My plan was clear and sensible. I’d move to Perth and get a house in Bulwer Street or Pier Street. I’d attend every East Perth training session, always carrying a footy. One day I’d be noticed, invited to training and the rest would be glorious Royal history.
Things didn’t go exactly to plan. I came to Perth in 1974, lived closer to Claremont Oval and dedicated myself to study rather than footy – emerging as a borderline C-grade student at the now defunct Graylands Teachers College. I did, however, spend many Saturday afternoons at the home of the Mighty Royals.
Perth Oval was East Perth’s home ground from 1910 until 2002. Now it’s a stadium – Perth Glory plays there along with the Western Force, in whatever form they’re in these days. It’s also the venue for the odd NRL game. I’ve only been back once since the Royals left… to see another of my boyhood heroes Paul McCartney.
The oval’s Australian football fate could have been much different. The inner city location made it desirable and it was the venue for six WAFL grand finals, the last in 1935, and a number of interstate games. Plans were drawn up in 1966 to turn Perth Oval into a 100,000 seat stadium. And who knows what might have happened if East Perth’s bid to join the VFL in 1980 had been successful.
East Perth won premierships in 1956, 1958 and 1959 with a team led by ruckman Graham “Polly” Farmer. It was during this time that the legend of Charlie Chandler’s tree came to light. It was said the Cape Chestnut tree, close to the Pier Street gate at Perth Oval, would bloom before the Royals won a premiership. In the 1960s East Perth lost six grand finals. Sometimes the tree blossomed, sometimes it didn’t and when it failed to bloom during the triple premiership years 2000, 2001 and 2002 the legend was finally put to bed.
The scoreboard was an interesting structure kind of perched on a brick plinth. An article in the Daily News in 1949 told us a special scoreboard attendant at Perth Oval would post the scores from the other games and results from the Belmont races.
In 1977 and 1978 (a premiership year under Barry Cable) Ray Wills took action and function photos at East Perth games. He wasn’t aiming at the scoreboard but he got it often enough to provide us with valuable images.
• Ray Wills as the copyright holder grants permission for the scoreboardpressure.com site to reproduce all historical East Perth Football Club-related images taken by me.
• Thanks to Royals Museum… look it up on Facebook.