Chapter 8 - Nationals 1949-1969

Chapter 8 

1949 to 1969

In the 1950s and ‘60s one women’s open team from each member Association of the AWSC contested the Australian championships. The championships were played over two weeks and included rest days for picnics as well as numerous other social activities. For the WA team train travel to the eastern States took a week each way meaning players and officials were away – and together - for a month each year. The softballers traveled out of WA at a time when few people did so. Competition for places in the team was fierce. Shirley Roberts reckoned that ‘You’d kill your best friend to get in the State team because you never got out of the State. I mean people just didn’t travel … to make the State team, my god, was like better than winning Lotto, probably’.[i] Each championship presented new learning experiences in fund raising, travel, accommodation and playing. These experiences gave rise to the folklore surrounding the early teams and created a very special bond between the players who became the leaders and office bearers of softball in WA. WA team lists from 1951 to 1969 are presented in Appendix 1. Placings of WA teams at national championships are located in Appendix 2 while Appendix 3 shows the winners of each national championship.

1951: Adelaide

The WAWSA was formed in March 1949 and probably became aware of the AWSC through the National Fitness Council of WA which was in contact with its counterparts in other States. The WAWSA affiliated with the AWSC in 1950. When members of the WAWSA realised that the next championship was to be held in Adelaide, the closest location for WA, the chance to explore another diamond became very tantalizing. It was also frustrating because the WAWSA had to rely on rather slow mail services for correspondence from the AWSC based in Melbourne since few people had telephones in their homes in post-World War II Australia. WA players and officials used their own interpretation of the rulebook to determine how to prepare for their first foray out of the state and how to present themselves at a national carnival.


The biggest challenge was raising at least £400 to cover transport and accommodation. In August 1950 the first significant commitment was made when £20 - £1 per head for the touring party - was forwarded to the AWSC as a deposit for accommodation in Adelaide. It was decided to send a party of 15 players, a manager and 2 delegates for the AWSC meetings held in conjunction with the carnival that would run over 12 days from 9th to 21st March 1951. The remaining two places were available for supporters paying their own way. Subsequently the traveling party was reduced to 16 with the four vacant spots being thrown open to supporters. Team members were levied £5 each towards the costs. All the traditional fund raising techniques were considered but support waived. A punchboard was circulated amongst the softball clubs and dances were held in partnership with the Subiaco Amateur Cycling Club. A concert held in February ran at a loss. A bat autographed by all members of the team was presented to Nedlands Rookies which sold the most raffle tickets to assist the State team. Until December 1950 there was uncertainty whether the team should go. Supporters believed it was the best way for the association to improve the standard of play while the detractors believed that the team would be resoundingly beaten by the experienced east coast teams and there was no point in going. The optimists prevailed and planning accelerated in January. Val Johnson was appointed coach with George Wenn on standby to take her place if she was not available due to her employment as a nurse. The Secretary was authorised to make the train bookings.  Johnson relinquished her coaching duties when she became the WAWSA delegate to the AWSC meetings, held in the evenings after the day’s play. Wenn’s wife Frances accompanied the team as did Heather Asquith and Joy Rippin.

1951 State team

Dot Allen (captain; South Perth)

Rona Blunt (Nedlands Rookies)

Joy Davey (Blue Jays)

Marie Harbour (vc; Fremantle)

Doreen Hawkins (YWCA)

Jean Henderson (Nedlands Rookies)

Dot Jenkins (Fremantle)

Val Johnson (Flying Club)

Pat Lynch (Nedlands Rookies)

Shirley Roberts (Blue Jays)

Joy Sladden (Nedlands Rookies)

Joan Steinfield (Blue Jays)

Norma Stone (Sandovers)

Rona Trotter (Blue Jays)

Faye Whittaker (South Perth)

George Wenn (coach; Frema

The team was determined to be the best possible representative for WA and retained the wartime practice of ‘design[ing] and donn[ing] their own uniforms in a bid to gain recognition of their serious intent’.[ii] The WA Women’s Softball Association insisted upon black blazers with the State emblem plus crossed bats and a ball embroidered on the pockets. The players were, however, free to wear whatever they wished with it. Shirley Roberts delighted in her white blouse and salmon pink skirt appliquéd with dancing ladies.[iii] The train trip to Adelaide took for two and a half days and involved three changes of trains. The first train steamed overnight to Kalgoorlie where passengers changed trains to cross the Nullabor to Port Augusta for another change of trains for the journey to Port Pirie for another change for the final leg to Adelaide. The train journey


