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13:17:09Brian Ashbolt had a rude awakening to league football when he went onto the ground after being named as a reserve midway through 1954.  “With a quarter and a half to go I went to full back,” he said. “Waiting in the goalsquare to greet me was Bernie Naylor.” Although it was Naylor's last season, he still managed to accumulate a hundred and thirty three goals for the season, so it was a tough assignment. “I went OK, though, and was named at full back the following week,” he recalled. Brian Ashbolt was at full back for many years after that debut, and became one of the best custodians ever to wear the red and black. In an era of great full forwards such as Naylor, John Gerovich, Ray Scott, Don Glass, Ted Kilmurray, Bill Mose, and Neil Hawke, he was always tough and resolute, and kept opposition goals to a minimum.     Ashbolt was a tight checking, long kicking defender, who played a hundred and twenty one games for the redlegs. One of the toughest backmen in the WANFL, he played three times for Western Australian second sides, he was unlucky that the incumbent was Brian Sarre, who had a mortgage on the position for Western Australia.  A product of the Victoria Park juniors, Brian gave an early indication of his skill when he became the first player from his club to win the fairest and best for the under eighteens competition, as a centre half forward. Entering National Service in 1951, he met another Perth player in Bob Bosustow, and played on him several times in the army competition, leading Bosustow to convince him to try out at Perth. After a year in the reserves, Ashbolt forced his way into league ranks in 1954, and soon became a key player. His performance in the memorable 1955 premiership, when he started on Con Regan, was a huge factor in the win. He was one of Perth's best in their first flag since 1907, leading a defence that held firm against a determined East Fremantle,  who were kicking with the wind in a tense last quarter.   And it led to interest from other parts of the land.  “Bob Rose came to see me at my uncle's grocery shop in Victoria Park,” he said. “He told me that Collingwood would like me to come over and try out with them. I was never really interested, preferring to stick at the shop in the hope of running the place one day.”  West Adelaide were also in town. “West Adelaide asked me to catch the train over there and if they liked me they'd pay the fare,” he laughed. Recruiting has certainly moved on since then. Unfortunately, the dreams of inheriting the shop were to be shattered when it was later taken over by Tom the Cheap Grocer.  One of Brian's vivid memories was the game following the grand final of 1955, against VFL Premiers Collingwood at Subiaco. “Playing against players like Rose and the Twomey brothers was one of my   football highlights,” he recalled. “Of course we had a week in between which included much celebration at the Broken Hill, so it was a memorable fortnight.” Injury took a toll on Ashbolt in later years.  He suffered badly from corks, and as a result a growth on his right leg forced him to change from a right foot kick to a left footer, and he played most of his last two years on a  half back flank. Soft tissue problems began to hinder his game, and he retired from league football at the end of 1962.  After a season coaching country side Boddington, Ashbolt returned to Perth to coach the fourths under Ern Henfry and later Mal Atwell, acting also as league runner, and took on the reserves job in 1978 under Ken Armstrong.    Brian has a lot of time for his old coach, Ern Henfry. “Ern was not only a great coach, but also a thorough gentleman with a ton of knowledge,” he said. “ Perth Football Club revolved around Ern.”  South Fremantle goalsneak, John Gerovich was the hardest for Ashbolt to get on top of. “You couldn't stand in front of him, because he'd use you as a ladder, get behind and he'd outrun you, the only way I could play him was to stand alongside him,” he said. “Don Glass from Subiaco was another who gave me plenty of trouble. He had plenty of ability. A short player, he had a tremendous leap.” Barry Cable, Merv McIntosh, Bert Wansbrough, Ken Armstrong, Keith and Roy Harper, and Tommy Davis  were great team mates, along with Ron Tucker. “Ron was a very talented full forward and a terrific character,” he went on. “One game at the WACA, Ron turned up obviously affected by some celebratory drinks after the birth of his fourth or fifth child. Ern put him out on the ground, and he had six goals at half time. He then proceeded to fall asleep on the rub down table, and that was the end of the game for Ron.” Brian Ashbolt was one of Perth's best ever full backs, and an integral component of the 1955 premiership.  A tough no-nonsense defender, he played on some of the game's best, and served the Demons well for two decades, both as player and coach.         

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