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East Perth Stalwart Interviewed.

By "WING."

RITCHIE THOMAS probably ployed his lost- game with East Perth

lost Saturday for some time, os he was actually due to leave for his unit on the previous day. Since 1941 he hos travelled throughout Australia and js now o sergeant in an engineer unit. During the week he told me where he hos been in the past four years.

For about 18 months Ritchie was stationed in Darwin, where football matches were played twice weekly. Whilst in the area he was a member of the West Australian team which played a combined ïîouth Australian and Victorian side before a crowd of 10,000 spectators.

He considers the day one of the most colourful he has witnessed in his football career. "It was rather humorous," he grinned; "the Vic- torians brought up all the money to the game and the WA lads took it home!"

West Australian Team.

* Those players he can remember in the West Australian team were: Jack Green (Swan Districts), Bernie Nay- lor (South Fremantle), Ron Tucker and Bill Stewart (Perth), Bob Trainor, Jack Langoulant and "Big Dave" McIntosh (East Perth), Bill Stewart and Gus Ferguson (Cláre mont), Norm Lamb (West Perth), Charlie Southcott, Fred Myers, Jack Vincent, Kevin Doughety (Northam), and Jim Hawtin, of Geraldton.

He was particularly impressed with Lamb, whom he considers could be one of the best ruck men in the State when the war is over.

In New Britain.

"When I left Darwin I was posted to New Britain," he went on. "Of course, there was no football there so I tackled weight-lifting-which I might add is a bit strenuous!

"After three months in that part of the world I was sent to a physical training school near Sydney where I was initiated into rugby."

What does he think of rugby? "I only played a couple of games at the school but I imagine it would be a good game for a professional wrestler!"

The Came in Sydney.

When Ritchie arrived in Sydney from New Britain he weighed 13 stone, but "after a few games" he lost a lot of weight and now touches the scales at 12st 41b.

He could not keep away from the game and immediately gained in- clusion in the Eastern Suburbs side, where he commenced as right half- back and later was placed at centre. He mentions Vern Donegan as play- ing the same solid game as when he was with East Fremantle. Don Wares, who is how at centre half forward for South Fremantle, and Roy Hayes (East Perth) who "will be a top-notcher in the post-war league football" were two other West Aus- tralians with Eastern Suburbs.

He told me that "Checker" O'Keefe has earned a reputation as a ruck- man for South Sydney and West Perth followers must wish that he were once again in the side. "Still as erratic as goal-kicker as ever!" said Ritchie.

"CJive Lewington is doing well with St George and East Perth players in Frank Mclnroe and Alan Edwards are also there. A youngster who played a few games with Perth in 1940 named Kevin O'Bea (brother of Jack O'Dea, at present playing in Perth's back-line) is shaping well as centre-forward."

Standard in Sydney.

When questioned about the stand- ard of football played in Sydney, Ritchie said that he thought that it was equally as good as in this State because a number of interstate play- ers were in the sides. In many cases

teams have the most brilliant players in Australia at the present time. The matches are played on Sundays and attract large crowds. "It is not un- common to have 8,000 spectators at one of the Sunday games/' he said.

A Stumbling Block.

"It is certain that Australian rules would have attained its popularity sooner in Sydney if rugby had not been fostered in the State and Greater Public Schools,*' said Ritchie. "That is a great stumbling block to over- come-but it can be overcome."

Football in W.A.

As regards football in Western Australia at the present time, he thinks that it is "not anywhere near the standard of pre-war days and a

Ritchie Thomas probably played his last gome with East Perth for some time, Jost Saturday. Since 1941 lie hos been away from the State. His experiences are related on this page.

trifle disappointing." However, he considers that the open age competi- tion was reintroduced at the right time, as young players need to learn a lot of the finer points from older players. "While they play amongst themselves they cannot reap the ob- vious benefits that experienced men have to offer," he added. He agreed with me that the present East Perth side is too young to be expected to win the premiership this year, but if it gained the necessary stiffening of older players can be very dan- gerous to other sides.

I asked him whether he intended to continue the game in this State when the war is over. His reply was typically Ritchie Thomas: "Dad won the Sandover Medal when he was 33 and finished his league football career when he was 39. I don't see why I can't keep playing just as long!"

Unbiased football followers must share the same wish.