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At the end of 1975, Brian Needle's career at East Fremantle looked to be over.

The target of a John Todd rant after the last game of the season, and virtually shown the door by the volatile coach, Needle was  at the crossroads.  A change of coaches at Moss St for the following year, however, opened the door for him to give it another go and the determination to prove Todd wrong was all the incentive he needed. New mentor Alan Joyce gave him the opportunity, settled the former “Mr Fixit” into a regular defensive role, and Needle didn't look back.

Brian Needle played his junior football at Attadale, where he was coached by well known boundary umpire, Charlie Pratt. “Charlie was a good coach,” he said. “He always said: “Doesn't matter if you play one game of league football or a hundred and fifty, you've still played league football.” It was something that made an impression on me at the time.” The six foot three Needle made his league debut against Swan Districts at East Fremantle in 1972 as a ruckman.It was to be one of the few appearances he made that year. Spending the first few seasons at East as a jack of all positions, he did well in 1974, being selected in the squad for the grand final but missing out in the final cut. Spending most of 1975 in the reserves, Brian got a callup for the last game of the year, replacing Noel Avery at the last minute, but had a shocker, with one kick up to three quarter time, which resulted in the blast from Todd.

Alan Joyce settled Needle into the back line, where the confidence stemming from a regular spot in the side matured him as a footballer, and he went on to play 152 games for East Fremantle, becoming one of the   most dependable, albeit unobtrusive, members of the side. Needle was a long kicking player with a good work ethic, an honest footballer who could, and did, fill most positions on the field. He was a deceptively agile player for his size, making him equally at home in a key position or on a flank.

A knee problem in 1977 was a setback, and the ramifications were to dog him and eventually halt his league career. It had it's cruellist effect on the eve of the 1979 grand final. East Fremantle coach, Bradley Smith, called for anyone with any doubts whatsoever about their fitness to come forward. Putting the interests of the team before a burning ambition to play in a premiership side, Needle admitted his knee was a concern, as it had been all year, although he felt sure it would get through.

After being pumped up with cortisone, he felt as fit as ever on the Saturday, but the call had been made, and it was the closest he got to a league flag. “It was one of the  hardest decision I have had to make in my life, and it was most disappointing to miss out on the big one, especially a Derby, but to have played and let the boys down if I'd not stayed the distance would have been much worse,” he reflected. “We had been building up to that flag all season, with a bonding trip to Point Peron before the finals having a sound effect on the side. We all felt ready to win a premiership.” 

The disappointment had only just begun, however, with 1980 being a disaster for Needle,  injury forcing him out of the game for the duration.

After returning to attack in his final year, 1983, when he enjoyed one of his best years, Brian Needle found the knee was becoming too much of a handicap to continue in league football, so he reluctantly called it quits at the age of twenty eight, becoming a life member of East Fremantle.

A season with Harvey-Brunswick in the South West Football League followed, before he hung up the boots and took on the reigns as coach of North Fremantle Amateurs, guiding them to a premiership in 1985. Another mentoring role at Applecross in the Sunday League was the swansong to Needle's involvement with football.

Brian regarded Archie Duda(East Perth), Murray Couper(Perth), Warren Ralph(Claremont), and Ray Bauskis(South Fremantle), as the hardest to beat, while Mark Jackson(South Fremantle) was “the craziest....like a ticking time bomb.” David Hollins, Graeme Melrose, Brian Peake, and Doug Green were the best he played with.

The Needle name has been kept in the sporting limelight with the exploits of Brian's  two sons, Chad and Ben. Both played with Perth Heat, with Chad being signed by Toronto Bluejays in Canada..

Brian Needle showed the fighting spirit the club is renowned for, by climbing from the depths to become an important member of the side in the late seventies and early eighties. It was a travesty that he was unable to be part of the premiership he was a contributor to over the season, but we are sure the words of Charlie Pratt regarding league footballers apply just as much to members of teams who contribute to a premiership but are unable to be out there on the special day. 

 

   

Comments  

0 #1 Southerner 2017-06-18 01:27
Great bloke too - Needie is the sort of fella you'd you'd find in the trenches & rely upon
Real shame that he didn't get to play in a flag side

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