MEL WHINNEN INDUCTED TO AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - 7:02 AM by Chris Pike

HE is one of the finest ever players to represent the West Perth Football Club and this week the legendary Mel Whinnen took his rightful place in the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Whinnen's remarkable legacy from his 371-game career with West Perth that included a record nine fairest and best awards and four premierships has long been cemented. But it received another significant accolade on Tuesday night when he was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame at a glittering ceremony in Melbourne.

Whinnen was inducted alongside Bernie Naylor, Terry Wallace, Wayne Johnston, David Neitz and Matthew Scarlett with Kevin Sheedy elevated to legend status.

Having grown up supporting West Perth and attending games regularly at Leederville Oval, Whinnen grew up dreaming of playing with the Cardinals and not only did he live out those hopes, but by the time he retired following the 1977 season he had become one of the club's greatest ever players.

Whinnen played in the 1960 premiership with West Perth and soon became the starting centreman where he would remain for virtually all the remainder of his remarkable career.

Along the way, Whinnen played in premierships in 1969, 1971 and 1975 and won fairest and best awards in 1962, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975. Being a fairest and best winner twice in premiership years says it all about his brilliance.

Whinnen also represented Western Australia on 14 occasions during his career, won a Simpson Medal in 1975 and captained West Perth in his last season in 1977 where he retired with just about a best on ground performance in the preliminary final loss to East Fremantle at Subiaco Oval.

A career made up of 371 games, 14 State appearances, four premierships, nine fairest and best awards and a Simpson Medal says it all about Whinnen. Now he is a member of the West Australian and Australian Football Halls of Fame and he couldn’t be more deserving of the honours.

Whinnen's legacy has also been cemented with his name attached to the best on ground in the WAFL Colts Grand Final each year and he is regularly in attendance to presence the award on the day.

When speaking during his induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, it was his family, his football club and teammates foremost on Whinnen's mind.

"My family have been utmost in my mind over the course of my footy career. Mum and dad will be looking down I hope and will be very proud," Whinnen said during the Australian Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Tuesday night.

"My wife Dawn unfortunately couldn’t be here, she's not well at the moment, but her support over the course of my footy career was marvellous together with that of my two girls, Debbie and Jodie. 

"I don’t think they missed a game of my 371 games at West Perth and I'm very proud that they helped me to do that. I'd also like to thank my footy club, West Perth. 

"The reason that Bill Dempsey and I stayed with the club for so long was that they looked after us so well, we had good administrators, good support staff with our trainers and all the people that helped us stay on the field. 

"We had marvellous supporters and members over the course of those 18 years and we still do. Particularly I'd like to say thanks to my teammates over the course of the years I was at West Perth. I'm very much appreciative of the efforts that West Perth did for me and I hope they do well for the future."

Whinnen's connection to the West Perth Football Club began as a young boy even if it did take some time for his father to come around, who had played with East Perth back in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

"I try to get along to a few games still over the course of a year and you like to see them doing well," he said.

"I stayed on a little while after I finished playing footy in an administrative role, but family commitments as kids start to come along and grow up meant I got away from West Perth for a little while. But it's great to be back again to be watching them do well.

"It all started back when I was probably five or six and mum was a good support of West Perth and Leederville Oval wasn’t far from our home. Mum used to take me to the footy in my early days I learnt to respect all the West Perth footballers in those days.

"Unfortunately my dad had played a few games for East Perth back in the 30s and East Perth was the crosstown rivals of course so there was no way we could get dad along to the footy with us watching West Perth. Dad was the bloke who helped me a lot with my kicking and handball in the backyard though. 

"Eventually once I became a league player, dad came across to West Perth and became one of the staunches West Perth supporters that you could possibly hope for. In fact I used to wonder how he got home from Leederville Oval on Saturday night after we had a good win because he celebrated pretty badly."

From the moment Whinnen began his career at West Perth and became a premiership player in 1960, he rarely missed games for the Cardinals right up until his retirement following the 1977 preliminary final.

His consistency of performance and effort right along that whole time was remarkable, but for him there was nothing but hard work and a bit of luck with injury behind it.

"I don’t know if there's any secrets but I did enjoy training and I tried to train to the best of my ability. I tried to do those things that the coaches would try to get us to do, particularly through the 'Polly' Farmer era," he said.

"He trained us very hard and very long. I just enjoyed my footy and enjoyed it from a very young age. I was lucky with injuries I guess too. 

"A lot of the bigger blokes end up with muscle problems and things as they get a bit older, but fortunately I didn’t have a lot of injuries over the course of my 18 years of playing footy."

There could be no story of Whinnen without mention of his great mate and teammate Bill Dempsey. The pair's careers ran parallel at West Perth and they remain close to this day.

"We both started together in 1960, we were both the same age and we both played half a dozen games in 1960," Whinnen said.

"Then 17 years later we had played 350 games together at the same club, which is probably a little bit unusual. We learned a lot about one another over that time. 

"Bill was a marvellous footballer and we did a lot of things together over that time. He was our captain in the final years of us playing footy and a bloke that I have the utmost respect for. He's a tremendous fellow and still a great supporter of the West Perth Football Club."

MEL WHINNEN
371 games for West Perth, 1960-77, kicking 72 goals
14 games for Western Australia, kicking 1 goal
Premierships 1960, 1969, 1971, 1975
Fairest and Best 1962, 1964, 1967-68, 1970-73, 1975
Captain 1977
Simpson Medal 1975
West Australian Football Hall of Fame 2004
Australian Football Hall of Fame 2018