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In 1963, Claremont instituted the “Flying Tigers.”

Each week a small plane would fly from the Great Southern to Perth with several footballers aboard ready to represent the Tigers in the WANFL.  Among these were Alan Mycock, Vern Orr, Ian Brayshaw(who was working for a country newspaper), Des Leo, and Brian Fairclough.  

It was the first year of a fine career by Fairclough, who went on to play a hundred and nineteen games with Claremont.

The son of a Katanning farmer, Brian played most of his junior football at Scotch College, where he won the fairest and best award playing in the centre as part of the outstanding 1960 side, from which about a dozen graduated to league football.

Originally a Subiaco supporter, Fairclough lined up with Nedlands in Claremont's district, which tied him to the Tigers, before playing with the colts.

Making his league debut in the first game of 1963, he kicked a goal with his first possession, off a half forward flank opposed to West Perth's Ross Kelly.  “A useful debut,” was his comment to Footygoss, but it must have impressed the selectors, because he was moved to a wing the following week, a position he was to make his own over the next five years.

Languishing at the bottom of the ladder throughout 1963, Fairclough became a member of the memorable Claremont 1964 premiership side, and was one of the best on ground in the grand final. A stocky five foot ten, Brian was noted for his pace and pin point kicking, and both of these attributes were on display in this game, with unerring passes to Les Mumme and others, as well as picking up a goal himself.

Moved into the centre in 1968, Fairclough continued to be an influential player in a Claremont team that had returned to the middle of the table after the 1964 success. Knee and hamstring injuries hastened his retirement in 1970 at the age of twenty six, but other factors also had a bearing. “My father died when I was young, and I had to get back to the farm,” he said. 

It was to be the end of Fairclough's playing days, but not quite the finish of his involvement with league football.

In 1983, Tasmanian Peter Daniel was appointed coach of Subiaco, with Fairclough as chairman of selectors.  After a promising start with two wins, things steadily deteriorated, culminating in a one hundred and twenty seven point drubbing by South Fremantle in round eleven at Fremantle Oval.(in front of 5,950 people, to give an idea of the crowds in those years).

Daniel was sacked as coach, and replaced by Fairclough, who promptly guided them to a narrow loss by twelve points to Swan Districts, followed by two wins in a row, over East Perth by twenty six points and seven thousand witnessed the Maroons upset West Perth by four points. It was a brief coaching career for Fairclough, as the return of Haydn Bunton was warmly welcomed by a success starved Subiaco in 1984.

Brian Fairclough and wife Honey later moved to the United Kingdom for eighteen years, where Brian was in  marketing and public relations after spending seven years with Cathay Pacific.

Unable to separate the many good players he played on, Brian selected an elite group of Tigers as best he'd played with. “Dennis Marshall, Lorne Cook, Alan Mycock, Les Mumme, and Kevin Clune,” he said. “Cluney was the ultimate team man, who never let any transgression by the opposition go without some kind of response, especially when it concerned the younger players. Early in my career I got a clout from Bert Thornley at East Fremantle Oval after taking a mark, and Cluney was straight onto him. Trouble with Kev was he wasn't a “behind the play” merchant, he was always up front, and on that occasion right in front of the ump, who immediately gave the pill to Bert.”

Brian and Honey Fairclough live in York these days, semi retired but farming, with two sons. Michael Fairclough played six games with Subiaco in the mid eighties, but chronic asthma hindered his training to such an extent he was unable to continue. A former golfer and tennis player, Brian these days is content “messing around” on the farm.

Brian Fairclough played in an era of class centremen and wingmen, hence the absence of State appearances from his resume'. He was extremely unlucky in that regard, as he was held in high esteem by team mates and opposition alike as one of Western Australia's most talented midfielders in the sixties. He is remembered by Claremont supporters as a top player for the Tigers.

 

 

 

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