In the hurly-burly of modern WA football, a forgotten star is still bouncing around after more than a century of service to the game.

The Burley footy was first used in a WAFL match between East Fremantle and West Perth in 1907, starting what is believed to have been a constant connection with the game in WA. It has again been ordained by the WA Football Commission for exclusive use in the 2014 season.

And for Malcolm Tapscott, the man linked more strongly than anyone to the Burley oval ball, it is the quirky bounce of the footy he had a hand in making for more than 50 years that captivates him more than the players themselves.

"If I ever go and watch a game, it's the ball I watch . . . how it goes through the air, how it bounces," Mr Tapscott said. Although, he did confess to a fascination at how WA football legends Bill Walker and Haydn Bunton Jr used to boot around his handiwork.

Mr Tapscott joined Burley as a 14-year-old in 1958 when his mother forced him to take the job and abandon his carpentry dreams. He progressed through the ranks to factory manager and retains a consulting role with the company.

He said Burley leather was sourced from Victoria and revealed there were 27 different "movements" involved in making a ball, which took about five days. He said the leather had to be cut with the grain and a ball's lining had to be perfectly attached or it would lose its shape.

Wandering through the Burley factory that in many ways epitomises its long heritage through its ageing factory equipment, Mr Tapscott recalled ball-making competitions between staff in his early days. He struggles to hide what appeared to be displeasure at how the modern football had become more "pointed" bec-ause of the phasing out of the drop-kick in today's game.

Asked how many footballs he had made during his long career, he trotted out a Powerball Lotto-like phrase he used often before heading into semi-retirement: "One more ball and I'm gone". Burley, at one stage, made up to 32,000 footballs a year and still produces about 20,000 annually.

Company director Edward Cunningham said that number included a special women's football, which had become the official ball of the Victorian Women's Football League. Mr Cunningham said some women footballers had been brought into the company's Bassendean factory for testing so that the balls could be tailored to the, on average, smaller feet of their gender.

"A lot of care is taken in our production and there is an awful lot of history," Mr Cunningham said. "It's the best ball in the market."

WAFC general manager Steve Hargrave said that history had become an important part of the game in the State.

"The Burley football is synonymous with WA football and the product itself is one of the highest qualities you can get," Mr Hargrave said.

The West Australian

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