The 1990 WASFL season was the one hundred and sixth season of senior Australian Rules football in Perth, Western Australia. It saw the league, already realising that the damage from the admission to the VFL of West Coast would be permanent rather than temporary as was hoped in 1986, rebrand itself as the Western Australia State Football League, but the move was unsuccessful and reversed after a single season. The refusal of WASFL clubs to permit an Eagles reserves team in the WASFL and the WAFC’s refusal to accept one in the AFL’s reserve grade competition led to further problems when Claremont said they would not play West Coast discards in the league team and produced a short-lived draft for such players, whilst at the same time Claremont rejected a proposed draft for the numerous young footballers who came from Perth’s private schools but when not boarding lived in rural areas.
In anticipation of an AFL move planned in 1995 but not executed until 2000, the WASFL abolished the 50:50 sharing of gate revenue to allow the home team to keep all gate receipts. This helped some clubs like South Fremantle and Swan Districts, but along with the diversion of their former $250,000 league dividend to pay for the Eagles’ licence had a severe effect off-field for struggling Perth, who announced in June they had to raise $100,000 to avoid folding at the end of the season.
The WASFL during the pre-season made a number of moves designed to resurrect its flagging appeal, including a television campaign aimed at the younger generation and a sponsorship deal with Pepsi. The league also adopted sponsorship naming for the first time and called itself the ‘Pepsi Cup’ for three seasons. To avoid conflict with television broadcasts of West Coast games, the WASFL played finals on Sunday for the first time, and the experiment was accepted despite attendances considered “poor”.
On the playing field, 1990 saw the Gerard Neesham-coached Claremont become the first team since South Fremantle between 1950 and 1953 to record four consecutive minor premierships, only to be beaten for the fourth time in five encounters by a Swan Districts team boosted by the return of John Todd who had coached the Swans to a hat-trick of premierships in the middle 1980s. East Perth, after five years with only twenty-four victories from 105 matches and being lucky to not suffer four wooden spoons, returned to their former home of Perth Oval, cleaned out many of their established senior players and rose to fifth in a season with such a pronounced gap between the finalists and also-rans that the four was mathematically sealed with three rounds to go. On the other hand, West Perth, after the previous season making only its third finals series since 1978, lost their entire ruck and most of their goal-to-goal line and plummeted to its first wooden spoon since 1974 and only its second since 1939. A controversy over the clearance of Stephen Walsey (whose application was rejected by WASFL commissioner Brian Sierakowski but transferred after a fee was negotiated), Angelo del Borello and Frank del Casale from East Perth did not help the Falcons, but they did win only their second – and last as of 2014 – Colts premiership.
East Perth’s return to Perth Oval with a banner proclaiming “Be It Ever So Humble — There’s No Place Like Home”flops after the loss of Claremont recruit Peter Melesso at quarter-time: Subiaco kick 25 goals to six afterwards.
The 14-point total of the margins at each break at Lathlain Park is the smallest at that ground and has been equalled in the WA(S)FL only once since. Perth’s more frequent errors and failure to get a goal in five minutes of continuous attack before the siren cost it a win.
East Perth, with new recruits Craig McGrath, Melesso and Northern Territorian Noel Long[a] in the team, rebound from their opening thrashing via greater directness than the Falcons, for their first victory in twelve matches.[b]
Teenage centre half forward Peter Mann shows up Subiaco’s severe forward weaknesses – with veteran Laurie Keene especially out of form – to give Claremont an easy victory and question the merits of Subiaco’s big opening win.
South Fremantle’s depth – the envy of other WASFL clubs – gives it a convincing victory over an East Fremantle team affected by the controversial sacking of veteran champion Brian Peake.
West Perth coach George Michalczyk says his leading players were not match fit after Swan Districts overwhelm the Falcons for a loss that John Todd sees as redeeming the black and whites last-round displacement from the four in 1989.
The sight of Phil Narkle, Joe Ahmat and Don Langsford in their best form after injury and stints elsewhere reveals Swan Districts under Todd as back to their early-1980s best – on top and the sole undefeated team after four rounds.
