East Perth Football Club - WANFL Premiers 1936
After East Perth's great initial success (7 Premierships and twice runners-up between 1918 and 1928) they plummeted to last in 1929. However it didn't take long for them to get back on track and they were again playing in a (losing) Grand Final by 1932.
The next 3 years saw them finish 4th, 4th and 3rd with the top sides always proving more accomplished for them hence more Premiership glory alluded them.
1936 gave no indication of being any better when the team just scraped into the four by one win from West Perth, and this was after winning only two of their last ten home and away games and after suffering a shock defeat to Swan Districts by two points on the last day. East Perth only qualified in fourth place after West Perth also lost their last home game.
However under the guidance of their coach, former East Fremantle player Jerry Dolan, the Royals were establishing a reputation as a team of battlers, and events over the course of the following month would confirm this.
In the first semi final East Perth were pitted against Subiaco, and after a dour struggle emerged victors by a single point 6.11(47) to 5.16(46), despite having 4 fewer scoring shots in a low scoring game.
Meanwhile in the second semi-final, Claremont defeated East Fremantle by just five points 11.13 (79) to 9.20 (74).
Given the results of the previous 3 seasons, and indeed the less than impressive finish to the current season, many felt East Perth had achieved as much as they could. But there was more to come...
An attendance of 10,079 fans turned out at Subiaco to witness the clash between the favourites East Fremantle and the underdogs East Perth in the preliminary final. The Royals one-point victory over Old Easts was nothing short of amazing. With four minutes to the final bell left, East Fremantle supporters were jubilant as their team had just run to a 13-point lead. They were playing strongly and spectators, anticipating a win, were leaving the ground.
Players of both sides later confessed that they thought East Perth had almost given up hope of success. Then followed a remarkable succession of incidents that sent the crowd roaring itself hoarse; leaving the East Perth partisans breathless and those of East Fremantle dumbfounded.
East Perth attacked desperately and at last they penetrated the strong East Fremantle defence. Herbie Screaigh grabbed by the neck was unlucky to hit the goal post with a free kick. Boring in again the same player kicked another point. With less than two minutes to play, George Fogarty was fouled, and his long drop-kick brought full points. Back to the centre came the ball for the bounce and it was swiftly kicked to their forward line by East Perth. But East Fremantle cleared over the centre and the odds of East Perth being able to add another goal in the last half-minute looked hopeless.
Still the players tried. Bob Crowe, a half-back cleared the ball and Mick Cronin took possession swung around and kicked the ball high towards the goal. With the ball in transit, a timekeeper reached for the bell and when the veteran Jerry Dolan, beset by three anxious opponents, was unable to mark all seemed lost. But in a flash, the nippy Screaigh had again dived in to gather the crumbs, with six seconds to go, he decided to race for the goal mouth. He bounced the ball once and then turned an imminent 5 point defeat into a 14.14 to 14.13 victory. If Screaigh had had an extra bounce during his frantic dash the bell would have sounded and the team would have gone into mothballs. In the uproar after the goal it was impossible to hear the bell which had sounded to end an epic encounter.
In the grand final East Perth faced Claremont, a side which was to go on to appear in every subsequent grand final until 1940, winning the premiership on 3 occasions. This year, however, belonged to the Royals, although once again the game was tight, tense, and dramatic. Herb Screaigh's goal with the last kick of the match (after the bell) giving East Perth a seemingly large breathing space of 11 points, 11.5 (71) to 9.6 (60).
After entering the finals as complete outsiders the Royals had sensationally managed to land the flag with a total winning margin over 3 games of just 13 points.
In fact the 1936 finals series would surely have to be ranked as one of the most sensational in the entire history of Australian football anywhere given the closeness of all results and the achievement of the underdogs.
When presenting East Perth with their Pennant, the late Walter Stooke considered the term "the glorious uncertainty" which is so often applied to cricket should also apply to football after East Perth's "from the clouds" title.
It was their 8th WAFL/WANFL Premiership - their first since the 20's, and their last until the 50's (not counting 1944's under-age).
In 1978, more than four decades later, when the club's premiership prospects seemed remote, East Perth's incredible triumph of 1936 was still being recalled by veteran followers and used as an inspiration.
History records that East Perth went on in September 1978 to defeat Perth in the grand final by 2 points to record another epic encounter that would also be talked about for years to come.
East Perth 6.2 6.3 7.3 11.5 (71)
Captain: D. J. (Mick) Cronin
Coach: Jerry Dolan
def. Claremont 1.2 5.2 6.5 9.6 (60)
Captain: George Moloney
Coach: Dick Lawn
Backs: Mick Ryan Jackie King George Fogarty Half Backs: Bob Crow Ray Starr Ritchie Thomas Centres: Dave Miller Jackie Guhl Arthur Hall Half Forwards: D. J. 'Mick' Cronin (C) Jerry Dolan Alf Mussman Forwards: Sam Broom Paul Lockyer Herb Screaigh Ruck: Leo Graham Laurie Garnaut Seff Parry 19th Man: Frank Ward
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