When outstanding junior Geoff Passeri showed up at Lathlain Park for a game of football he was advised to try his luck at Swan Districts.This turned out to be good advice.Passeri turned out to be a wonderful servant of the black and whites in a 166 game career, a premiership player, and a Swan Medalist. He was the type of footballer that clubs love to have, a pacy runner with discipline and team orientation, and became one of the best taggers in the WAFL. A product of the Belmont club, where he had the tutelage of a very good junior coach in former Perth player, Ian Jones, Passeri played the last colts game of the 1985 season before spending the following year with Tony Micale in the thirds and Ed Blackaby in the reserves, and played in the Western Australia Teal Cup team. He debuted in the league opening fixture of the 1987 season, in which Swans had a nail biting two point win over West Perth. Not that Geoff remembers anything about it.“Ten minutes into the game I got cleaned up by my captain, Brent Hutton,” he told us. It was a nice welcome for the youngster. Missing a week with concussion, Passeri went on to play every remaining game that season, making a wing his own. He was a key component of Swan Districts 1990 premiership win, playing on Claremont and West Coast star Don Pyke in the grand final, and not only blanketed the dangerous onballer out of the game, but was considered unlucky in some quarters not to receive a Simpson Medal, awarded to team mate, Greg Walker. Concussions early in his career were to cost Geoff dearly.He suffered twelve bouts between 1987 and 1991, and it was the direct cause of him not being drafted. “I had many enquiries from AFL clubs in 1990, but decided to hold on until I’d tried out a helmet,” said Geoff. “My doctors were full of dire warnings.” After seven games with protective headgear in 1991 he ditched it. “I never had a problem after that.”It was in 1991 that Geoff Passeri played his first game for Western Australia. Playing on former Carlton player, Mark Naley, he was among his side’s best and contributed two goals in a forty four point win over the Croweaters at Subiaco Oval. Selected in the ABC team of the year, he was again one of Western Australia’s best when SA hosted Western Australia at Football Park in 1992, showing his versatility by playing in a back pocket, until being moved into the centre onto SA captain Garry McIntosh. This time the visitors got up by six points. He also represented WA v SA in an exhibition game in Canada, booting 4 goals from a forward flank to help win the game for WA.Popular winner of the Swan Medal in 1995, Passeri was still at the top of his form when he quit the game two years later. “I certainly wasn’t ready to go physically, but my dream as a junior was to achieve playing one league game for Swan Districts, I had achieved far more than that dream, and was very happy and content,” he said. A tentative comeback under Graeme Melrose in 1999 didn’t last, the love for the club and game was still there, but the passion in the belly to go to war each week had gone, and Western Australian football and the Swan Districts Football club lost a very good player far too early. At the urging of his junior mentor, coach Ian Jones, Geoff later made a brief comeback with Sunday League side Belmont in its debut season, almost getting them to the finals. He regarded South Fremantle’s Wally Matera as hard to beat, while Claremont and West Coast star Tony Evans was always a great challenge. Hard men Garry Sidebottom, Bill Skwirowski and Greg Walker headed his list of Swans players. He held a high regard for coach John Todd, but recalls a game when the great man was less than impressed. “Our new kitten had disappeared the night before, and I was out all night looking for it,” Geoff recalled. “Next day I was asleep on the bus to Fremantle Oval, and off my feet by half time. Toddy took me off at the break, lamenting the fact that “young blokes of today can’t chase pussy at night and play footy next day.” Geoff Passeri was a determined footballer who achieved far more than he ever dreamt. A premiership medal sitting alongside a Swan Medal on the mantelpiece says he made the most of the time he had.
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