by LES EVERETT
You should always stop at Southern Cross when traveling from Perth to Kalgoorlie. It’s because you’ve come a long way but you still have a couple of pretty uninspiring hours of driving ahead. It’s a good place to recharge – there’s a park with a gazebo, a pool and a cafe among other things.
Southern Cross is a mining town that never reached the heights of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and it’s also in marginal wheatbelt country. And it survives.
The town once hosted its own strong football competition but now competes in the Eastern Districts Football League where it won its only premiership in 2001.
Arguably the best player to come out of Southern Cross is someone who is not a household name but should be.
Bill O’Neil was spotted playing for United Mines and invited to try his luck in the city. He made the move in 1938 and was impressed by the reception he received at Claremont. Joining the Tigers under coach Johnny Leonard was a good move. O’Neil was centre-half-back in Claremont’s first three premiership teams – 1938,1939 and 1940, when he finished fourth in the Sandover Medal.
The war put O’Neil’s football career on hold but he returned to captain Claremont in 1947-48. In 1947 he was vice-captain of the WA team that beat Victoria in the national carnival in Hobart and he also won Claremont’s fairest and best award. He retired from top level football in 1948 after 98 games for Claremont.
In 1993 Claremont named its “Best Ever Team” from 1946-1993. Bill O’Neil was named at centre-half-back. The half-back-flankers were Denis Marshall and Ken Hunter. The Tigers, it seems, know how good Bill O’Neil was.