjoying periods of dominance but only one further score, a behind to Subi, was registered. Thus, at quarter time there was a single straight kick in it with Subiaco on 1.1 leading Perth on 0.1.

The second term was noteworthy for the fact that virtually every player on both teams appeared to regard himself as an on-baller, making much of the play untidy and congested. Perth did most of the early attacking but proved unable to eke out a scoring opportunity, and Subiaco, in their first attack of the period extended their lead to 7 points when “Hubba” Limb’s soccer kick from close in narrowly missed.

Perth responded brightly, and after registering their second behind levelled the scores when Wimbridge kicked truly in dense traffic. Play after that see-sawed from end to end, with Perth, aided by the breeze, marginally the more penetrative side. By half time they had added 2 more points to their tally and so led by that margin when the bell sounded. The scoreboard showed Perth 1.4 to Subiaco 1.2 and at this stage there was very little indeed to choose between the two teams.

Such wind advantage as there was had more or less disappeared by the time the third quarter got underway and the early play was uneventful. Subiaco’s "Tiny" Willis, with a behind, eventually got the opening score of the term and until a few moments before the bell it proved to be the only one. Then, as the clock ran down, Chester of Perth got the ball near goal and managed to elude his marker. Finding himself with several metres of space he steadied before kicking truly, giving his side a useful 7 point advantage at the final change: Perth 2.4 (16); Subiaco 1.3 (9).

Kicking with the aid of a freshening breeze in the closing term Perth began confidently but their kicking for goal was errant, and they could only manage a couple of behinds. However, in the context of such a closely contested game no score was to be sniffed at.

Subiaco responded with pace and purpose, forcing virtually every Perth player into defence. For a time the Redlegs managed to hold firm, but the Maroons were determined and focused “and working the leather forward again Willis, securing from the scrum, snapped a hurried twin-flagger”.[3] The goal cut Perth’s lead to 4 points.

The Rednecks attacked from the resumption but could only manage a minor score, and as the match entered time on it was the Maroons who were on the offensive. A behind to Subi reduced the deficit to 4 points once more, and then came the decisive moments of the match. With just two minutes remaining Bruce Campbell of Subiaco marked within goal kicking range but his place kick fell short and a desperate scrimmage ensued just metres from goal. Subiaco’s full forward Limb, who had been well contained for most of the match, managed to get hold of the ball and just had time to throw it onto his boot. The kick sailed through for full points and suddenly the Maroons had their noses in front with less than two minutes. Perth tried desperately to attack from the restart but time was against them and Subiaco ran out winners by 2 points, 3.3 (21) to 2.7 (19). The victory gave Subi their third flag in four years.

The match was widely lauded as a fine exhibition, which was particularly gratifying given the generally mediocre standard of football that had been on display during the minor round. Players on both sides displayed excellent endurance and speed - “speed not of feet alone, but of thought and action, when a moment’s hesitation might have meant disaster”.[4]


[1] “The Sunday Times”, 26/9/15, page 2S.

[2] By “Rover” in “The Daily News”, 1/10/15, page 16. No attendance figure was given, however. “The Sunday Times”, op cit, concurs that the crowd was “great for the times”, and gives the gate as £225.

[3] “The Sunday Times, op cit, page 2S.

[4] “The West Australian”, 27/9/15, page 4.

SUBI REIGN SUPREME - WAFL Final, Saturday 25th September 1915: Subiaco versus Perth at Perth Oval