Claremont record their biggest win over the Falcons, beating 102 points from 1964, and West Perth’s second-biggest loss on record.Todd Ridley kicked ten goals against a depleted West Perth team that constantly played from behind.
West Perth’s 0.3 (3) is the lowest WANFL/WAFL/WASFL second-half score since Swan Districts kicked 0.2 (2) – ironically against West Perth – in Round 5 of 1965.
Ansett pilot and former VAFA player Jeremy Schmidt[c] provides spectacular high marking and combines with six goals each from Wayne Golding and fringe Eagle Andrew MacNish (soon to suffer a severe arm injury) to completely revitalise the Subiaco attack for a comeback win.
A brilliant run and goal from halfback by Falcon fan favourite “Terror” Dayman fails to revive the Falcons and South Fremantle’s defence proved impossible to break by other means and brothers Maurice and Willie Rioli plus David Hart pick up possessions too easily.
Swan Districts gain its first victory over Claremont since 1986 (they drew in 1988) as Steve Bazzo completely shields ex-Swan and West Coast discard Joe Cormack and Claremont’s on-ball prowess is broken down for the second consecutive round.
South Fremantle’s insipid performance leads coach Stan Magro to blast his players as the hot-and-cold Royals play with infinitely more desire and Melesso shuts down rookie sensation Glen Jakovich.
Ex-Swan Districts star and rookie Perth coach Tom Mullooly is openly critical of his players’ commitment after the black and whites overwhelm his team, saying that on match days they have unlearned what he teaches them despite training very well.
Burracoppin farmer Graham Kerse shows West Perth have overcome the difficult loss of centreman Menaglio from 1989, as his skill allows West Perth to overpower East Fremantle after a poor start.
A frightening collision with Stephen Hooper leaves West Perth’s sole ruckman Basil Zempalis out of the game with a collapsed lung, and the Falcons’ chances disappear as Hooper – suspended for four matches at the following tribunal meeting – takes complete control in the ruck and allows the Royal centreline total control.
Perth kick 7.6 (48) with a strong wind in the first quarter before the revitalised Brian Peake has eleven kicks in the second quarter to restrict South Fremantle to three behinds with the wind in a heavy rain shower that prevents the Bulldogs coming back.
Angular ruckman Stephen Walsey, playing for the first time after a clearance dispute with East Perth, easily beats Travis Edmonds and Shane Strempel to secure an upset victory for the Falcons.
The 114-point second quarter aggregate, with Claremont kicking 12.4 and East Perth 6.2, is an all-time WAFL/WANFL/WASFL/Westar record for a second quarter. East Perth discard Nathan Brooks shows superb skill in delivering the ball, whilst Joe Cormack roves superbly for seven goals.
Five days after a bruising local derby, South Fremantle – down to eighteen fit men due to injuries – produce a superb display of stamina to get over a Swan Districts team rebounding from their loss to West Perth.
Claremont virtually end hopes of a Falcon revival with a second crushing win, marred only by a six-goal Falcon burst late in the second quarter. With this win, Claremont had won their last four encounters by an average of 112 points.
South Fremantle make an amazing comeback from 0.5 (5) to 7.9 (51) behind in time-on of the second quarter, shattering the Lions as 1986 Teal Cup star Richard Graham finally fulfils his promise.
Perth take a first step towards solving their severe financial plight when they prove too good for West Perth after an even first half. Falcon coach Michalczyk orders a 6:00 a.m. Wednesday training run as a response to this collapse.
Swan Districts become the first club to win for a second time with the record deficit of twelve fewer scoring shots. Their post-game celebration of a dour, close-checking win is compared by critics to that occurring in the concurrent soccer World Cup.
Perth’s severe off-field trouble again appears to rally the club as 1987 Sandover Medallist Mark Watson returns to that season’s form with almost 40 possessions.
West Perth move off the bottom by humiliating a depleted Subiaco, with full-forwards Matt Cullen, whom Subiaco rudely said they did not want, leading a powerful goal-to-goal line with five majors.
