Chapter 4 - State Championships

Chapter 4

The State Championships became the second major WA-based competition and were formalized in 1974. The Affiliates played an increasing role in the promotion of softball throughout WA. The origins of the championships can be traced back to the Minutes of 24 November 1948 of the Women’s Section of the WA Softball Association. Under the heading ‘Competing with Country Towns’ a note was made ‘that some country towns may have Softball Teams, in which case it might be possible to arrange a match between them and the Perth Teams’.


Northam’s initiative

Two months later on 21 January 1949 a letter was received from the Secretary of the Northam Krackerjack Softball Club ‘asking if it would be possible for them to have a couple of social games against the Association’s teams during the long weekend of 29th, 30th and 31st January, and if billets could be arranged for two teams. It was decided if billets could be arranged, two matches (one on 29th January and the other on 31st January) would be played against them’. A week later at the AGM ‘It was arranged that all girls who could, would meet the Northam team at the Station and generally welcome them’. At this time six teams played in the Perth-based competition. Apparently the venture was successful because at the meeting on 11 March 1949 there was discussion of a return visit.

The team to play against Northam has not yet been picked, but Mr. Silva thinks it would be best to chose two members from each team. The N.C.G.M girls want to go up as a complete team, and it moved by E. Johnson, seconded by J. Henderson, that first preference in regard to billet be given to the combined Perth team.

There was a follow-up discussion about costs with:

a query as to whether the Association would be paying half-fare for the Perth team but it was decided against this as the Association was not yet financial enough. The Secretary was authorised to write to all girls who wanted to go to Northam, telling them they would have to pay their own expenses.

At the April meeting it was announced that Northam could only billet 15 players over Easter.

A team had yet to be picked to play Northam and as there was only the coming weekend for practice, the team would have to be picked at the meeting. It was suggested that N.C.G.M be sent up, as they already had a full team and had been practicing, but their representative said they had made other arrangements as they had been given to understand there was no billet available for them. A team was therefore picked from the girls who had said they would be available for Northam.


The umpires were responsible for selecting the captain and vice captain – Elaine Johnson and Rona Blunt respectively. After some discussion about the wisdom of having a playing manager, notably Val Johnson, it was decided to appoint Mr. Wells as Manager and Coach.The team wore ‘ordinary team uniforms’. Elaine Johnson arranged practices with the final one on Thursday evening. The Secretary was asked to write to all girls giving details of practices and the departure time of the train. Perth won the match played on Saturday and Northam won the one played on Monday.


How softball came to be played in Northam – or any rural WA town - is open to speculation and reliant on the centres themselves preserving their unique part of WA softball history. The most likely proponents of rural softball were teachers, National Fitness Council staff, innovative locals and service personnel since Northam, Geraldton and other remote areas had military bases during World War II. Another possible source is the Perth Sports Depot since it was noted in the Minutes for May 1949 that it had ‘Branches all over Western Australia, and would be willing to serve as a depot for information concerning Softball’. This came to light in the discussion of possible publication of a booklet similar to that circulated by the baseball association. Specific mention was made of ‘When country teams affiliated with our Association, we would be able to publish notes concerning them, and thus send them copies to distribute’.  Arthur Sladden of Nedlands Rookies expressed further concern for the development of the sport in the country at the June 1950 meeting. He observed ‘that Softball was very popular in the country, but that the schools were having difficulty picking up the rules from the rule book’. Sladden suggested liaising with the Education Department to have a pamphlet printed and circulated while Val Johnson thought that the National Fitness Council could do it because ‘the future players wouldbe coming from the schools and it was up to us to help them learn the game properly’. A simplified set of rules was subsequently published in The Teachers’ Journal.


Exchanges with Northam continued with Perth winning both matches played in November 1950. Perth teams were again invited to Northam in early 1951, this time by Badgers Club. Girls were invited to write to the Association if they wished to go to Northam with 15 names drawn to be the team and a further 5 listed in case any of the first 15 withdrew. There was little elaboration since most of the Association’s time and efforts were directed to sending the first WA team to the national championships in Adelaide in March 1951. A brief note in the Minutes of February 1951 suggested that Northam be reprimanded for not seeking approval from the Association to play matches against Flying Club at Easter. Bill Wells was given permission to take Blue Jays to Northam in December 1951. Northam sought a more formal relationship with the Perth-based WAWSA in October 1952 when it requested details of affiliation. This generated considerable interest in Perth with the realization that Northam players would automatically be eligible for selection in the State team and it was suggested that one or two Selectors should visit Northam ‘to observe the standard of play and choose any likely starters for the State squad’.1


