Wilson Onions came out of National Service in 1951 expecting to go back home to Albany. Instead he ran into former East Fremantle player and club stalwart, Wyburn Taylor, who organised a job for him with the PMG on the proviso that he played football with Old Easts. East Fremantle were sharing Fremantle Oval at the time, so it was only a Ray Sorrell drop kick to training from his employment. So began a fifty eight year association between Wilson Onions and the East Fremantle Football Club. Making his league debut in 1952, Onions quickly developed into one of the toughest and hardest backmen in the competition. Playing mainly as a half back flanker, but sometimes on the ball, he earned a reputation as a no nonsense competitor who never took a backward step from a confrontation. His fierce competitiveness and hard at it style of play was utilised by coaches to nullify good players from the opposition, and the name Wilson Onions came to be synonymous with tough and physical. Standing only 5 ft 10 inches and weighing 12 stone, he was no giant, but he put his body on the line, which resulted in several injuries over a career that was undoubtedly shortened because of the battering he took. Onions played 101 games with East Fremantle and became a life member of the club. After his league playing days were over, he joined the Past Players Association, and remained a committee member, serving as President for forty plus years. He coached Armadale to a grand final in 1961, and later became involved with the East Fremantle junior competition, coaching Melville. He was East Fremantle’s first “runner” in WANFL football, when they were allowed to be used in league matches for the first time in 1961. Wilson became active in tennis in association with Arthur Marshall, an interest that spanned eighteen years, and he coached at Wesley College. Wilson Onions’ love for East Fremantle Football Club and football was obvious. “The highlight of my football career was wearing the East Fremantle jumper,” was his emphatic statement. “The 1957 premiership was just the icing on the cake,” he said.“Along with Keith Harper of Perth, Jack Sheedy was the toughest bloke I played on. I called him a squib one day and got a whack in the head for my trouble,” Wilson told us. He and Jack became good mates.” Former East Fremantle legend Sheedy had left to coach East Perth in 1956. There would have been many players with the misfortune of lining up on Wilson Onions who would know what that whack felt like. Asked about the best he played with, his reply was Norm Rogers, Tommy Guthrie, and Con Regan, all of whom shared the backline with him, and what a fearsome foursome that was, and champion ruckman Jack Clarke. Onions wasn’t enamoured with the formation of the AFL and the effect it had on the local competition. “They buggered the game up,” he maintained, although his love for the game saw him relent when the Fremantle Dockers were formed, and he was an original member of the club. When we thanked Wilson for his time, he said, “ Anything to help the game of footy.” And that sums up Wilson Onions and his feeling for the game of football and the East Fremantle Football Club.
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