Guy McKenna and John Worsfold at Princes Park in 2000 when they were starting out on their coaching careers
Guy McKenna and John Worsfold at Princes Park in 2000 when they were starting out on their coaching careers

Their lifelong bond was sealed through physical and mental taunting by opponents who dared to challenge West Coast's half-back line.

Their victims were many, their achievement unique. They are the secret men's society with a membership of just three. They are known internally as the Captain's Club.

As Guy McKenna returns home at the helm of Gold Coast to tackle close friend John Worsfold at Patersons Stadium tomorrow, _The West Australian _can reveal details of a little-known entity featuring a well-known trio.

Worsfold, McKenna and former teammate Murray Rance first joined defensive forces for West Coast in a 21-point win over Geelong at Kardinia Park on April 2, 1988.

They combined for one last time in a devastating loss to Collingwood in the replayed 1990 qualifying final at Waverley Park.

Rance, whose son Alex is emerging in the Richmond defence, was captain a year earlier. Worsfold and McKenna would also take the top mantle in the following decade, an achievement for half-back teammates that AFL historian Col Hutchinson said yesterday was probably unmatched.

Just how much influence this Captain's Club wields on the game is unknown but is it more than a coincidence that on the same weekend Richmond have their first bye for the season, Rance will come home from Melbourne to watch McKenna and Worsfold match wits for the first time in a home-and-away game?

After realising the club's cover had been blown, he lifted the lid on the trio's surreptitious sect.

Rance would not reveal the tightly-guarded nicknames of the three members but confirmed he was both the chairman of the club and fines master. He said there would be a heavy penalty for the loser of tomorrow's game.

The fines are dealt out under a points system which, at the time of the club's annual general meeting, determines the member liable for an entertainment-based financial punishment.

Past AGMs are believed to have been also attended by the members' wives and conducted in luxurious venues such as Noosa, the Gold Coast and Broome, where the club's 10th anniversary was celebrated a couple of years ago.

An extraordinary AGM is expected to be held in Perth tomorrow night.

"We call it the Captain's Club and it's a beauty. We love it," Rance said. "I'm the chairman and regardless of what they think, I'm the boss. We have an AGM once a year and there will be a significant number of points awarded to the first winner of this contest.

"In the end, the loser has to do something and that will be determined by the members of the party.

"You build up your mateships in football over the years and then go your different ways, so we just made a pact between ourselves that wherever we are in the world, we'll still have a lunch once a year.

"It's just built from that. We're actually considering that I sit between the boxes at the game to keep them apart."

While Steve Malaxos was Eagles captain in 1990, interrupting an otherwise consecutive reign for the three club members, his absence from half-back duties made him ineligible for the club.

Rance said that such was the exclusivity of the club, four-times West Coast best and fairest and star former centre half-back Glen Jakovich was unfortunate not to be considered as an inclusion because he did not captain the Eagles.

"Jako's filthy because he's not involved but anyone who hasn't sustained a bruise in his life but has been a champion footballer is a problem for me," Rance said.

McKenna said the lasting friendship had been built on the trio's defensive toil.

"Murray Rance went to centre half-back, Woosha went to one half-back flank and I went to the other and as you do in a back line, you get that instant bond," the Suns coach said.

"We had the common goal of stopping forwards kicking goals and that's where it took off. We think our little company is quite unique in terms of captaincy of a football club.

"I know Steve Malaxos was in there, but we joke that Woosha knifed Murray Rance for the job and then I knifed Woosha in the back for the job. We're all still fairly thick."

McKenna said his first vivid football memory of Worsfold was sitting on the bench with him during the 1985 Teal Cup grand final.

That WA team spawned the group which became known as the Magnificent Seven and also included fellow Eagles Chris Lewis, Paul Peos, Chris Waterman, Peter Sumich and Scott Watters.

But their friendship became iron-clad in their early days at the Eagles and was founded on Rance's huge competitive streak.

"Maybe it was my silliness, but it was in the early days of West Coast when no one wanted to do man-on-man stuff with him and I was the only silly idiot who would," McKenna recalled.

"My stubbornness and Irishness would come out sometimes, but I never used to poke the tiger too much - you didn't have to with him. You'd test yourself because you knew the reputation of how hard he was and that was only going to help you.

"I never saw John as a peer of mine back then because he always seemed much older and so much more mature than a bloke of 19 or 20 years of age. He acted above his weight division ... he was never heavier than me, but I used to tell him he was.

"John's a pharmacist and very much professional, as I like to think I am. But we do it in a different way."

Rance said those different ways were clear to those who knew both men, but their professional commitment to the sport was a strong common denominator.

"They were like little brothers to me in a lot of respects and they took professionalism to a new level before it was there," he said.

"The way John would conduct himself with his study on the plane, or Bluey's meticulous preparation as a professional athlete ... it just oozed out of them.

"But most importantly, they're just really, really good people and they've just got great values.

"I can't believe how long it's taken Guy to get a senior job. I sat in his box when Gold Coast were in the TAC Cup and, strategically, he's very clever and an intelligent football brain.

"John is a brilliant people manager. I'm not saying he's not a tactician, but I sit down with him a lot and listen to the way he manages people and, to me, that would be the separation between the two of them.

"They are both consummate competitors and it wouldn't matter whether they were coaching against each other or what, but still, they are idiots.

"It was very funny playing alongside them with some of the stupid comments they would come up with."

Typical of the stark difference in personas, McKenna said he had been liberal with some emailed barbs this week while Worsfold had scarcely replied.

McKenna had been an assistant coach under both Worsfold at West Coast and their dual premiership boss Mick Malthouse at Collingwood before securing his Gold Coast position. Malthouse gave them and Jakovich some timely praise on Channel 7's Footy Flashbacks last Sunday.

"They were outstanding players, but the good thing about that back line was that they were all best of mates," Malthouse said.

"It's a reflection of how they grew up together and how they played, they just trusted one another. Guy McKenna has got a little hump on his back and he still thinks to this day that he carried the whole back line.

"John disagreed totally and Jak thought the world revolved around him getting the football. But they were not only a great back line in terms of quality, it was a great back line in terms of personnel.

"They were just terrific people."

The West Australian

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