Where are they now? Keith Dean

by Ron Head

No Show Jones crooned the American country singer, George Jones, who was well noted for missing in action at sold out concerts.

In 1954 at Subiaco Football Club the cry was Anyone Seen Dean?

I was serving in the Nashos when I was selected for my first league game, Keith Dean explained to Footygoss. Unfortunately no one told me, and I didn’t turn up.


The six foot four Dean was an excellent tap ruckman with both hands, who worked well with his rovers to set up plays. In his junior years he played in a State Metropolitan Juniors side that accounted for several combined teams on an Eastern States tour. With names like Ray Gabelich, Laurie Kettlewell, and Roy Harper, plus Brian Foley, who was forced to withdraw through injury, it was a fair combination. 

Keith was the eldest of the Dean brothers, and with brother Frank, who played a hundred and twenty eight games, became a leading player with Subiaco. Between the pair, the Maroons received two hundred and seventy games service, Frank’s son Warren adding a further eighty-two in later years.

After making seven appearances at league level in 1954, Keith Dean led the Subiaco ruck the following season and was a solid performer throughout some lean years. His contributions were recognised at State level when he was selected for a State second side match against Essendon, followed by a berth in the second of Western Australia’s double engagement with South Australia at Subiaco in 1955.

Teamed with Polly Farmer and Jack Clarke to form an impressive ruck battery, with South Fremantle duo John Todd and Barry White as rovers, Dean did well in what turned out to be his only State appearance. With the array of top ruckmen at the disposal of State selectors at that time, it was no reflect ion on Keith’s ability, on the contrary it was an achievement to selected, with others of the ilk of Percy Johnson, Charlie Skehan, Tommy Davis, Keith Slater, Don Byfield, and Brian Foley also under consideration.

The arrival of South Fremantle star Charlie Tyson as coach of Subiaco in 1956 followed by some handy team mates in Don Glass, Peter Amaranti, Colin Hickman, and Bill McGilvray triggered a revival for the club, with Dean to the fore, finishing third in fairest and best voting.

Subiaco stormed into premiership reckoning in 1959 with a one hundred and twenty nine point shellacking of Perth in the first semi final, followed by an impressive thirty four point win over the fancied East Fremantle in the preliminary final.  But the mountain was too high and the drought continued when they lost to the dominant team of the late fifties, East Perth, by twenty three points. 

A knee injury necessitating the removal of a cartilage in 1962 was the beginning of the end of Keith Dean’s football career. Missing half of the 1962 season, he played six games the following year before a clash with West Perth’s Gabelich became dejavu, with another cartilage operation. 

Retiring early in 1964 after a hundred and forty two appearances, he was contacted by Sunday League side Hellenics, coached by former West Perth star Ray Schofield, who needed to win all five of their last fixtures to make the finals. They offered me five pounds a game, a princely sum then, whether we won or lost, he recalled. Unfortunately money wouldn’t rejuvenate the knee, and it protested vigorously.

A spray painter with Lynas Motors for many years, Keith is enjoying retirement despite his knee legacies. It seems to run in the family, he laments. Brother Frank has had one, Warren is having one, and now Keith’s wife Jean is convalescing after a knee reconstruction. Swimming and bike riding are favourite activities, while he still enjoys football at all levels.

I was knocked out once, he told us. Not in a game but at training.

Someone booted a stab pass in my direction, I bent down and the ball smacked me in the chin. I was out cold. Jean was in hospital with a baby, and she was duly informed that hubby had been knocked out.

Playing against Perth one day I got a split eye from a boot near the grandstand, we went up for the throw in, I did my ankle. I ended up with a doc stitching up my cranium and a trainer down the other end working on the ankle.

I once appeared before the Tribunal when Trizzy Lawrence was reported for kicking me in the chest. I said he didn’t do it, the ump said he saw him do it, his advocate wanted me to take my shirt off, which was a concern because if there was a bruise I could be done for telling fibs.

Before I could whip it off the chairman said: three weeks.

One day Frank and I tackled Claremont’s Ian Brewer. Frank said: I’ll get him, then found himself on the end of a heavy bump from the forward, so I said: I’ll get him. I copped the same treatment and away went Brewer leaving us eating grass.

Keith Dean rucked against two of the best ruckmen to play the game in Western Australia in Farmer and Clarke, and ranked them as his toughest opponents, along with Swan Districts big man Keith Slater, who later coached Subiaco. Laurie Kettlewell was his choice as best Subiaco player, with a special word for rover Don Carter, another to be struck down with a career-ending knee injury.

Don would call out where he wanted it, Keith said. Knock it to where his voice came from and he’d always find it.

Keith Dean was a fine exponent of the art of tapping the ball to rovers from ruck contests, one of many good ruckmen in the WANFL during the fifties and sixties, and he was one of Subiaco’s best during some barren years. 


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