Country week

While details are sparse in July 1953 the WAWSA announced plans to conduct a country week similar to that conducted recently by the hockey association. 2 Ever ambitious, the WAWSA’s plans included competitions between country teams, city clubs versus country teams and even several games of night softball. The WAWSA’s ideas were drawn from the South Australian Softball Association which played several games under lights as curtain raisers to night baseball. The WAWSA also saw country week as an opportunity to launch a scheme aimed at school softballers with leading softball coaches devoting part of their time to training school children to the game.  Nothing seems to have come of this plan but country softball continued to be mentioned in the Minutes be it Narrogin seeking to affiliate in September 1953 or another ambitious plan mooted in September 1954 – finances permitting - to send two teams on a country tour, at the same time the State side was away. Country teams were encouraged to affiliate but there is no record of any having done so. Country week was on the agenda again in August 1955 when it was suggested that a letter be sent to all Youth Centres asking their views about this and advising them that affiliation with the WAWSA would cost them two guineas (£2/2/-). The suggested dates for country week were either the week after the New Year or the long weekend in January. Bill Wells and Val Stannard attempted to locate the Berlei Shield to use as the main trophy but were unsuccessful.3 In 1949 ‘the Burley Shield – a Girls’ Baseball Shield [was] given to the Softball Association’. The intention then was to alter it ’to read “Softball” [but that was] left until next season, when it would probably be used as challenge shield in country matches’.


Despite the lack of detail about country week provision of a trophy seems to have been a key issue. In November 1955 ‘it was decided to ascertain if Kalgoorlie is still interested in softball and if so, Mr Thorn from Lake View and Star Gold Mine, Kalgoorlie, … be approached re donating a trophy for this’. This line of thought continued through several meetings until February 1956 when it was decided that country week softball should be held in abeyance till next season. No definitive plan for country week emerged despite annual mentions in Minutes.  While the WAWSA dallied over country week, the clubs formed bonds with country centres and sought permission to play outside Perth. In November 1956 Blue Jays and Bassendean Bombers were granted permission to play Toodyay and Northam respectively. In October 1957 Fremantle Rebels challenged Northam. When the next serious attempt was made to conduct a country week tournament over the long weekend January in 1958 the WAWSA discovered that country centres had taken the initiative and set up their had own events. Collie had arranged a carnival for southwest teams. Only Bunbury was available to come to Perth and was hosted by Southern Demons.


Softball obviously had plenty of support in the country with groups such as the Gnowangerup District Hospital and Bindoon P & C seeking information from the WAWSA.4 A further attempt in January 1959 to determine interest in country week resulted in a positive reply from Collie, with Katanning requesting further particulars, Bunbury only being a possibility, and Esperance and Northam not being interested.  Collie’s positive response lead to a further exchange of correspondence and their offer to host the touring South African team which they did in February 1960. In 1965 the WAWSA introduced the Junior State team, however, there was no national championship for this age group. Instead, the coach, Shirley Roberts, instigated an annual trip to Bunbury. Thus country softball played an important role in development of the State’s elite juniors and can claim to have contributed to WA’s second placing when the Under 16 Girls’ national championships were first held in Perth in 1970. Apart from Geraldton until the 1970s the focus had been on the southern regions of the State but with the opening up of the Pilbara mining resources attention turned northwards as well. In August 1970 Tom Price Women’s Softball Association enquired about affiliation. Other centres followed: Exmouth in November 1971, Carnavon in December 1971 and Newman requested a copy of the WAWSA Constitution in the same month,


Albany in the south and Geraldton in the north became the focus of the WAWSA’s country drive in the early 1970s. To support the newly formed association, the WAWSA sent a party of 15 to Albany in March 1971. Albany Association had 6 senior and 6 junior teams. Joyce Jones, George Jones and Marie Taylor umpired the grand final between Sapphires and Ramblers. On behalf of the WAWSA, Taylor presented the inaugural trophy to Sapphires. The following day the Perth team played Sapphires then a combined Albany team. Brian Properjohn coached the Perth team and shared his very extensive softball knowledge with Albany thus cementing strong ties between Albany and the WAWSA. Bouyed by their positive experience Perth-based players then headed north to Geraldton in mid-1971. Fremantle Rebels, Swans, Demons and Hell’s Angels teams were lead by Pat Tatham of Fremantle Rebels and Chair of the Umpires’ Association. Tatham took the liberty of inviting Geraldton to Perth with the idea of inviting Albany and Bunbury at the same time. The latter two could not attend because their players were still committed to their winter sports. Geraldton sent two teams and the WAWSA organized a Lightning Carnival in October 1971. Perth-based Demons were victorious. In her Annual Report, WAWSA President Shirley Schneider credited Don Leyland with the organization of the weekend. She hoped that this would lay the ground for the realization of a country week.


