The 1999 Westar Rules season was the 115th season of the various incarnations of the West Australian Football League and the third as “Westar Rules”. It is most notable for the first winless season in open-age Western Australian football since Midland Junction in their final 1917 season lost all twelve of their games, although South Fremantle in the under-19 1944 competition lost all nineteen of their games. Peel Thunder, who at the completion of the season had won only two of their first sixty Westar Rules matches, achieved the equal second-longest winless season in a major Australian Rules league behind SANFL club Sturtin 1995.[a] Although beforehand most critics thought the Thunder would improve on what they did in their first two seasons, late in the season none of the major Westar Rules writers gave them a chance to win even against second-last East Perth at Rushton Park.
In the process Peel became the first team for fifty-four seasons to fail to score in the first half and suffered the second-worst loss in open-age WA(N)FL football. Amazingly, the Thunder’s only near miss was against minor premier South Fremantle in the last round, when they led all day only to lose by seven points.[b] Their inept performances led to controversy concerning the Thunder’s existence among both critics and other Westar Rules clubs, which were to come to a tipping point in subsequent WAFC reports on the state of the competition, notably the “Fong Report” after the 2000 season.
Apart from Peel’s ignominious season, East Perth, suffering from internal dissent and disputes over where they would play their home matches – Perth Oval was scheduled for redevelopment as a rectangular field for soccer club Perth Glory, – fell from fourth to second last in their worst season since 1989, winning only twice against the top seven clubs. South Fremantle and West Perth established themselves as the competition’s heavyweights with a run of spectacular performances. Despite the pre-season loss of Peter Sumich and Scott Watters, the Bulldogs, aided by access to Docker players under the first host club scheme and whose season featured numerous “centenary year” celebrations,[c] won fifteen on end after an opening round defeat and the Falcons lost only once in the final fifteen home-and-away rounds.
Seven straight majors in the final quarter ensure East Fremantle win their seventeenth consecutive match, after a seemingly depleted South Fremantle scores 6.5 (41) to 1.4 (10) in the third quarter.
In the first night match at Arena Joondalup, the troubled Royals start well but fade severely, not goalling between the seven-minute mark of the second quarter and the fifteen-minute mark of the last.
In a match billed as the “battle of the centenarians”[c], Perth are completely outplayed in the first and final quarters as South Fremantle’s Brad Bootsma stars with thirty-two kicks from a half-back flank.
Tiger coach Don Pyke uses the first host club scheme to create a seemingly perfect blend with Claremont’s abundant supply of local juniors so that East Perth again fail against a powerful centreline.
South Fremantle record the second-biggest win in open-age WAFL football, behind only West Perth’s 210-point win over the Bulldogs in 1987. After the red and whites fail to goal in the first fifteen minutes, the remained of the match is an embarrassment for Peel.
Perth end East Fremantle’s run of seventeen straight victories, the equal fifth-longest in open-age Westar/WAFL/WANFL football, as the injury-plagued Darren Rigby – who had played only seventeen matches in four seasons due to leg fractures – dominates returning AFL star Shaun McManus.
Subiaco become the first WAFL/WANFL/WASFL/Westar club to hold consecutive opponents to three or fewer goals since East Perth in Rounds 13 and 14 of 1919. The Lions’ experience, especially in defence, completely decimates Claremont as Ryan O'Connor and Andrew Donnelly consistently keep the ball from the Tigers’ forward line.
West Perth failed to catch South Fremantle after coach Tony Micale rested his top backmen and the Bulldogs get two key goals after fifteen goalless minutes at the star of the final quarter.
After long-serving ground disputes and modification of the draw, East Perth play their first home game for the season, but are thwarted by the return of former Eagle champion Chris Mainwaring, whose solid, injury-free display suggests he is ready for an AFL recall.
South Fremantle gain revenge for a thrashing in the pre-season Grand Final as their exceptional discipline shuts down a Lion team whose ability to deal with close tagging is questioned.
Seventeen-year-old Andrew Embley stars for Claremont, who are unsettled by Peel‘s tactic of using goalkicker Scott Simister and vice-captain Wayne Barden on the ball – Embley shuts both down after quarter-time when Peel had gained a surprise lead.
East Perth break a run of ten straight losses, their fourth-longest losing streak on record.
Troy Wilson’s brilliant defensive marking and robust physical work in free play smashes the Tiger attack to make the four look already sealed with two-thirds of the season still to be played.
Despite having played only twenty Westar Rules games between them, youngsters Leon Davis, Chance Bateman, Darren Glass, Richard Kelly and Matt Shaw show Perth have a big AFL-ready talent pool with dominant displays in an unexpected narrow win for the Demons.
The Foundation Day derby saw the last Westar Rules/WAFL home-and-away attendance of over 10,000 until 2009 and the second last to date. The Bulldogs win a high-standard thriller as the Sharks’ run proves too late – a special win in their centenary year.
Peel Thunder become the first WANFL/WAFL/WASFL/Westar Rules club to fail to score in the first half since Claremont against Perth in 1945.