South’s physical, low-to-the-ground play in the rain sees them never in danger against an inaccurate Tiger outfit who miss thirteen shots before their first goal 29 minutes into the second quarter. At half-forward, Maurice Rioli shows himself still one of the best wet-weather footballers in the business, whilst Craig Edwards is outstanding in the ruck.
The agile Shane Strempel – at one point the WASFL’s leading goalkicker – proves the crucial stumbling block for Perth, whose defeat already has the four looking sealed with six rounds to be contested.
South Fremantle produce another notable comeback, kicking 13.5 (83) to 3.3 (21) in tough conditions after half-time, as 1989 Sandover Medallist Edwards dominates the Demon rucks.
Ron Wilcox’ policy of playing Clinton Browning at the end favoured by the wind throughout the match is a winner: the former Eagle and future Simpson Medallist beats a different opponent each quarter, brings the ball to his smaller men, and shows the Sharks will not “make up the numbers” in the finals.
Stephen Hooper dominates his rematch with the Falcons as conclusively as in the ninth round, leaving West Perth powerless to avoid their second consecutive thrashing from their traditional rivals.
Claremont’s small men, led by Evans and Cormack, seal the four by crushing the improving Royals via immaculate passing of such skill that the Tigers seldom experience pressure. John Hutton backed them up with six goals.
Swan Districts’ forwards and defenders line up at the wrong end upon the opening bounce (possibly as a ploy by Todd) and the Swans never get in touch after two early Falcon goals – leading Todd to say West Perth always lift themselves for the black and whites.
After nagging injuries earlier in 1990, Scott Watters shows his best form for South Fremantle, and the Bulldogs move to within percentage of the double chance with the easiest draw of the three contenders.
Brian Peake becomes the second West Australian to reach 400 senior games,[d] and has eleven possessions in the centre in the first quarter to inspire Perth to a superb display, before Claremont predictably overwhelm the Demons as Peake’s influence dwindles.
Claremont produce a brilliant last quarter into a strong wind to seal their second semi-final berth. Veteran Peter Thorns scores three goals of Claremont’s total of 6.3 (39) to 0.5 (5), whilst East Fremantle forwards Clinton Browning and Andrew Lockyer combine for 1.7 (13).
Swans’ lack of desire recalls their 1989 collapse – after a good first quarter into the gale they relax and allow East Perth complete control and give South Fremantle second position.
West Perth score nine goals in the first quarter, but Perth come back to move out of the wooden spoon danger zone in a match marred by the report of Perth defender Gavin Whittington for manhandling the shirt of umpire Sam Kronja. Whittington received four weeks for the change, which was a first in the WA(S)FL for many years.
In a match directly determining the wooden spoon owing to the Lions’ large percentage advantage, Subiaco are never headed and end a ten-match losing streak.
Swan District recapture the double chance with two goals in the last minute after dominating the earlier part of the quarter for 4.10 (34). Brett Hutton – earlier beaten at full-back by namesake John – and Todd Menegola prove matchwinners.
Stan Magro’s gamble in playing four not-fully-fit players pays off, as Stevan Jackson and Glen Jakovich dominate the key forward positions and Peter Matera adds four more majors as the Sharks cannot counter the Bulldogs’ dominance of the central corridor.
In warm but slippery conditions, Gerard Neesham’s coaching skill and the long kicking of fringe Eagle Don Pyke has Swans virtually paralysed until the last fifteen minutes when four late goals flatter the black and whites.
John Todd and semi-retired veterans Don Holmes, Don Langsford, Brett Hutton and Phil Narkle defeat Claremont for a third time in the Grand Final, two years after Swans were wooden spooners. The Simpson Medal goes to the son of Swans’ greatest player and then-president, Bill Walker.
a Brother of Essendon champion Michael Long. b The sequence was the Royals’ longest losing sequence since their record of fifteen straight losses in 1929. c Schmidt had actually trialled for Essendon in practice matches before the 1986 VFL season but his commitments made it impossible for him to sign a contract. d Barry Cable was the first, in the nineteenth round of 1979. Both figures include games played for VFL clubs (North Melbourne and Geelong) e Swans’ reserves lost to South Fremantle by two points in that grade’s preliminary final.