A second trip to Albany occurred in early March 1972 with Joy Marsland leading a group of 24 players, coaches and umpires. Don Leyland and Marie Taylor coached the Perth teams. Again, the WAWSA personnel umpired the grand final of the Albany Association and then two Perth teams played a series of matches against each other and selected Albany teams. The bus to Albany cost $287 with each player contributing $10. After the trip, the WAWSA learned from contacts in the WA Basketball Association that they could apply to the Amateur Sports Council for a grant to cover their expenses and were pleasantly surprised to receive $250 despite their late application. Each person who traveled on the bus was reimbursed $5. Geraldton sought copies of old umpires’ exams and asked teams to visit in June 1972. Perth defeated Geraldton 12-2 with the WAWSA providing spoons for the winning team. In August 1972, the new club Apaches sought permission to go to Bunbury on long weekend in October. Initially permission was refused because the Association planned another Lightning Carnival for country teams in Perth but Apaches were able to go a week earlier at the end of September. The Lightning Carnival attracted more metropolitan and country teams. Geraldton sent two teams, with one each from Albany and Exmouth. Bedford Youth Club won the competition.


State Championships

The Lightning Carnival had triggered an idea that instead of a country week WA should consider holding State Championships as happened in the Eastern States. This was a competition between associations rather than clubs. The Perth-based Lightning Carnival was temporarily abandoned in favour of the State Championships with the intention of holding it again in October 1974 for metropolitan teams. Geraldton took the lead and hosted the first championship over long weekend in March 1974. This took considerable pressure off the WASA officials who were preparing to host the National Junior Championships for the second time in five years. The WAWSA entered two teams selected from players who were not members of State teams. Country associations could, however, include their State representatives. Selection of the metropolitan teams followed the same procedures as for State teams with nominations called for team officials and selection trials for players. George Jones (Bedford) and Bob McKibbin (Bedford) were the respective coaches of the Metropolitan Number 1 and Number 2 teams. Don Smith, Nox Bailey and Marie Taylor assisted selection of the teams. Initially, the selectors opted for teams of equal strength but were directed to re-select them to ensure that Perth No. 1 team was the stronger of the two. An approach was made to Perth City Council to determine its official colours and the WASA was informed that there were not any but the city used red and white when needed. The WAWSA Life Members donated a perpetual trophy with a pennant to be retained by the winners. Following the Championships which were won by Perth Number 1 team, the country teams suggested that a second trophy be presented for the country team that finished highest. Feedback was sought from all participating centres with a view to holding a delegates meeting in Perth prior to the next championship. Apache club raised the possibility of State Senior and Junior players umpiring at the State Championships.


Val Johnson took on the job of convening the 1975 championships. She employed the same thoroughness to the organisation as she had when overseeing national champion -ships in Perth in the 1950s. Among the strategies she employed were a meeting of delegates and organization of metropolitan clubs to act as Liaison Officers for the country teams. Both tactics were greatly appreciated and enhanced relations between city and country players. Entries increased with two teams from Geraldton, Eastern Hills and Metropolitan plus one each from Goldsworthy, Albany, Kambalda and Eastern Goldfields. The ten teams were divided in to two grades for a round robin plus finals. With metropolitan softball now based at Yokine Reserve an approach was made to the City of Stirling for approval to use its colours as the Metropolitan teams colours but was denied. Instead, the WASA chose tan pants with a bone stripe and a tan tee shirt. The Metropolitan teams won both premierships with Albany and Kambalda being the best performing country associations in each grade. The domination of the Metropolitan teams lead to a decision by those attending a delegates’ meeting that the two highest finishing country teams in each grade would play off for the Country Championship with the winner deemed to have earned the right to play the Metropolitan team in each grade for the State Championship. As well, the best country players were chosen as an All Star team.


At the delegates meeting Albany offered to host the 1976 State Championships. In August 1975 the WASA decided to enter two Metropolitan teams and requested accommodation for 35 persons be booked at Camp Quaranup. Nox Bailey and Tom Touchell were appointed the WASA delegates to meetings. In February 1976 they were instructed at a Management Committee meeting to advise the country associations that the Metropolitan teams would only compete if they participated as equals. Pat Tatham moved a motion that the Life Members’ Perpetual Trophy not be presented unless this was agreed too. With softball now being played the length and breadth of the State, it was accepted that from 1977 future State Championships would be held in Perth as it was the most central location with an adequate number of diamonds at Yokine Reserve. It was initially proposed that the championships be lengthened to run from Tuesday 8 March to Sunday 20 March but the traditional long weekend in March was preferred. Shirley Schneider accepted the position of Convenor on the understanding that if she became more involved in other aspects of softball someone else would take over. A committee made up of Lorraine Malcolm, Roma Piercy, Joy Marsland and Val Prunster supported her. Schneider was appointed State Senior Coach in September and Val Johnson was contacted to see if she would again be the Convenor. She accepted and was given the right ‘to organize the State Championships as she [saw] fit’. Expenses were beginning to mount and a $5 affiliation fee was paid all participating country associations. A new sub-committee was formed to help Johnson and included Tom Touchell, Albert Dumaresq, Reg Page and Tom Corcoran.


