The 1982 WAFL season was the 98th season of the West Australian Football League and its various incarnations. The season opened on 27 March 1982 and concluded on 18 September 1982 with the 1982 WAFL Grand Final contested between Claremont and Swan Districts. Under the coaching of John Todd, Swans won the 1982, 1983 and 1984 premierships before the financial lure of the VFL deprived it one by one of the stars of this period. The black and whites’ win was marred a little, however, by their decision to play a virtual reserve grade lineup against Richmond in an Escort Cup quarter-final after the game was postponed twice[a] and the VFL Tigers refused to play the match at Subiaco Oval on a Monday afternoon – Richmond won 33.16 (214) to 4.4 (28) and Swan Districts were suspended from the competition until 1985, despite the WAFL approving of their decision after Todd argued it was normal practice among VFL clubs to play reserves players in the Escort Cup.
Although 1982 did not equal the numerous high-scoring records set the previous season, scoring continued high with an average score of 117.86 points per team per game, and featured the highest losing score in League history and the most scoring shots by a losing team in any major Australian Rules competition.
The WAFL also showed concern from the start of the season about declining attendances – a problem that was to lead to radical changes to the structure of Australian Rules in subsequent years. Employment opportunities created by the mining boom in the Pilbara had caused several WAFL players to play in the De Grey league without a clearance during 1981, and the league announced players who did this would be suspended from the WAFL for two full seasons, though none actually were despite Ian Williams playing a practice match on 3 April for Port Hedland Panthers.
Subiaco, depleted by their inability to afford to retain star State of Origin on-baller Gary Buckenara and the absence of league-quality key forwards, set an unwanted record of losing their first sixteen matches, beating by one game their own record from 1902 and that of West Perth in 1939 for the worst start to a season in Western Australian League football. The Lions ultimately became the first one-win WAFL team since Swan Districts in 1968 – their only win was like the 1968 Swans against East Fremantle.[b] Under new president Rod Brown and coach Dennis Commetti West Perth, despite considerable injury problems early in the season, were the one major improver, rising to third and kicking a record finals score in their first major round match for four seasons, in the process becoming the most-watched team in the league and stimulating crowds in a tough season financially.
A depleted Tiger defence wins over East Perth via pure improvisation as the Tigers’ efficient forwards show their superiority – Malaxos kicks 7.2 (44).
An inaccurate Swan Districts team nearly comes back from eight goals down at quarter time, being hindered only by 2.7 (19) in the third quarter for a total of 3.15 (33) into the wind. It is the most scoring shots by a losing side in a major Australian Rules competition, and for two weeks the highest losing score in the WAFL.
West Perth gain comprehensive revenge for South Fremantle’s record open-age 1981 score with a first-class display – with a badly depleted team they handed the Bulldogs their worst loss since the 1978 Preliminary Final.
West Perth kick the highest losing score in WAFL history, beating the previous record of three rounds before by three points. The Cardinals had eight regulars out and lost two more in a game played at breakneck pace, whilst former Melbourne player Peter Thorne wins the game for the Royals at the finish.
11.1 (67) into the breeze in the second quarter gives Swan Districts a crucial victory that elevates them to top position against a gallant Perth team that unusully matches their vaunted centreline and has the redoubtable Narkle shifted to half-forward.
Warren Ralph and Steve Malaxos continue their dominance opposition defences with 7.3 (45) apiece to be the top two in goalkicking and invite expectations of two century goalkickers from one club in a season.
East Perth ruckman John Ironmonger gives a timely reminder of his talents as he beats dual Sandover winner Stephen Michael and leaves South Fremantle’s powerful attack spasmodic.
The return of injury-plagued rover Ed Blackaby for only his twenty-seventh game since the beginning of 1980 inspires Swans to win what looked even at this early stage like a Grand Final preview – despite lacking key big man Alan Sidebottom.
A tactical blunder by East Fremantle – which leave key players Sewell and Lester-Smith out of action – allow East Perth to dominate with a strong wind in the first quarter and hold on as Old Easts fight back.
In their most brilliant display yet, Swan Districts inflict South Fremantle’s first defeat at Fremantle since Round 9, 1980 – which would have been worse against the impassable Tom Mulooly but for eight last-quarter goals.
East Pert come back for a thrilling win over the unlucky Lions, as Peter Thorne‘s roving around goals brings him five goals in the final term after Subiaco were 34 points ahead at half-time.
In wet conditions Claremont end an “uncharacteristic” losing streak by for the first time training every night during the week and showing that Gary Shaw and Michael Mitchell have fully compensated for the loss of the Krakouers.
Perth come close to an upset win for the third consecutive week only to be unexpectedly halted by the eclipse of spearhead Mick Rea – who had kicked seven the previous round.
Demon coach Ian Miller acted as his own runner during the first quarter before a strained leg kept him off the field and regular Ken Inman took over in the rain.
Swan Districts produce remarkable courage to come back from thirty-three points down late in the second quarter with only seventeen fit players as Blackaby dominates the roving and Peter Kenny shuts down East Perth centre half-forward Hayes.
The move of forward pocket Cam Shepherd into the centre cuts off Subiaco’s control there and ensures fellow tailender Perth maintains the Lions’ winless record.
West Perth confirm they are the big improvers of 1982 with a superb victory over top club Swan Districts. Despite winning only seven hit-outs to 30, West Perth’s smaller brigade consistently takes the ball away and Ray Holden keeps future Carlton forward Peter Sartori to 0.2 (2).
