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Monday, April 22, 2013 - 4:15 AM
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By his initials it would seem that Wally Price was born to play with West Perth. In fact, he was born of £10 English immigrants at Margaret River in 1926.

Given his ancestry, it is little wonder the 86-year-old Price last year came out in strong support of West Perth’s controversial decision to incorporate the UK flag into its jumper for the WAFL’s international round.

Price was a back-pocket expert. Scrupulously fair, he nevertheless relished the big occasion games in which physical clashes were more common.

He was not one to let the heat of the moment distract him from his essential duties: stopping his direct opponent from scoring and clearing the ball from danger.

To the amazement of commentators, he was not selected for WA in the 1948 ANFC carnival. It was not until the 1952 season that the state selectors agreed with every other WA football fan.

Thereafter Price was a fixture in the state side where he was called on to mind the likes of Charlie Sutton and Bill Hutchison, declaring the latter his most elusive opponent.

Price’s combination with full-back Ray Schofield, both for West Perth and for WA, was almost psychic.

Price claimed it was instinct, based on knowing each other’s game rather than any deliberate planning.

One of their finest efforts was in the 1951 Grand Final. West Perth (then the Cardinals, now the Falcons) led by 17 points at three-quarter time, but a strong wind favoured its opponent, South Fremantle, in the last quarter.

As South Fremantle mounted attack after attack, Price and Schofield led the resistance, but they could not repel them all and South crept closer and closer.

With two minutes left, West Perth was just three points ahead. In a furious finish, the defensive skills of Price and others saw the Cardinals hang on for the flag.

If you saw Price once or twice a year, you would think him a lucky player; he was always where the ball was and the bounce always seemed to favour him.

If you saw him every game, you realised the sublime skills of anticipation, reading the play and fast reactions were underpinning his possessions.

Football was not Price’s only sporting skill. Like several other WA footballers, he loved the water. In 1945-46, he was the senior surf champion at the Scarborough Surf Club.

Price played 256 games for West Perth and was selected in its Team of the Century.