With WA poised to enter an Under 19 team in the national championships it was decided that an Under 19 Metropolitan team should be the Metropolitan No. 1 team in the 1977 State Championships. They were undefeated in the Grade 1 round robin playing against teams from Newman, Geraldton, Upper Great Southern, Wellington, Eastern Goldfields, Albany, Port Hedland and Kambalda. Coach Barbara Corby considered that ‘we have a nucleus of players who will become State Senior representatives’. Players such as Sue Baker, Joanne Donnan and Sue Cullen fulfilled this reckoning. The championships expanded to four grades and Val Johnson donated the trophy for thepremiers of fourth grade. This championship was a special one since the Northern Territory were invited to enter two teams. In Grade 1 they finished on equal points to Metropolitan No. 1 and drew when they played each other. They also played against the WA Senior State team and a Metropolitan All Stars team. As well, the championships were becoming an important event for the practical examination of umpires. Australian Umpire-in-Chief, Marj Dwyer, and her deputy, Viv Tripplett, examined candidates. Triplett also umpired the matches in which the Northern Territory played. Saturday evening the pair conducted lectures. Of the country umpires John Baker (Newman) and David Marsh (Goldsworthy) gained their State badges while Rita Reay gained Grade 3. Metropolitan candidates included Nina Menner who gained her State badge while Albert Dumaresq, Laurie Prior and R Sellick earned Grade 3.


By 1979 the championship had grown to 38 teams in 5 divisions which resulted in 151 matches being played in two days. The float to cover expenses was increased from $300 to $700. For the first time two country teams contested the grand final with Geraldton prevailing over Wellington Districts. Metropolitan No. 2 coached by Jan Beuglaar was successful in Grade 2. The lack of success of the Metropolitan No. 1 team can be understood from the report submitted by Beuglaar who explained that the selectors chose from ‘those who attended the trials and a simple calculation will show you an interesting fact. Capable players minus 3 state squads minus 4 A grade final sides minus 2 Grand Finals A Reserve sides minus non interested players equal 2 metropolitan squads’. In the Annual Report for the 1979-80 season President Reg Page noted that the State Championships continued to grow requiring five divisions. Inquiries for the following year indicated that there would be more teams than could be accommodated at Yokine and the possibility was raised of increasing the duration of the tournament. Despite doubling canteen supplies, refreshments ran out. As Page lamented ‘the only thing we don’t double up is workers, they were very scarce’. Fortunately, Roma Piercy and Albert Dumaresq undertook the administration to ensure the success of the championships.


The following year there were 5 divisions, 25 country associations and 3 metropolitan teams. Twenty diamonds were used for 120 qualifying games with the Finals played Monday morning. Winning teams were presented with iron-on shoulder flashes. The popularity of the State Championships became a major test of WASA resources and in September 1981 it was reluctantly decided that each association would only be able to enter two teams depending on the availability of grounds. The WASA would definitely only enter two Metropolitan teams. This seems to have been rapidly forgotten and by 1985 Metropolitan teams were entered in most senior and junior divisions. Albert Dumaresq convened the State Championships for three years from 1980 to 1982 but resigned before the 1983 championship. The junior division was introduced in 1983. Over the years entries have fluctuated between five and eight teams. In 1984 there was a slight decrease in the number of senior teams participating attributed to the cost of traveling to Perth but this was offset by a small increase in junior teams. Under 16 and Under 19 State players and officials gave up their long weekend to umpire the junior games. Unfortunately some of the coaches of the junior sides were ‘volatile, aggressive and in some cases abusive’. As a result participating associations were warned that in future they would have to supply umpires because the volunteers from the State teams would not do so again.


After the 1988 State Championships, WASA Treasurer Bailey reported that the profit from the event was only $187 which was considerably less than $1333 of the previous year. The difference was due to the need for new uniforms for the Metropolitan teams. Bailey estimated that the uniforms would last three seasons so the expense would be recouped over the next two years. It is interesting that WASA paid for metropolitan uniforms while the country associations paid for their own without any record of complaint. Following the restructuring of the WASA in 1987, the State Championships came under the auspices of the Summer and Winter Competitions respectively. Laurie Prior as Summer Competition Convenor also took on the job of organising the 1989 Women’s State Championships. The number of junior participants declined and the committee decided to place the Metropolitan Junior No. 1 team in Division 4 of the senior competition. Further juggling of entries was required to equal numbers of teams in each division resulting in Division 1 – 6, Division 2 -6, Division 3 – 9, Division 4 – 10, Division 5 -10 and Junior Division – 5. A major positive for the championships was that all matches were umpired by qualified umpires.


