One of the all time great Western Australian grand finals, not only as a spectacle but the stuff that dreams are made of, was the 1964 clash between East Fremantle and Claremont,when the side from the bottom of the table scraped into the four, and came from behind in the last few minutes of the big game to grab a premiership flag. One of the best on ground that day was Claremont full forward, Wayne Harvey, whose display was an inspirational one, kicking five goals and taking several spectacular marks, despite being hampered by a broken finger. A high jumper at high school, Harvey developed a big leap, which was a hallmark of his play in the sixties, when he played 218 games of league football for the Tigers, kicking 389 goals, and heading the club's goalkicking list in 1964, 65, and 66. But for coach Peter Pianto's reluctance to play him as a forward in the preceding three years, he may have kicked a few more.Extremely mobile for a strongly built player, and a long kicker of the ball, Harvey was a tough but fair player, who was always trying to improve his skills. His kicking style changing as his career progressed, he was a student of the game, developing himself by watching others, and he became a leading exponent of the drop punt in the late sixties. “After my first league effort something had to improve,” he joked. Playing against South Fremantle in opposition to State defender Don Byfield, he got plenty of the ball on debut , but the one goal seven behinds return was far from impressive. From his days in an undefeated Claremont under sixteen side, under the coaching of legendary Sandover Medallist and later WANFL President, Jim Davies, in which he won a fairest and best, Harvey graduated to the Jack Firkin-coached colts, where he counted among his team mates names like John Dethridge, Lorne Cook, and Dennis Marshall. Under coach Ray Richards, Wayne made his league debut in round three of the 1959 season, but it was to be the arrival of Percy Johnson as assistant to Richards in 1960 that had an effect on his career. “Percy knew the game backwards,”he said. “He was tremendous in his ability to impart that knowledge to young players in a constructive manner.” As has been the case with a lot of youngsters over several eras, the name of Percy Johnson figured in the development of Wayne Harvey. In just his second season of league football, Harvey was selected to play for Western Australia against Victoria on June 25, 1960. Lining up at centre half forward, he had teammate Kevin Clune on one flank and South Fremantle's decathlon champion Jack Sumich on the other. “We were running around Subiaco Oval warming up, when I couldn't help but notice this man mountain at the other end wearing the big V,” Wayne recalled.“Bugger me, I'd hate to be the poor sod playing on him,” he went on. “Then Ray Gabelich sidled up alongside me for the first bounce.” Harvey proved to be the master of the big man that day, one of Western Australia's best in a performance that saw him go on to represent his State on three more occasions. The advent of Victorian rover Pianto as Claremont coach the following year saw the career of Wayne Harvey stagnate, as he was played everywhere but the one he had played his best football in, centre half forward. Used as a ruckman/forward pocket player generally, Harvey saw the new direction as a challenge. “I would watch ruckmen like Polly Farmer when we had a split round, and it helped my understanding of the way to play the position,” he said. “I tried to emulate the way he could run all over the ground, but was exasperated at my stamina, until I realised he was half walking, while I was at full pelt,” he joked. Back in attack with Jim Conway at the helm, Harvey became an important part of a Tigers premiership, but, while the flag was a career highlight, he was disappointed that they fell away in the 1965 final round. “We had finished second in the qualifying rounds, but didn't fire at all in the finals, and went out in straight sets,” he lamented.In those days there were plenty of footballers' athletic events, and Harvey was at the forefront of these, being successful as a seventy five metre runner. It was in pre season 1967 that the Claremont squad played the St Kilda side, still on a high after winning their first flag, at Moorabbin, with triple Brownlow Medallist Ian Stewart kicking the winning goal seconds before the bell, much to the relief of Saints coach Allan Jeans, who had predicted a thrashing for the visitors. Playing for the State again that year, a back problem suffered in the late sixties was to become the catalyst for Harvey's retirement in 1970. Wayne subsequently coached the Claremont fourths for two years, with Dethridge in charge of the thirds. A phone call from 6PR football commentator Brien Thirley soon heralded another career for Wayne Harvey. He became an around the ground commentator for the station, as well as standby for Thirley and Bob Hicks as match commentator. After two years in the job, a short but to the point exchange with John Watts put him into the match commentator's chair. “We are covering the Sunday League next season, I want you to run it,” Watts announced, then walked out. With the help of the affable Thirley, Harvey put the broadcast team together and brought the Sunday League to the airwaves, but after just one season, Watts scrapped it as quickly as he'd organised it. “The whole package depended on financial support from the Sunday League clubs, and, after promising it, many of them reneged, so it was costing John money to keep it going,” Wayne explained.Channel Seven then co- opted Harvey as a commentator, teaming with Arthur Marshall, Bob Miller, and John Rogers, where he worked for five years, the last two of which he was a panellist on the Sunday World of Football Show. With Gary Carvolth, he would also have a segment on the Saturday night six pm news, discussing WANFL games of the day, before 6IX set up a commentary team to cover WANFL and AFL football, which involved Wayne, Harvey Deegan, and Neil Garland calling the games, with Farmer and Bruce Duperouzel alternating as comments men. Two years later, the station was sold, to become “the Eagle,” and scrapped football broadcasts to become all-music radio.Joining George Grljusich and Ken Armstrong as the ABC's football team, Wayne began an enjoyable association with the controversial ace caller. “George was a nice bloke to work with, a man who looked after his staff. His so called abrasiveness was barely evident in our time together,” he said.“I remember one day at Lathlain, when it was bucketing down. We couldn't see the players, and had no idea who was who. “Don't worry,”George said, “They can't see, we can't see, just call names.” Harvey has fond memories of his days behind the microphone. “We were instructed to imagine we were sitting next to a blind man, and relating the action to him,” he said. “It was important to let listeners know the score and the time frame whenever possible. Listening to some today, some of the basic things go missing in a callers search for stardom. Ollie Drake- Brockman was the doyen of commentators, and he was the one who taught the best of his day.” “It was a great time for me, being involved in the game, with all clubs, players and football people.”Wayne gave Farmer the ranking of the best he'd played against. “whatever happened, at whatever stage of his career, Polly learned. If you had a small victory over him at any stage of a game, he would come back and get you next time,” John Watts, “ a tough full back,” Brian France, “if the ball was ten yards away, he wouldn't get it. He'd be making sure you didn't,” Con Regan, and Joe Lawson.John McIntosh, Marshall, Clune, and Les Mumme were best team mates.A family man, with two daughters and five grandchildren, he is still involved with Shellabears Estate Agents, who he recommends as reputable, customer-oriented, and highly ethical people, but since selling his own business has wound down his involvement, enabling he and wife Erika to spend a memorable holiday in Sweden and Europe. “The ski jumps in Austria were amazing,” he enthused. Sounds like Erika may be getting another holiday in the not too distant future. Wayne Harvey was a star forward in an era of football when aerobatic and long kicking skills were to the fore. Coupled with his career behind the microphone his was a wonderful contribution to football in Western Australia for a period of twenty-plus years.
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