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Mal Brown among East Perth greats
Mal Brown among East Perth greats

Mal Brown remains as frank and brazen as ever but there is unlikely to be any controversy over his latest football achievement as an inaugural member of East Perth's Hall of Fame.

Brown, who with 34 other East Perth identities, was recognised last night for his outstanding contribution to the club as a highly skilled player, Sandover medallist and premiership-winning coach. He even suggested he was embarrassed by the honour.

That seemed a far cry from Brown's unrepentant stance over the furore that erupted last week when a comment about football "cannibals" snowballed into a national incident that saw him pilloried as a racist. "I was a fanatical South Fremantle supporter, with John Gerovich as my idol, but when I was recruited by Hec Strempel, East Perth were simply marvellous to me," Brown said of his 166-match career with the Royals.

"I feel a bit embarrassed and I don't like people saying or writing good things about me, so the hall of fame makes me feel a bit strange.

"But to see people like Chaddy (Derek Chadwick) and Wattsie (John K Watts) and Polly (Graham Farmer) and Ryan (Turnbull), who have been so marvellous for East Perth, will send a real shiver up my spine."

Strempel, who was the heartbeat of the club in the 1960s when he scoured the State for players, was one of five administrators inducted.

The club also recognised 30 players, including several who played multiple roles, such as Phil Matson, who played only 35 games but coached the club to seven premierships. Billy Thomas won a flag and a Sandover Medal before starting an administrative career that spread over more than 20 years.

Like Brown, Turnbull won a Sandover with the Royals but also won two WAFL flags with the club, as well as one with West Coast in the AFL. Turnbull and his premiership captain Jeremy Barnard were the two players inducted from the modern era.

A Claremont junior who shifted to the Royals in 1991 in the fall-out between then Tigers coach Gerard Neesham and the Eagles over the use of AFL-listed players, Turnbull considered himself to be 100 per cent East Perth now after 155 matches.

"East Perth means so much to me," he said. "I spoke to every club about playing for them and could have gone to any one of them but it was East Perth who gave me the chance to establish myself and it is a great club that supports its players.

"It is a working man's club, not a silver spoon club, but even when I played for Claremont against East Perth you knew you were in a game of football and that is pretty much why I decided to play for them."

EAST PERTH HALL OF FAME

Players: 1906 to 1918
Arthur J Hesford, 1906-1911, 95 games
Ben Wallish, 1906-1918, 144 games

Players: 1919 to 1944
George 'Staunch' Owens
Val Sparrow
Lawrence 'Plum' Duffy
William 'Digger' Thomas
Reginald 'Nashy' Brentnall
Jackie Guhl
Mick Cronin

Players: 1945 to 1969
Ray Starr
Graham Farmer
Ted Kilmurray
John Watts
Derek Chadwick
Mal Atwell
Jim Washbourne
Ray Perry

Players: 1970 to 1990
Mal Brown
Ken McAullay
Peter Spencer
Phil Kelly
Stephen Curtis
Bradley Smith

Players: 1991 onwards
Ryan Turnbull
Jeremy Barnard

Officials/Coaches
Tom Guthrie
F 'Son' Bray
Cyril Norton
Fred Book
W. C. G. 'Billy' Thomas
Hec Strempel
George Fogarty
Phil Matson
Jack Sheedy
Laurie Kennedy