With the WASA now administering both women’s and men’s softball, the men opted to conduct their State Championships concurrently with the women’s over the long weekend in March at Ashfield Reserve in Perth. The WAMSL had conducted State Championships since 1981.5 In a break with previous championships, metropolitan clubs were not eligible and a lack of officials precluded the entry of representative metropolitan teams. There were, however, teams from Dale Districts and Rockingham. Thus the participating teams had more matches. In 1988 there were three divisions with five teams in each. Convenor Mike Ericson was critical of the nomination process especially of the lack of clarity about junior players that had lead to the cancellations of the Junior Division. He also considered the men to be disadvantaged by the lack of allocation of qualified umpires especially when 65 were operating at the nearby women’s championship. Ericson clearly indicated in his report that in future there must be strict observance of the nomination procedures and that each team nomination must include the name of a full-time umpire who would be available for the entire championship. He also thought that the trophies for both the women’s and men’s winners should be presented at one ceremony. In 1988 men’s matches were still being played as the women’s trophies were presented. The 1990 Women’s State Championships included teams from affiliates located in the metropolitan area such as SEMSA, Southern Districts, Eastern Districts, Rockingham and Eastern Hills.


Between 1989 and 1994 the number of teams in the Women’s State Championships hovered between 40 and 45. Exact figures are not available for the men’s competition but an interesting innovation on 1993 was the introduction of a division for veterans – players over 35 years of age – with three country teams entering. The men continued to use Jubilee Reserve in Ashfield but it was proving a tight fit and the veterans’ division was played at Yokine Reserve.  The Australia-wide decline in participation was well evident in WA and after reaching a peak of 40 plus women’s team and 20 plus men’s teams in the early 1990s, entries in the State Championships steadily declined from 1995 onwards. By 1999 the plight of country softball was grave prompting Canadian Coach-in-Residence, Dave Pearce, to report that:

In my opinion, the state of softball in rural WA is in dire straits. Many areas are in a financial crunch and lack strong organizational leadership. The caliber of softball runs around the 1960’s or 70’s level and well below Queensland, and New South Wales. I believe if they don’t receive more direct help to raise the quality of their game, some will simply either go their own way or close up shop altogether.


The 2001 championships saw the Senior Men play at Mirrabooka while lower men’s grades and all women’s matches were played at Yokine Reserve. The finals for all divisions were held at Mirrabooka. Twelve affiliate associations entered teams. Metropolitan teams drawn from the Summer and Winter Competitions made a total of 42 teams. Two venues meant two canteens operated which helped to generate a profit in excess of $10,000. Convenor Ingrid Smith provided a concise list of points to guide the administration of future championships but declining numbers especially of men’s teams heralded the beginning of the demise of the championships. The men reverted to conducting their championship in winter. The format of the Women’s State Championships changed in the mid-2005 when metropolitan clubs participated rather than representative Metropolitan teams selected at trials.  In 2006 a further change was made to the way in which the State Championships were organized. While there continued to be an overall Convenor, a metropolitan club was appointed as Assistant Convenor. Mercedes took on this task and combined it with record keeping. Championship Convenor, Mike Hollett from Jaguars Club, considered this to be a productive system and recommended that two clubs be appointed for future championships with one club continuing from the previous year and a new club joining with the intention of being involved for two years. For 2007 Jaguars and Rookies joined Mercedes as the Host Committee.


In 2006 just 21 teams nominated for the State Championships. Country teams came from Bunbury, Esperance, Kalgoorlie and Merredin. Suburban affiliates included SEMSA, Hill District and Peel plus a team from the Summer Competition. By 2007 lack of support for the State Championships was evident when only four teams had nominated by the closing date. A last minute flurry of emails, and phone calls managed to attract 11 more teams. The focus of the championships had swung away from the country associations with only Bunbury, Collie, Eastern Goldfields, Esperance and Merredin traveling to Perth. Outer suburban teams came from SEMSA, Hills District, Jaguars (Joondalup), Swan Districts and Midland Scorpions. The others were UWA, Carine Cats and Cherokees. Marilyn Motu took on the challenging task of Convenor.  The Championships only drew two country entrants in 2008 – Eastern Goldfields and Merredin. The other 13 teams were Perth-based. Bedford Youth Club and especially their stalwart Secretary Lorraine Malcolm assisted Marilyn Motu to run a very successful event. All matches were played at Mirrabooka which proved most suitable. The 2009 championships were the last played in the metropolitan area with Esperance volunteering to host the 2010 event.