             Dot Allen with                           Fay Whittaker and                       Shirley Roberts                             Dot Jenkins                                  Val Johnston and Patty Lynch
Paddy Hannan                               Dot Jenkins                            and Betty Merrett                     and Heather Asquith                with dogs adopted as mascots in Adelaide

In Kalgoorlie                              In Kalgoorlie               at a train stop on the Nullabor    
crossing the Nullabor by train

Photos per courtesy Heather Asquith

provided glimpses of a more exotic life style with three meals a day served in the dining car. When the train stopped to take on water the team held impromptu training sessions and matches as well as bartering with Aborigines who came silently out of the bush to sell spears and boomerangs. Pat Lynch’s debut was almost destroyed when she leaned out of the window and a hot cinder from the train engine lodged in her eye. Fortunately, she recovered in time to take her place in the line-up. Reality struck quickly when the team arrived at its accommodation in the basement of the Sunshine Guest House in the beachside suburb of Glenelg. To their dismay the £3/10/- per person per week board only included bed and breakfast. They had not budgeted for lunch or dinner, or for pennies to operate the gas meter for hot showers! Over a meal on Glenelg Beach they decided to telegram home. The text was simple: ‘No food, please send money’. In later years Shirley Roberts, the ‘baby’ of the 1951 team, recalled, ‘It was just so funny. Everything was against us and we were trying to eat our fish and chips and, god’s truth, the bloody seagulls just kept dive-bombing us’.[iv] Within days food parcels arrived from worried parents. In comparison to Perth, the WA softball group found Adelaide to be a sophisticated city. The traffic lights along King Williams Street were a totally new experience. The Adelaide shops stocked items that were unavailable in post-war Perth. Heather Asquith recalled their delight in seeing tins of Nestlé cream in a grocery store. A carton was purchased to take home.[v] 


The lack of the facilities back at Langley Park became apparent when the team arrived at the grounds in Adelaide. To the amazement of the other state teams WA players simply walked to their bench and removed their walking out uniforms to reveal their black shorts and gold tops. Any sort of pullover served as a warm-up jacket. The dressing rooms went unnoticed by WA. The ‘hillbillies’ from Western Australia touched the heartstrings of the crowds. At the end of each match the team carried a blanket around the ground into which spectators threw coins for tram fares and the gas meter on the showers. On the diamond the team improved over the two rounds. In Round 1 NSW defeated WA 13-7. In the return match WA matched NSW with the score 12 all after five innings but NSW powered home with another eight runs in the sixth innings to win. In both rounds Queensland won by just one run. South Australia won 7-5 in Round 1 but WA secured its only victory against the hostess state 13-10 in Round 2. Victoria, the reigning champions inflicted defeats on WA with 8-1 and 21-15 in the two rounds. The WA players were in awe of Victorian pitcher, Myrtle Edwards, who used the windmill pitch and gave Victoria its fourth successive Gilleys Shield. The competitiveness of the WA team was clearly demonstrated when Shirley Roberts, as catcher, was so intent on fielding a fly ball that she careered into a bench and dislodged all the dignitaries. She was more concerned about missing the catch than sending AWSC Secretary, Irene Burrowes, flying.[vi] 


At the AWSC meetings Val Johnson demonstrated that WA were enthusiastic members. Delegates raised their eyebrows when Johnson drew on her training with the National Fitness Council and challenged Victorian delegate, Esther Deason, on a point of order. WA’s presence forced the AWSC to consider the costs of travel faced by its member associations. A motion proposed by Miss J Cahill of South Australia and seconded by Val Johnson established a travel fund whereby ‘each individual’s subscription in every State shall be increased by 1/- which shall be paid to the Council for the purpose of assisting the transport of teams to Australian Carnivals and to be apportioned in regard to the distance of travel’.[vii] When the discussion turned to the hosting the 1952 carnival, Johnson astutely realised that if she didn’t volunteer WA would not have another opportunity for at least five years. Back at the Sunshine Guest House her confidence waived as she told her team-mates what she had done. By the time the team returned to Perth, the players had reflected on their commitment. Their options were either to host the carnival with the distinct possibility that the other states may not be prepared to travel so far, or they could simply withdraw the offer.