Perth’s enthusiasm has them leading South Fremantle for over two quarters before Tony Delaney wrests control of the centre from Bateman and leads the Bulldogs to a ninth consecutive victory – equalling their 1998 win tally.
Swan Districts’ inexperience has them thrashed despite having four more kicks and only two fewer scoring shots,[d] which lead to undisciplined frustration among the Swans’ players.
East Perth are predictably outclassed by the top-of-the-table Bulldogs after being three goals ahead entering time-on of the opening quarter, as the Royals’ initial desire and especially their forward line (which does not goal again until well into the last quarter) disintegrate.
Steve Trewhella, whose start to 1999 was delayed by a broken wrist, plays a major role in a crucial win lifting the Falcons to clear second by tagging Fremantle-listed Luke Toia to completely reverse a 20-point half-time Lion lead that actually flattered West Perth.
West Perth fan favourite Paul Mifka returns for his first match since a car accident in 1998, nullifying veteran Earl Spalding and keeping East Fremantle to three second-half goals after a close first half.
Despite the handicap of working a one-man police station at Wyalkatchem 235 kilometres (150 mi) from Perth and training with the local team, South Fremantle veteran Marty Atkins’ solid defence leaves the Bulldogs two games clear on top as West Perth cannot convert their chances.
East Fremantle’s targetting of Peel as needing to go for an eight-club competition does nothing inspire the Thunder, who score only 2.6 (18) to 10.6 (66) in two quarters with the wind.
As relief for those who suffered from Cyclone Vance, Westar Rules play a game for the first and only time in the Pilbara town of Exmouth, and for one of only two times in Moora in Perth’s country zone.
On a windy 29 °C (84.2 °F) day, Subiaco and East Perth are allowed a fourth interchange player (standardised the following season). Fringe Eagle Andrew Donnelly dominates as the Lions win in the trying weather.
In a thrashing described as a “farce” with the Bulldogs taking 102 marks to 36 and having 113 effective handballs to 45, South Fremantle’s Anthony Jones makes a memorable 100 metre run regarded as the best play in Westar Rules for a long time.
Despite a broken left hand, South Fremantle’s Brad Bootsma, with 32 possessions mainly in the second half, courageously leads a win after being behind for most of the last quarter, which virtually settles the double chance in the finals.
Swan Districts rebound from their South Fremantle thrashing to pip East Fremantle and leave Claremont in the four. The marking of West Coast Eagle discard Jason Ball and attack on the ball of Shane Beros win for Swans.
Brendan Fewster’s size and strength leaves Claremont with no options, as does Troy Wilson in defence. Only inaccurate kicking prevents a humiliation, but East Fremantle’s thrashing keeps Claremont in the four.
East Perth’s Ashley Hutchison is sent off after being reported twice – once for striking and once for spitting. He is one of four Westar players to suffer this ignominy.
In a game where, despite East Perth having won only twice, no tipster gave the Thunder a chance to break their winless season,Ryan Turnbull shows the form that made him a dominating figure in the Royals’ mini-dynasty of the early 2000s.
By guarding Bootsma and the other South Fremantle on-ballers, the Sharks end a worrying slump by convincingly ending the seemingly invincible Bulldogs’ run of fifteen consecutive victories – in spite of kicking five goals fifteen behinds in the first half.
After Peel hold a narrow lead for most of the first half in wet conditions, Rhys Croxford dashed the Thunder’s hope of a win for 1999 with one goal late in the second quarter and three early in the third – and Peel did not receive another chance.
East Perth leave their home since 1910 of Perth Oval (though it was not known at the time) on a high with a win that denies Claremont a finals berth. The brilliant speed of Halls Creek recruit Brendan Thomas led the Royals to score 5.3 (33) to nothing after Claremont took the lead halfway through the last quarter in a game that had always been close to that stage.
The winless Thunder nearly cause a huge upset against the minor premiers, leading all day only to go down by seven points after the Bulldogs, looking for a “solid hit-out”, rested six top players. It was the first time in thirty-two games Peel had actually led at half-time, and at one point they led by 37 points with Scott Simister in his best form.
aCentral District in 1964 and several VFA/VFL clubs share the Thunder’s ignominy of a 20-game winless season: Sandringhamin 1941, Box Hillin 1951, and the Bendigo Diggers in 2001 and 2002. b The only other winless VFL, SANFL or WAFL clubs whose narrowest loss was to the minor premier have been St. Kildain 1902, whose closest shave was against premiers Collingwood, also by seven points, and Sturt in 1995, whose narrowest loss was to Central District by 24 points. c Both South Fremantle and Perth were formed in 1899, though South Fremantle’s ancestry can be traced back to the older Fremantle Football Club. d The WA(N)FL/Westar record win with fewer shots is 53 points (with two fewer shots) by Claremont against Perth in 1994, whilst with equal shots the record is fifty points – also by Subiaco against Swan Districts – in 1968.