Alongside the State Championships a number of the country centres conducted regional championships such as those in the North West (Pilbara). Centres closer to Perth such as Corrigin and Geraldton managed to attract city teams to special events.6 Provided the city teams sought permission from the WASA the weekends in the country were highlights of club calendars. When the State Championships became an annual event at Yokine Reserve, there were no extra people to conduct them, rather the people already committed to their clubs and the WASA took on more jobs. Laurie Prior gave the longest service. (He was also running the Summer Competition in Perth, coaching at club level and becoming increasingly involved with State Junior teams.) The efforts of personnel in the country centres to raise funds for travel and accommodation have been ongoing and need to be documented by the centres. The women’s results clearly show the dominance of the Metropolitan teams especially in Divisions 1 and 2 and the Juniors. SEMSA made its presence felt in the Junior division from the early 1990s and in the senior divisions in more recent championships. The Country Champions have tended to come from the larger country centres such as Albany, Eastern Goldfields, and Geraldton and since 1994 Bunbury which has benefited from having teams in the State Softball League. Geraldton and Bunbury have been strong contenders for the men’s championships with Dale Districts having consistent wins in the Under 16 division.


An Affiliate is an organization recognised in the State and national constitutions as being capable of conducting competitions in its own right. Detailing the rise (and sadly, demise) of the many Affiliates that have promoted softball throughout WA is beyond the scope of this text. Rather the brief discussion here focuses on some of the issues which have challenged the administrators based in Perth.


Numbers and fees

From Northam’s inquiries about affiliation in 1952 the number of affiliates grew to a peak of in the 1992-93 season with 31. Mention of Affiliates has been an irregular occurrence in both the WASA and ASF Annual Reports. Until 1982 the number of teams was occasionally reported after which the ASF required individual memberships with no details of location. Full details for all States and Territories appeared in ASF Reports from the 1988-89 season to the 1996-97 season. The WASA now records payments made to the ASF. The figures presented would, however, probably be less than the total number of softball participants since various centres opt in and out of affiliation according to the experiences of their office bearers. This state of affairs reflects the tenuous relationship between affiliates and their State/Territory association and the ASF. In 1976 Secretary Bailey submitted a report to the ASF which indicated that the WASA was well aware of the rapid expansion of softball in the northwest of the State but felt that government grants were too ‘hard to come by’ which limited the assistance that could be given. Bailey suggested that the ASF charge the newcomers in the northwest a small nomination fee and increase it gradually overtime. He pointed out that softballers in the northwest ‘couldn’t see the benefit in any way of paying that much, and would sooner not affiliate and rather become involved with Singapore and such places to the north’. People in the northwest could travel to Southeast Asia at a fraction of the coast of traveling to Perth or the Eastern States.  As well, little information is available about the involvement of Aboriginal communities apart from those occasions when specialist coaching clinics are conducted for them or groups come to Perth for camps.  Also, gender divisions continue to exist in some affiliates. Dale Districts, for example, is an association for male softball players. Albany, Geraldton, Hills District and West Pilbara have at various times had separate associations for women and men while in Kalgoorlie the women’s association is known as Eastern Goldfields while the men’s is simply Goldfields.


The financial implications of affiliation have been an ongoing issue. At the 1956 AWSC Meeting affiliation fees were set at 5 shillings for country affiliates and 10 shillings for others. This probably gave rise to the enduring question about what country centres actually received for their money. Counter arguments based on access to courses and the right to have representatives in State and Australian teams did not meet country expectations. In recognition of the varying services offered to remote country affiliates the WASA has a sliding scale of payments based on distance from Perth which for the 2010 season were in three categories: 501-1000 km, 1501+ km and 2000+km. The more remote the players the lower their registration fee although insurance and web fees were the same State-wide. As well, registration fees were lower for Masters (Veterans) and lower again for Tee Ball; Fastpitch players and officials paid the highest fees. In his 2007-08 Annual Report, President Reg Page lamented the lack of willingness of affiliates to register all their members while expecting full service. Page emphasized that the new personal injury insurance system only applied to members who were registered.



Although there had been numerous inquiries from country associations seeking to affiliate and provision in the Constitution from the outset, few country associations formally affiliated with WASA until the early 1970s. This change was largely the result of funding for coaching, umpiring and scoring clinics in country centres. At State level the Amateur Sporting Council which became the Community Recreation Council and then the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation provided much needed financial assistance. At the national level the AWSC grew more conscious of the broad appeal of softball and in July 1969 set aside money for a coaching school to focus in three categories: local, country and Eastern States. During the 1960s the AWSC (and many other sporting organizations) had willingly accepted funding from the Rothman’s Foundation for the production of coaching materials but that ceased when the negative effects of cigarette smoking were accepted. From the mid-1970s the ASF was able to access funds from the federal government. The ASF made some of these monies were available to the State and Territory associations. With funding came the need for increased accountability. The ASF ruled that clinics could only be delivered to affiliates.