1952: Perth

Immediately after arriving home the WAWSA wrote to each State association inviting them to participate in the fourth national championships to be held from 24 to 31 March 1952. Pessimistically, the WA Association was full of dread that none would contemplate the long journey across the Nullabor. Queensland was the only state to renege but asked AWSC Honorary Secretary Miss Irene Burrowes (Victoria) to represent it at the AWSC meetings. Optimistically, the WAWSA announced in The Daily News on 6 April that teams from New Zealand and South Africa might be part of the championships. Hosting a national champion-ship required a whole new set of knowledge and skills. Planning the 1952 national championships became even more difficult in June 1951 when Val Johnson was hospitalised with poliomyelitis. Once over the critical stage she managed the carnival from her hospital bed. By October 1951 Johnson had made sufficient recovery that the Executive hoped she might be considered well enough to leave her hospital bed for half a day to pitch the opening ball of the championships.[viii] By default Vice President Joy Rippin was propelled into chairing meetings and the association office bearers and State team members rallied to plan one of the most memorable national championships.


Given the 1951 team’s experience at the Glenelg guesthouse, securing suitable accommodation was a priority but in mid-1951 the WAWSA was too late. Accommodation was already booked out by sports which had organised competitions to occur during the Royal Tour by Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Due to the poliomyelitis epidemic the tour and most events were cancelled except the men’s lawn bowls championships. Approximately 500 interstate male bowlers and their wives booked all the hotels and guesthouses.[ix] WA softballers were mindful of the expenses they had incurred in 1951 were determined to minimise these for their guests. The WA Association hired facilities at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds in Claremont. Shirley Roberts recalled that:

South Australia and Victoria shared the Pigeons and Caged Birds section, whilst New South Wales was slightly more up market, they had the Creaton Tearooms, C-R-E-A-T-O-N Rooms. However, there was a sign outside that used to creak all night so we used to call it the Creakon Tearooms. Anyhow, we had two catering ladies that used to come in at night, we used to call them Ladies-in-the-kitchen, they’d sleep over in the ute and they’d make breakfast the next morning.[x]


The cost was 5 shillings per head per week plus out of pocket expenses. Camp stretchers were hired from the Army and blankets were borrowed from local players and supporters. Upon arrival in Perth, the visitors were taken shopping to buy their sheets and pillowslips. Esther Deason, AWSC Treasurer, is reputed to have claimed that they were the best sheets she ever brought and they lasted most of her lifetime. The birdcages served as storage space. The ablution block was some distance from the Pavilion but there were no security problems even for those who had to answer the call of nature in the middle of the night:

…but it was such a long haul that they used to call it a run to the four-forty whenever they wanted to go to the loo. But everything was so safe then. You could get up at 12 o’clock at night and go out into the grounds on your own and there’d be nobody lurking there except maybe a spider or something or other like that. I mean, life was wonderful. They never ever even cleaned out the birdcages.[xi]


After a while even the local taxi-drivers became accustomed to answering calls at the Show- grounds. This proved very newsworthy with photographs appearing in the local press. It helped considerably that Bill Wells was not only WA’s assistant coach but also a journalist who used his knowledge of the media to gain as much coverage as possible for the championships. Local and interstate players who enjoyed this unique experience looked back on it with joy. WA players retained the comfort of their own beds as funds did not extend to housing them together. Pat Tatham remembered that they simply ‘fronted up at the given time and then we all went home again.[xii] New South Wales set a new precedent by flying and arrived at Guildford Airport at 8pm on Thursday 20 March. However, NSW’s participation came with conditions: they could not play in the final because four team members had to fly out Saturday evening. A compromise was reached at the meeting of coaches and managers whereby the finals would be advanced three hours if NSW was involved. When meeting NSW at the airport, Wells discussed potential performances with the NSW Manager. He was disgusted that NSW, in the absence of Queensland, expected to finish second behind Victoria. Wells boldly proclaimed that WA would win even though he had never seen Victoria play.[xiii] The Victorian and South Australian teams arrived on the Westland Express (train) just after 7am on Saturday 22 March.


