Old Lion hooked by finals heroics
Old Lion hooked by finals heroics

Ron Fitch's first football memory remains as clear as that long-ago day when he observed the most thrilling event of his sporting life.

A Subiaco player was being chaired off Perth Oval after just kicking a goal over his head to give his team a two-point win in the grand final.

"I remember the moment clearly," Fitch said this week.

"Two of the players had him on his shoulders and carried him past me where I was sitting with my mother and father.

"He was wearing a maroon jumper and long white shorts.

"I didn't know who he was at the time but he had just kicked a marvellous goal to win the grand final."

The player was Herb "Hubba" Limb and the game was the 1915 WAFL grand final.

Fitch was only five but 99 years later, a period in which he produced a glittering career as an engineer and rose to become South Australia's commissioner of railways, his passion for football remains as strong as ever.

Fitch turned 104 last month and is the WAFL's sole surviving centurion after Swan Districts pioneer Andy Zilko died last month, aged 102.

Fitch played 35 matches for Subiaco from 1929 to 1931 before his career took priority and he moved to the Goldfields and later to South Australia.

He now lives in a nursing home in Adelaide and apart from "knees that give me plenty of gyp", it is difficult to imagine any person so deep into his second century who remains as sharp and curious about the world.

It is little surprise that Fitch, at 92, became the world's oldest recipient of a PhD, while his views on football are as trenchant as any high-profile commentator or AFL coach.

"I love the game but I hate what has happened to it," he said.

"Kicking is very good but there is too much holding of the man, too much handball and players are allowed to throw the ball too often. It is worse than rugby league a lot of the time.

"I can't understand how a player can win the ball then gets ridden into the ground, has four or five players pile on top of his back then gets a free kick paid against him.

"I'm glad I'm not playing today if that is what has happened to the rules."

Fitch remains a great Subiaco fan who follows their results every week, while his local team is Glenelg who he has supported for decades after living most of his adult life in the beachside suburb.

Like many football followers, he also marvels at the feats of Fremantle midfielder Nat Fyfe, who he considers one of the best players of the modern era.

"I would think he is one of the best two or three footballers in Australia," Fitch said.

"He is a brilliant player.

"And he plays at a very good team. Fremantle are as tough as blazes and they have a very good coach."

Fitch continued to push the case for his old Subiaco teammate Len Metherell to be credited as the inventor of the drop punt.

Metherell played 110 matches for Geelong and Fitch believes that Richmond legend Jack Dyer, who has long been lauded for making the kick popular, was influenced by his contemporary.

"Len used to kick drop punts as straight as a die," Fitch said.

"He went off to Geelong and became a top player there."

Fitch is also the WACA's oldest surviving cricketer, having played for University in 1930-31 before moving to the Goldfields.

The West Australian

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