Affiliate players in State teams

The number of country players selected in State teams has been small – between 80 and 90, increasing to 120 with the inclusion of outer metropolitan affiliates like Rockingham. Bunbury has supplied the most with 21 and noticeably after Bunbury City Blues entered the State Softball League (See Chapter 6). Geraldton, (15), Busselton (11) and Port Hedland (8) follow.7 Those selected have predominantly been girls and women and in the Under 16 and Under 19 teams. Among the first was Coralie Fielding from Geraldton who was selected in the State Under16 team in 1973 on the understanding that she did not have to attend training until the school year was over but her parents opted to send her to Perth. Coach Don Leyland indicated in his report that country players must attend all training sessions to ensure that standards are maintained. In order to train and play in an environment which facilitates their development some country players have relocated to Perth to pursue their softball ambitions as well as their studies and careers. For senior players the issue is not quite as challenging because they are able to drive to Perth but at considerable cost and time. For some the effort is too much and after experience in the State Under 16 and Under 19 teams they simply opt to play club softball close to home.


Junior Camp versus Junior Trials

One avenue open to aspiring country juniors was the annual Junior Camp held in Perth. It was advertised to all clubs and associations around WA as were the trials for the Under 16 State team which were held separately several weeks after the camp. Unfortunately good intentions sometimes resulted in controversy. When the country players, or their associations, realized that the camp was not the selection trials for the Under 16 team they complained bitterly or in a couple of instances left the camp well prior to its completion. Separation of the camp and trials meant that country juniors had to travel to Perth at least twice at their own or association’s expense. Hence few country juniors have played in the Under 16s.


Country Secretary

From 1977 to 1980 the WASA provided a direct line to country associations by appointing Roma Piercy Country Secretary. She fielded inquiries covering all aspects of the sport from technicalities of rules to administration. Where needed she liaised with appropriate WASA officials and became fully involved in presenting clinics in country areas. However, in the Minutes of October 1979 comment was made on the ‘exorbitant’ phone bill she submitted to claim a reimbursement. Piercy was directed to advise country association of set times to telephone her. This was good in theory but impractical for volunteers dotted all over Western Australia. In December 1980 Piercy resigned as Country Secretary for personal reasons. Communicating with the country associations became part of the ever-increasing workload of the Secretary.


Metropolitan Affiliates

In the early 1980s the notion of affiliate expanded to include new associations formed within the Perth metropolitan area away from Yokine Reserve. These included South East Metropolitan Softball Association (SEMSA), Southern Districts and Dale Districts. Rockingham and Hills District also catered for players in the outlying suburbs. Southern Districts played at Booragoon. Its President, Mavis O’Connor, was a life Member of Fremantle Rebels as was its Treasurer, Margaret Stanners. The Secretary was Robin Davies a former State and Hell’s Angels player.8


ASF directives

Tension developed between the ASF and WASA about the best location for clinics. In attempting to show strong leadership and fulfill its obligations to the Australian Sports Commission, the ASF designated country areas to receive coaching and umpiring clinics. In April 1985 the ASF nominated Bunbury for a clinic but the WASA requested that the States be allowed to make their own selections particularly in WA where many Associations were in excess of five hours driving time from Perth. WASA nominated Esperance based on the number of junior registrations but clinics out of season were problematic. Finally, Eastern Goldfields was selected drawing participants from Esperance, Laverton, Kambalda and Norseman. Bob McKibbin, Nina Menner and Ben Thorley were the coaches. By August 1986 the WASA noted in its minutes that the ASF was taking ‘a hard line’on membership. Associations that were not financial were advised that they would cease to receive correspondence and unfinancial Associations were unable to apply for grants.


Constitutional status

The status of the affiliates was clarified when the Constitution was revised and the Board of Management came into being in 1987. An Affiliated Association was able to organize and control its own competition while an Associate Association was any WA based association of coaches, umpires, scorers and the like ‘whose objectives activities complement softball’. The latter did not conduct competitions.