Based on a recommendation from the 1951 AWSC meeting, WA held the first pre-championship meeting of coaches and managers prior to the commencement of the carnival. The meeting was held at the NFC rooms in James Street, and a second meeting for the election of selectors for the Australian team and The Rest during the picnic at Yanchep.[xiv] Joy Davey was WA’s first national selector joining Myrtle Edwards from Victoria and “Peter” Irwin from South Australia. Three meetings of the AWSC were held at the NFC rooms. In Val Johnson’s absence, Miss J. “Peter” Irwin, was elected to chair the meetings. WA’s delegates to the meetings were Joy Davey and Joy Rippin. To WA’s dismay the motion to establish a travel fund was changed. The money (1/- per player) went directly to the AWSC for its purposes.[xv] The affiliation fee of £3/3/- each (3 guineas) per State was insufficient to cover the AWSC’s own administration expenses even though all office bearers were volunteers and often dug into their own pockets to assist rather than deplete the Council’s meagre bank balance. Indeed WA members ‘more or less pledged our piggy banks to the cause’.[xvi] Before the official opening the teams mixed socially on Sunday at a picnic at Yanchep Park, approximately an hour north of Perth. Again, the WA players and supporters rose to the occasion to provide all the food and soft drinks. Tickets were available both Saturday evenings for those who wanted to attend the trots at Richmond Park (Fremantle) and Gloucester Park (Perth) respectively. The formal championship dinner was held Thursday evening at Marelle, in Hay Street, Perth.


Two rounds of matches were played. Week day matches were played on The Esplanade which the Perth City Council had designated for significant cultural and sporting events. Play commenced at 12:15pm which co-incided with the lunch-break of many city workers who could stroll down to watch. Very large crowds were reputed to be 20 deep. The Daily News photographer captured the male bowlers playing at Perth Bowling Club (located on The Esplanade) standing on benches to peer over the fence and watch the softball.[xvii] Matches reverted to Langley Park for the Saturday and Sunday. Under the watchful eye of coach George Wenn (Red Sox) and his assistants, Bill Wells (Blue Jays) and Ron Featherby (Nedlands Rookies), selection and training of the WA team was very serious. Despite the coaches being of similar age to many of the players, they were formally addressed as Mr Wenn and Mr Wells.[xviii] Training was held two nights a week plus Sunday morning practice matches at Langley Park. A squad of 26 players covering all major positions was announced in The West Australian on the 19 December1951. The final team of 16 players was announced in mid-February. The team was a mix of ‘experienced’ players who had been to Adelaide and newcomers with an average age of just 20 years.[xix] Rona Trotter (Blue Jays) was the oldest at 29 while Shirley Roberts (Nedlands Rookies) and Joy Sladden (Nedlands Rookies) were youngest at 17.[xx]

WA versus NSW on The Esplande.

Note the Bowling Club in the foreground with the male bowlers standing on benches to watch the softball.

Photo per courtesy of The Daily News via copyright holders Community Newspapers.


Other team members were Norma Stone (captain; Nedlands Rookies), Dot Jenkins (vice captain), June Steinfield, Pat Tatham (Fremantle), Betty Merrett, Pat Lynch, Doreen Hawkins, June Henderson (Nedlands Rookies) Joy Rippin (Flying Club), Joan Sanderson, Bernice Dansey (Blue Jays), Faye Whittaker, and Heather Asquith (South Perth). Joy Davey (Blue Jays) was the Manageress. With seven players from Nedlands Rookies, three each from Blue Jays and Fremantle, two from South Perth and one from Flying Club the coaches decided it was essential that emphasis was placed on the development of team harmony at training. Wells remembered telling the players that:

You don’t wear your club uniform to training. You can wear the club trousers but you wear just an ordinary blouse, shirt or pullover, whatever so that you don’t have they’re six Blue Jays and they’re six Nedlands Rookies and three from Fremantle, they’re all THE State squad.[xxi]