In an exceptionally high-standard game, South Fremantle’s first-half forward brilliance keeps them in the match after Claremont score 9.3 (57) to 3.6 (24) in the third quarter – then South Fremantle’s superior forward play in showery weather allows them to overhaul the Tigers in a low-scoring last quarter.
Six goals into the wind on a very wet day provides a remarkable victory for East Fremantle, as the inspiration of Alexander drives rovers Taylor and Rankin to a decisive effort. Old Easts end a run of fifteen consecutive century scores by their derby rivals – at the time the longest on record in the WA(N)FL and only exceeded twice since.
1981 premiership rover Mark Watson returns to life Claremont out of a hole against the luckless Lions – who would have sealed the game in torrential rain by half-time but for inaccuracy and then score only 1.6 (12) to 9.11 (65) in the second half.
Subiaco, despite several competitive games, show they have learned little as poor discipline and errors like missed handballs out of bounds and high kicks to no-one are exploited by a Swan Districts team severely weakened by interstate calls.
In a match regarded by critics as a “danger game” for the Tigers due to injuries and walkout of Brett Farmer, claremoent effortlessly thrash the Demons with stand-in full-forward Murray Smith kicking six and Malaxos another five.
Swans’ inability to hold off Ralph and Malaxos ensures Claremoent – despite scoring only 4.6 (30) in the middle two quarters – win the key top-of-the-table battle and stay second on percentage with another vital match coming up.
South Fremantle kick one of only eighteen WAFL scores of over thirty behinds, and their third most on record.
Dreadful kicking by East Fremantle – with Purser missing from 5 metres (5.5 yd) out – has them on 0.8 (8) in good conditions just before half-time, and effectively ends their finals aspirations.
West Perth found they could not conceded a seven-goal start to the Tigers – who let the Cardinals off the hook with bad shooting for goal – and move a game adrift from the double chance.
The pessimistic Mal Brown is not dissatisfied despite his depleted Bulldogs being thrashed by a brilliant Swan Districts team who redeem the controversy over their Escort Cup debacle with one of the finest team displays in memory.
Claremoent’s wasteful attack in difficult conditions costs them a thrilling match when John Ironmonger kicks two rare goals at the finish.
When Rod Alderton kicked the winning goal after Subiaco ruckman Muchael Johns muffed a similar chance Subiaco’s players went to their knees in despair after failing to win a game where they won every clear centre-square possession for a half. The Lions equalled the record, ironically held by the two opponents, for the worst start to a WA(N)FL season.
The power of big full-forward Mick Rea, who kicks 7.1 (43) and has a hand in several other goals in a match where no other forward scores more than one, ensures Subiaco remain winless and faced with the prospect of the worst open-age WA(N)FL record since Midland Junction’s final season. Perth power away “exuberantly” after an even first three quarters.
Swans’ hard work and discipline ensures they run over East Perth in the final quarter after being behind for the previous two.
Following this round, Western Australia played two interstate matches – one against the Big V on Tuesday and one against South Australia on Saturday 17 July – but critics viewed the two games in a week as too much.
West Perth’s hard, physical approach completely demolished Swan Districts, who lose two players to body-on-body collisions and are never in the hunt on the scoreboard.
Subiaco avoid the ignominy of the first winless season in senior WAFL football since 1917, winning well against a “spineless and undisciplined” Old Easts after a mistake-riddled first half as four quick goals early in the last quarter seal the issue after the Lions were four points ahead at the last change.
8.6 (54) in slippery conditions during the second quarter ensures South Fremantle gain a convincing win and enter the four for the first time since Round 11 at their victims’ expense.
Despite scoring 3.18 (36) to 4.0 (24) in the final forty-seven minutes, Swan Districts win easily against the struggling Lions, with the nomadic Baker settling into his future Bomber role as a centreman after previous playing as a forward or ruck-rover.
A high-standard, vigorous match – featuring much unnecessary aggression despite there being no reports as seen by 83 free kicks being given – sees Subiaco lose by under a goal for the fourth time in 1982 and leaves South lamenting the failure to boost its percentage.
Despite Ralph scoring only 1.4 (10), Claremont produce a superb display that exposes the limitations of the Cardinal attack, aided by the skill of Graham Moss and Wayne Blackwell – who each kick four goals.
8.0 (48) in twelve minutes of the second quarter secures East Perth’s finals berth, despite being without regular key forwards Paul Arnold and John Hayes, as their numerous rovers carve up the disappointing Lions in coach Ken Armstrong’s final match.
East Fremantle steal their first win since 26 June from the Demons, who squander three shots out on the full late in the game after being 28 points ahead at half-time.
With fourteen of the last fifteen goals before three-quarter-time West Perth race away to kick the highest first-semi final score in WAFL history, beating Subiaco’s 1959 record against Perth by a point.
The 115 points scored by the two teams in the last quarter is a record for any quarter of a WA(N)FL final.
Baker, Sidebottom, Melrose, Mullooly, Phil Narkle, Richardson, Keith Narkle, Boucher
Goulding, Pearce, Betts, Panizza, Moss, Daniels
In the battle of two up-and-coming champion teams, Swan Districts destroy the powerful Tiger attack, holding it to its lowest score since 1980. The scoreboard flattered Claremont who kicked several late goals, and Ralph was goalless until late in the last quarter.
a The match was originally scheduled to be played on 1 June, but was postponed to 16 June and then 23 June, despite a request from Swan Districts to play in Perth on the afternoon (prime television time in Melbourne) of Monday, 21 June. b Other open-age WA(N)FL teams between 1918 and 1996 with only one win during a season were Perth in 1923, Claremont-Cottesloe in 1926 and 1927, West Perth in 1939 and Swan Districts in 1951.