South Fremantle to unveil Bulldogs Team of the Century

Selector say this team better than the AFL's

THE 22 players in South Fremantle Football Club's Indigenous Team of the Century will rival that of its AFL equivalent, according to one of the selectors. The West Australian football club will honour the more than 70 Indigenous players who have worn its famous red and white 'V' jumper by revealing its 100-year team at a function in Fremantle next month.

Although the club is, in fact, 109 years old, South Fremantle have honoured its historical Indigenous connection by naming a best 22.

There were in reality only 18 spots to fill with legends Stephen Michael, Maurice Rioli, Nicky Winmar and Peter Matera automatic inclusions by virtue of their selection into the AFL's Indigenous Team of the Century (1904-2004).

The job to choose the team fell to Mal Brown, Ray Wilson and club boss Brian Ciccotosto. The team will be revealed in the lead-up to the July 3 tribute dinner at the Griff John Function Centre in Fremantle.

"Selecting a side of 22 players from 74 was always going to be difficult," Ciccotosto told AboriginalFootball today. "I don't think you will get a better Indigenous team from anywhere in Australia. There's three currently playing in the AFL and two also in the WAFL. Some blokes on their day (who would perform great) will have been unlucky to have missed out."

Ciccotosto said 18 of the 22 players will attend the event. The majority of the players live interstate -- in Darwin, Melbourne and on Melville Island.

South's Aboriginal connection
SEBASTIAN RIOLI's arrival at South Fremantle heralded a new era at the Bulldogs. The Tiwi man landed at the Port club in 1972 and an influx of Aboriginal players followed. Before that, there had been only Jimmy Melbourne (1902) and the Hayward brothers -- Bill, Eric and Maley -- in the 1936 and 1937 seasons.

Following Rioli's arrival, it was as if the planets aligned for South.

"In 1972 we managed to recruit 'Sibby' Rioli," Ciccotosto explains, "and he was followed by his family, and then the Campbells, Vigonas, Dunns came. Concurrent with that was the arrival in 1975 of Stephen Michael. When he arrived the Winmars and Collards followed."

Crucially for the club, when country zoning came to the WAFL in 1973, South were assigned the Upper Great Southern area. "Great Nyoongar territory," Ciccotosto said.

According to the club record books, 61 Aboriginal footballers have played more than 2250 league games for the Bulldogs. There have been four AFL All-Australians, winning between them two Sandover Medals, two Norm Smith Medals, four Simpson Medals, one Tassie Medal and numerous fairest and bests.

Stephen Michael holds the record for playing 210 games in succession from 1975 to 1983. He also polled 37 Sandover Medal votes in 1981, a club record.

"We've enjoyed great success with Aboriginal players; they added a new dimension to WA football and our club," Ciccotosto said.

The club's July 3 Indigenous Team of the Century function will be followed by the annual South Fremantle-Claremont NAIDOC Week match.

DARREN MONCRIEFF
Darren@AboriginalFootball.com.au
Friday, June 19, 2009



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