The East Fremantle football club is often forgotten by some who debate modern football history, but it shouldn’t be. While we know a lot about Port Adelaide and its success thanks to its AFL application process and current presence, little is known outside of Fremantle and WA circles about the club that is the second most successful football club in the country.
The Fremantle area is rich in history, with at least two variants of a Fremantle club appearing and disappearing before 1897. South Fremantle have had a strong rivalry with East Fremantle since they came onto the scene since they took the place of Fremantle in 1900. The two Fremantle clubs play a Foundation Day derby in June that is one of the biggest matches of the WAFL season. It was no surprise when Fremantle were given the nod for the second WA AFL license in 1995.
East Fremantle was formed in 1898 and joined a WAFL that had just four teams, half of whom no longer play in the competition. (Fremantle, Rovers. Today only West Perth remains from the same year East Fremantle joined the WAFL.The club was originally known as the Blue and Whites, also known as ‘Old Easts’ from 1906 until 1983, when it became the Sharks.
When the club was founded they started at Fremantle Oval, playing there until 1953 when they relocated across town to the East Fremantle Oval.
They have been remarkably successful wining their first premiership in 1900, and six in the first ten years. In total they have won 29 premierships, and come runner up 29 times. People wondering about the quality of the league in which these premierships were won should note that all but four of these premierships and runner-ups were won before 1980 (add another 1 of each before the Eagles were introduced in 1987). Its record is only beaten by the Port Adelaide Magpies at elite level.
There might have been another two premierships on that list if the club hadn’t lost two flags in controversial circumstances right at the start- an incorrect scoreboard in 1905, and an appeal against a goal scored after the half time siren which was upheld by the WAFA in 1907. If these were allowed East Fremantle would have won ten flags in a row.
The club has an enviable record – including an unbeaten run in 35 matches from July 1945 to May 1947 – and includes the 1946 season where the Sharks were undefeated in the WAFL (they lost an end of season challenge to Collingwood in Melbourne). The club is the only WAFL club to have a positive win loss record against all other clubs in the league.
The club has featured twelve Sandover medallists including the 2013 reciepient, Rory O’Brien. Jack Clarke won the award twice in 1961 and 1963. Eight East Fremantle players have won the Simpson medal for best afield in a Grand Final.
Seven East Fremantle players have gone on to All Australian honors, including Jack Clarke (four times), Norm Rogers (twice) and Ray Sorrell (twice). The Fremantle legends side features thirteen East Fremantle players. Sixty Five East Fremantle players have gone on to play in the VFL or AFL, with Shane Woewodin going on to win the Brownlow Medal in 2000 while playing for Melbourne. In 1987, when the Eagles were formed, fourteen East Fremantle players were taken in the draft, as well as the coach.
A further thirteen people have won the Bernie Naylor medal for the WA leagues leading goal kicker – including George Doig who wont the award six times (four of them back to back from 1933-1936).
George Doig is impossible to write off with a single sentence. In 1933, he was the first person to kick 100 goals in a season in WAFL history (he would go on to break the century in eigh different seasons). In 1934 he kicked 152 goals for the season, which was an Australian record that stood until 1953 when it was broken by Bernie Naylor himself (167 goals). The same year he kicked a then record 19 goals in a single match.
Over nine years, Doig kicked 1083 goals at an average of 120 a season and more than 5 goals per game. He kicked a further 62 goals from 14 State matches. In 2002, he as inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame and in 2004 became a Legend of the WA Hall of Fame. The AFL Fremantle football club’s best and fairest is named after the Doig family.