Such was the strength of the bonds formed between players that they have continued to meet for lunch approximately every six weeks. For Rona Trotter, Sunday morning training allowed her to combine her two passions: softball and horse riding. She rode her horse, Lady Marina, from her home in Wembley to Langley Park. While Rona trained with the State team, Lady Marina grazed contentedly in the paddock near the top of Hill Street and Adelaide Terrace, on what is the present day site of the Pan Pacific Hotel.  Inspired by their memories of the triumphant 1951 Victorian team, WA paid careful attention to its uniforms. The walking out uniform for official functions consisted of a grey skirt, white blouse, black blazer, black hat, black gloves, black shoes and handbags: no appliquéd skirts this time! The playing uniform was black with baseball-style long pants (pedal pushers) and gold socks. The State emblem of facing swans was embroidered on the pockets of the playing shirt and blazer. WA may have dressed like serious contenders but it took two matches before they proved themselves. In the opening match South Australia defeated WA 3-2 and in the second match WA fell to Victoria 6-2. WA finished round 1 with a 4-3 victory over NSW. When Wenn became aware that the opposition had deciphered his signals he stepped aside and let Bill Wells call the signals.[xxii]


Confidence soared in the return match against Victoria when WA ‘shut out’ the reigning champions with a 1-0 result. The jubilant WA team chaired Pat Tatham off the diamond at the end of the match. The weather conditions favoured the Victorians. An early winter ‘blow’ struck Perth with 54 points of rain falling in the 24 hours preceding the match and the temperature dropping to 60.8oF (or 16oC) at noon. The report in The Daily News noted that the ‘match was played in adverse conditions. The wind made play difficult for the batters and fielders though it helped the pitchers’.[xxiii]


After two rounds Victoria had five wins, WA three, and NSW and SA two each. NSW defeated SA in the preliminary final to claim third place in the championship. In the Grand Final in a second ‘shut out’ WA became the first team to defeat Victoria, 5-0, for the Gilleys Shield. Pat Tatham in her first State team at the relatively older age of 25 pitched both ‘shut outs’. She had played in 1951 as she was in hospital giving birth to her first child. Pat’s ‘secret’ weapon in her array of pitches was ‘a rising ball. I used to take a big step and the ball used to rise. Instead of coming straight across the plate it was a rising pitch. I think that’s the only reason I had success because it’s harder to hit.[xxiv] Victoria had not confronted anything like it before. It was the first time Victoria failed to score in matches at the national championships and the second year in a row that the home team had scored an important win against them.


Norma Stone holds the Gilleys Shield for the first time for WA in1952.

Photo per courtesy Heather Asquith

The youngest team in the competition had defeated the oldest team.[xxv] The Gilleys Shield stayed in Perth. A photograph of the scoreboard appeared on the front page of The West Australian. Directly after the match Bill Wells used his media contacts. In fact the photographer arrived a little late so the scoreboard was re-constructed.[xxvi] Although SA finished fourth it had the satisfaction of having defeated the champion WA team twice.  Estimates reckoned the crowd at the Grand Final was 7,000. This was a financial benefit as the collection taken during the match raised £73 bringing the total income for the tournament to over £250.[xxvii]  As was the custom at the end of the championships the Australian team and The Rest were announced. Pat Tatham with Dot Lumsden (Victoria) was named as the second battery in the Australia team and Joan Sanderson as right field. Indeed, Victorian captain-coach, Myrtle Edwards, had declared that Sanderson was one of the best players during the carnival.[xxviii] Pat Lynch and Doreen Hawkins were left and right field respectively for The Rest.[xxix] These teams faced off on The Esplanade on the Monday after the championship. Such was Pat Lynch’s reputation in WA that her profile in the program for the 1952 carnival had anticipated that she was ‘an almost certain selection for the Australian team …’.[xxx] She was an unorthodox batter preferring to bat cross-handed and this may have gone against her national selection. Bill Wells saw no point in changing her to conventional style because she was so successful.[xxxi] Press reports noted that ‘Joan Sanderson at second base took some good catches and was responsible for several other dismissals. She also impressed with the bat” while “Second pitcher Pat Tatham showed excellent control in her first big game’.[xxxii]  The 1952 State team was part of the “Spotlight on Sport” held at the Royal Show and the opening of Youth Week early in October. Sixteen WA teams had won national titles. The ‘girls’ softball team’ paraded along with teams from hockey, football, baseball, rugby, lacrosse and surf life saving. A fanfare of trumpets announced each team as it was presented to the Governor, Sir Charles Gairdner.[xxxiii] Bill Wells recalled that each team was lead on to the dais by its captain with the coach at the rear. The Governor greeted Wells by saying,


