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Gero will fly forever
by LES EVERETT
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
John Gerovich in a Mobil footy card in 1965.