Croatian-born Tony Parentich made what was surely one of  the biggest impacts seen from a new recruit in  Western Australian football when he burst onto the scene in 1952. The recruit from the University of WA  stepped straight into the big boots left by Clive Lewington. Lining up in the centre for the dominant South Fremantle side, he proved a more than adequate replacement for the master. When Keith Harper was forced to withdraw from the State side to play Victoria in Melbourne on June 14 of that year, the veteran of seven league games, Parentich, was selected to replace him. Although not in the final selection, he toured with the squad.  Parentich had been under the notice of South Fremantle since his teens, when he captained Christian Brothers College at both football and cricket. With studies for his degree in science taking priority, football took a backseat, but the young Parentich found time to turn out for the University team that competed in the Amateurs competition, winning the Association fairest and best in 1950 as a centre half forward.  Approached by the Bulldogs to play with their reserves side in the preliminary final of that year, Parentich declined. “It was an awkward situation,” he recalled. “I didn't feel right about taking the place of someone who'd played all year, plus I was looking forward to playing with the State Amateurs side in Melbourne the following season, and didn't want to jeopardise that.” South Fremantle's patience was well rewarded in 1952, when the twenty year old made an auspicious debut. “I'd never played in the centre before, but the presence of two of the greatest wingmen, John Colgan and Eric Eriksson, was a tremendous help early on,” he said.  A busy player, the skilled and purposeful Parentich was a prolific ballgetter, and, in an era of fine centremen, was among the best. He soon proved himself as a big game player, with faultless grand final displays in his first three seasons, resulting in three premierships.   Making his State debut in his second season, Parentich lined up in the centre with Harper and West Perth's Don Marinko on the wings in the 1953 Carnival in Adelaide. He went on to play eight times in the black and gold.  After representing Western Australia again in 1954, he was part of a South Fremantle contingent that toured the Eastern States. In their first encounter, against a South Australian number two team, Parentich won a medal donated to the best on ground as the Bulldogs chalked up a seven point win. They went on to defeat Collingwood in Melbourne.  Tony recalls the Collingwood game well. “Frank Treasure was on a half back flank, and at three quarter time, holding an eight point lead, Lewington sent him to centre half forward,” he reminisced. “The burly Collingwood centre half back ambled up to Frank and said: “Are you playing centre half forward now?” to which Treasure shook his head “Nah, I'm roving..your bloke's over there,” and pointed goalwards. The defender took off, Frank became a loose man, and South kicked the next couple to win the game.” South Fremantle put the finishing touches on a grand year with a seventy eight point win over East Fremantle in a Derby grand final. Two years later, Parentich was in a losing team on grand final day, but his performance was rewarded with a Simpson Medal when East Perth were victorious, in what proved to be the end of an era for South and the beginning of another for the Royals.  Winner of the AW Walker Medal as fairest and best for South Fremantle in 1957, runner up to Steve Marsh in 1956, and John Todd in 1958, Tony Parentich's league career effectively ended at the completion of the 1959 season. “Having to spend time in the Eastern States on business in 1960, I missed the start of the season,” he said.  Captain coaching Osborne Park in the Sunday League, he took his charges to a semi final appearance.  Tony went back to South Fremantle in 1961, but after only a few games decided to hang up the boots. A season coaching Cockburn and a stint mentoring South Fremantle reserves rounded off Tony Parentich's football career.  Parentich is one of a select group who have won premierships in WAFL football and WACA Pennant cricket. Playing with University, he was a member of the team that beat Bassendean-Bayswater in an A Grade final. Tony regarded East Perth and Swan Districts star Frank Sparrow as hardest to beat, along with East Fremantle's Allan “Punga” Preen. As for best he played with, he reckoned the whole 1953 South Fremantle side would fill that bill nicely, but with a bit of prodding he came up with the little master, Steve Marsh, Charlie Tyson, Barry White, and Bernie Naylor.  Tony Parentich is retired these days, and when not a victim of the travel bug is a regular on the golf course. He is a life member of the South Fremantle Football Club, and is a trustee of the club. He was a selector for the Fremantle Legends side.  South Fremantle have been well served by centremen, but the period from the forties to the early sixties were exceptional, with Clive Lewington, Tony Parentich, and John Todd completing a trifecta of excellence in the position. In a career span of eight seasons, consisting of 162 games with the club, and eight for his State, Parentich was among the elite of the centreman of his time, and set the standard for consistency.



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