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Gero will fly forever


THE year 1956 was a big one for 18-year-old South Fremantle full forward John Gerovich.

In his third year of league football, Gerovich was named in the All-Australian team after the national carnival played in Perth and was the WANFL's leading goal scorer with 74.

However it was a split second achievement in the preliminary final against East Fremantle at Subiaco Oval on October 6 in 1956 that cast Gerovich into football immortality.

The perfect photograph by Maurie Hammond from The West Australian of Gerovich marking while on the shoulder of East's Ray French now seems a natural part of the football landscape.

Strangely enough The West didn't make of a fuss of the picture at the time. In the footy pages of Monday October 8 there's a photo of Gerovich coming to ground, presumably after the famous mark. The classic photo was first published on Wednesday October 10 - one column in width and about six inches high. It accompanied a short article suggesting the young high-flier would be in for a tough time in the approaching grand final against the older, taller and heavier East Perth full back John Watts.

Those who attended the footy in the late 1950s will tell you big marks by Gerovich were not rarities. In The West on August 27, 1956 there's a photo from the previous Saturday's derby of one that got away that shows the young forward flying high over Con Regan but spilling the mark. According to The West the 18-year-old "...amazed the crowd with some of his freakish marking." He kicked 5.2 in that game with South winning by 41 points.

The Fremantle teams met again in the preliminary final because Old East beat Perth in the first semi final by 33 points while the Bulldogs lost the second semi to East Perth by seven points with Gerovich kicking one goal. A crowd of 24,500 turned out for the derby preliminary final with South, led by brilliant performances by Steve Marsh and John Colgan, winning by 18 points. In the Sunday Times Frank Walker wrote: "...full back Regan had a great duel with South's Gerovich. Regan's kicking out was a feature, his kicks nearly reaching the centre each time."

Walker didn't mention the mark and neither did Ron Davidson in his match report. Gerovich finished the game with 10 kicks and six marks and kicked 2.5 - French, who played in the back pocket with the occasional run on the ball, had 15 kicks and five marks. Commenting in The West, Ern McGuckin, selector and former player with West Perth, said Gerovich had improved on his display in the second semi: "...but should always use the punt kick."

Gerovich kicked 2.1 in the grand final with East Perth winning by 13 points.

Few people are better placed to talk about Gerovich's marking ability than Con Regan his derby opponent for about a decade.

"He could jump from anywhere and he had incredible ball handling, you could be holding one hand and he's grab the ball with two fingers in the other hand," Regan told the Herald. "How unlucky was I? When I first started playing against South I had Bernie Naylor to contend with then there was Don Glass for a few games and then along came Gero - no wonder I've got ulcers."

On Monday June 5 prior to the derby Robert Hitchcock's statue of the mark with be unveiled at the roundabout opposite the turnstile entrance to Fremantle Oval.

From the Fremantle Herald.
gerovich 1965
John Gerovich in a Mobil footy card in 1965.

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