Voting rights

The voting rights of the country associations and suburban affiliates were equal to the metropolitan clubs participating in the competitions organized by the WASA although the number of players and officials represented varied. A large metropolitan club like Morley Eagles with seven senior women’s teams was larger than some country associations yet suburban affiliate SEMSA was larger than both. As Shirley Schneider explained to the 1989 AGM, the original intention in the updated Constitution was to have regional associations aligned to the regions designated by DSR but the country associations had opted to retain their own representation. Ironically, only a handful attended the AGM and the power remained with the metropolitan clubs. The country affiliates continued to query the payment what they considered to be high fees in return for little tangible outcome. Financing trials and teams did not feature highly on their agendas, nor did the ASF which demanded a registration fee, too. President Page pointed out that more money had been spent on various courses than had ever been gained from fees. Insurance was included in the fees paid to the WASA. The individual compulsory fee of $6.00 applied to the Summer and Winter competitions and affiliates but cover was null and void if an insured team played against one which was not as sometimes occurred in the North West Championships. The efforts the WASA made to assist the country associations were thwarted by off-handed approach of some associations. For example, the State Scoring Director, Lorraine Malcolm, was invited to the Eastern Goldfields (EGSA) but when she arrived at the Kalgoorlie airport there was no one to meet her, the invitation had been forgotten. Likewise the President and State Coaching Director were invited to Geraldton but not invited into the meeting let alone given the chance to address it. The intent of the visitors had been to determine the best times and ways to assist with courses and clinics.  The AGM in June 1989 provided a forum for discussion of the issues of concern to softball throughout WA. Communication was a major topic, especially how to get information to clubs and affiliates.


State Softball League

The formation of the State Softball League in 1992 provided opportunities for players from outer suburbs and country areas to play in the State’s most elite competition. Kalamunda Knights drew together men from the Hills Association and women from Kalamunda. Southdale Spectres united Dale District men with South Perth Angels women. Peel Pirates was the new name for the team representing the Rockingham Association and also included players from Mandurah. Bunbury City Blues entered in the second season and drew its players from Bunbury, Busselton, Harvey and Collie. (See Chapter 6.) The grand vision for the SSL was to include teams from Geraldton and Kalgoorlie but travel and accommodation costs made this impractical.


Operational Review and workshops

Following the Operational Review conducted in 2000, the WASA set about developing a Strategic Plan with a focus on five key areas: Governance and Management, Finance, Learning and Development, Sport Delivery and Marketing and Communications. The Plan had to complement that of the ASF and chart a course for effective delivery of the sport across the State. The remoteness of North West and the strength of softball there made it an ideal location for a workshop. Funding was sought on a 50-50 basis with the Ministry of Sport and Recreation and staff from its Pilbara Regional Office acted as facilitators. Unfortunately, the workshop did not proceed because too few people were willing to attend. Problems in Perth were too far away.  A Regional Coaching and Development Workshop at Mirrabooka in May 2001 proved more attractive with representatives from Esperance, EGSA, Albany, Mandurah, Dale and SEMSA attending although Bunbury, Busselton, Collie, Hills District, Rockingham and Southern Districts did not send representatives. State Coaching Director, Joanne Donnan, and State Development Officer, Chantelle James, took participants through a wide range of topics which increased awareness of State based programs and resources while listening to concerns about the State Championships, regional competitions, player retention, player development and overall promotion. While the WASA was beholden to the ASF and WA Ministry of Sport and Recreation to have detailed plans for coaching and development Donnan and James concurred that the affiliates lacked the infrastructure and workforce to do so at a local level.


By 2005 the State Championships were in serious decline and no longer served as a meeting point for metropolitan and country softballers. Interestingly, in 2004-05 Annual Report the General Manager, Peter Brophy, observed that while overall membership had decreased by 827 (249 women; 578 men) country membership grew by 520 offsetting a drop of 1347 in metropolitan numbers. Of more recent concern has been the decision by the regional offices of the Department of Sport and Recreation to fund local sports associations regardless of affiliation with State and national governing bodies. The number of affiliated country centres has declined and this has posed problems for the WASA. It is eager to see softball played Statewide but must advise its members that playing against non-affiliated teams/associations revokes insurance cover. Administratively, the WASA is responsible for softball in one-third of the Australian continent. It is testimony to the sport’s appeal that it can capture the attention of city-slickers in Perth, farmers in the Wheatbelt, mine workers in the Pilbara and Goldfields and remote Aboriginal communities. Only a handful of people are paid to administer softball so volunteers who give many hours of their time and no doubt dig deep into their pockets to pursue their passion do the bulk of the work.

[i]In later years Northam was a member of Avon District Softball Association and hence does not appear as a separate entity.

[i]Mercury. (Saturday 4 July 1953). Softball Association plans country week. The Broadcaster, p.16.

[i]This Berlei Shield is assumed to be that mentioned previously as a trophy originally used by women’s baseball.

[i]Gnoweranup was a member of the Central Great Southern Softball Association which was affiliated with the WASA in the early 1980s.

[i]Apart from results engraved on perpetual trophies, no records of the Men’s State Championships have been located. Nor have summaries of the Championships conducted since merger of the WAMSL with the WASA been regularly included in the Annual Report.

[i]Corrigin was a member of the Eastern Districts Softball Association.

[i]Lists of Country and Indigenous State Representatives were compiled by Shirley Schneider. Not all clubs/associations of players were available so exact figures are probably slightly higher.

[i]Grice, Pat. (1981). Western Australia. Softball News, 1 (2), p.16.