Where are they now? Wally Martin

By Ron Head

Talk about casual, Wally would use the football like it was a basketball.

That was the comment from one of Subiaco's longest serving and most respected players, Colin Williams about team mate Wally Martin. It was an apt description of the classy and skilled wingman, and casual was the operative word. I didn't regard sport as a career, he told Footygoss. It was something I enjoyed doing, but there's more to life than sport, especially in those days, when there was little money in it.

Wally Martin senior is well remembered in the Goldfields as an outstanding rover with Boulder, while Wally junior's brother, Bob, played State Schoolboys cricket with Rod Marsh and Terry Gale and was also an exceptionally talented footballer.

It could have been any of several sports that brought Wally Martin to the city.

A handy baseballer and better than average tennis player, it was his prowess at cricket that attracted attention initially. Playing for a Goldfields eleven against the visiting WACA team at the age of fifteen, Martin scored fifty one before being run out, and was immediately sought by Test player John Rutherford, who influenced his decision to try with Subiaco in the WACA pennant competition.

The opinion of Rutherford was justified when the youngster smashed a hundred and thirty six, then opened the bowling for Subiaco against South Perth, snaring six wickets in his debut game. Wally also played first grade cricket with Scarborough alongside Mick Malone, Tom Hogan, Sam Gannon, Graeme Watson, Greg Shipperd, Robbie Langer, Derek Chadwick, and Ken Meuleman.

Living in close proximity to Subiaco Oval was the catalyst for Martin to join Subiaco Football Club.

After just eleven games with the Maroons reserves in 1959 he received a visit at home from the Subiaco selectors on the Friday night before the Swan Districts game. There was a late withdrawal and I was a reserve for the league side, Wally recalled. My dad and I called into the Shenton Park Hotel, grabbed a flagon of red to celebrate my first selection in the league side, then demolished the contents over the next few hours. Come Saturday I thought I was in for a comfortable afternoon, as thereserves only got a run in the event of injury. Ten minutes into the game one of our players left the ground and on I went. The magic red must have given me a false sense of security, because I felt relaxed, and everything I tried, even one-handed marks, came off.

Former great, Austin Robertson senior, subsequently wrote in the Daily News: Martin reminded me a bit of Haydn Bunton snr, but more untidy.

The gloss was tarnished a few games later, when a clash with East Perth defender Ray Giblett caused a bad horseshoe cartilage tear in his right leg, which at one stage threatened a promising career. Chiropractor Mick Martinovich painstakingly put it back together, but I had to change my kicking foot, Wally said.

Martin developed into one of this State's best wingmen, winning Subiaco's fairest and best awards in 1963 and 64, and represented Western Australia in July, 1964, at Subiaco Oval, opposed to South Australian star John Cahill, where he joined Ray Sorrell and Derek Chadwick to form an impressive centre line, as the home State celebrated a five point win over the Croweaters. 

He recalled the day that South moved John Gerovich onto a wing. John went to ground, the trainers came out with what sounded like race results, the ball came down, Gero plucked the ball out of the air while prostrate on the ground, handballed to Todd, who was off and gone and drilled it for a goal.

Wally retired prematurely in 1967 after a couple of games following the appointment of Allan Killigrew as coach of Subiaco, later serving as selector under Peter Daniels and Brian Fairclough, but a heavy international schedule eventually forced him to relinquish thatjob. 

From his early employment with the Mines Department, Martin became CEO of several mining companies, an involvement that continues today. Still an avid Subiaco supporter, he enjoys social golf at Wembley and Dunsborough.

He recalls a cricket match at Boulder Oval. The setting sun low in the West made it a tad awkward for batsmen, and the skipper of our side was a thinker. We had this five foot left arm spinner named Louie, and he was told to bowl lollypops in line with thewicket. With the sun glaring in the eyes of the batsmen, who would see the ball disappearing into the sun on the way up and again disappearing into the sun on the way down, Louie ended up with five successful LBW's through hitting the stunned batsmen on the head.

While regarding Todd as the best he's seen, Wally ranks Laurie Kettlewell as best he'd played with, and Derek Chadwick as the hardest opponent. Tigerish, very determined footballer and cricketer, and one of the best sportsmen around the place at that time. There were some top wingmen I played against in those days like Greg Brehaut, the Bowe brothers, Ron Doig, Brian Fairclough, Chaddy, Gary Gillespie, Ron McBride, Darryl Gore, Darryl Cormack, Paul Seal, Brian Ray, and occasionally Barry Cable, Laurie Richards, Tom Stannage, Mel Whinnen, and a number of others who would in my view make any of the current AFL teams.

In the sixties football was at it's peak in Western Australia, played in a much more relaxed environment than the big business it has since evolved into, and there were plenty of characters in the game. It was simple and straight forward, which provided the perfect backdrop for ball skills to be displayed, with the players exhibiting thoseskills bringing the crowds through the turnstiles.  Martin was one of those.

Wally Martin is recognised as one of Subiaco and Western Australia's finest wingmen, a player who played the game for the love of it and walked away when it became time to put his business and family first. A character then and a character now, he is highly regarded at Subiaco Football Club, where he continues to help whenever needed behind the scenes.  
 

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