        Joy Sladden, Joan Henderson and      Norma Stone standing in         Joan Sanderson (Sandy), Doreen Hawkins.  Sandy, Pat Tatham, Patty Lynch                Shirley Roberts
         Doreen Hawkins                                 
catcher’s box at Langley Park         and Pat Tatham at The Esplanade                   and Doreen Hawkins                           at the Showgrounds

Photos per courtesy Heather Asquith

‘“Oh, a man now, oh, you must be the brains of the team,” to which Wells replied, “Well, I wouldn’t check that out with most of the girls, you know.”’[xxxiv]

WA overcame major hurdles to host its first national carnival and on the diamond the players had responded dramatically by taking WA from last in 1951 to first in 1952. It was, however, a victory that created even more challenges. Critics attributed the win to the home ground advantage and lack of travel and threw down the gauntlet to the 1953 team to successfully defend the title in the most distant venue, the Exhibition Ground in Brisbane.

1952 National Champions with Gilleys Shield

Back L->R: Heather Asquith, Pat Tatham, Shirley Roberts, Fay Whittaker

Centre L->R: George Wenn (coach), Joan Steinfield, Joan Sanderson, Rona Trotter, Doreen Hawkins, Betty Merrett, Bernice Dansey, Bill Wells (a/coach)

Front L->R: Pat Lynch, Joy Rippin, Dot Jenkins (vice captain), Joy Davey (manageress), Norma Stone (captain), Bernice Dansey, Joy Sladden

1953: Brisbane

It was not an automatic decision to defend the title in Brisbane. The cost of travel and accommodation was greater than any previous venture and there was some debate about the appropriate use of a large sum of money. The WA Baseball League was investigating the possibility of purchasing its own ground and the suggestion was made from within softball that the Association ought to consider forming a partnership with baseball rather than traveling to Brisbane.  Those favouring the trip to Brisbane prevailed with responsibility for raising at least £1,000 given to the Social Committee of Shirley Roberts, Gwen Roberts and Dennis Osborne. Numerous ideas were put forward to involve all softball players. Some activities were directly linked to the playing such as the sale of Catch Cards at matches on Saturdays. Each card bore two numbers representing the fielding positions numbered from 1 to 9. The first number was for the fielder taking the first catch and the second number for the first catch by the opposition. Over a one-month trial period each girl was required to sell six cards at six pence each with 10/- prize money. As an incentive it was proposed that the club selling the most cards receive 10 percent of the gross takings. The trial was abandoned after two weeks with the unused cards held over for the finals.  


A knockout competition ran over three weeks on Sunday mornings in December. It generated £15/8/- from the 2/6 per team entry fee and collections from spectators. Although desperately in need of funds, the WAWSA saw fit to make a donation of £5 to the Orphans Christmas Fund conducted by The Daily News.  A Melbourne Cup Day sweep raised £178 of which approximately £100 was profit. Most money was expected to come from a Ball held after the Grand Final. The Softball Queen was crowned at the Ball and again the winning club given a financial incentive. In contrast, the novelty attraction was the naming of the Most Unpopular Umpire. To attract the biggest possible crowd the dance was advertised on screen slides at movie theatres in Beaconsfield, Perth, Richmond, Victoria Park and South Perth. Essential Taxis also advertised the Ball. The Ron Jenkins Orchestra, one of the best in Perth, was hired. It was expensive but considered worthwhile as a draw card. Tickets were 7/6 each. Complimentary tickets were given to the Governor and his wife, Sir Charles and Lady Gairdner, and some of the newspapers. To minimise costs catering was undertaken by the players and their families.  The most innovative fund-raiser was the raffling of a new, household appliance, an electric ‘Hoover’ Washing Machine valued at £50. It was donated by Noel Symnington, the Liberal candidate for Nedlands in the 1953 State elections. Symington accepted the position of Patron of the WAWSA. With permission from the Lotteries Commission 4,000 tickets were printed and sold at 1/- each generating £200. The timing of the donation was just right as the machine was displayed at the stall conducted by the WAWSA at the Australia Day Regatta held at Crawley. Players in club uniforms sold ice creams, ginger beer and sandwiches plus raffle tickets.


Despite the enthusiasm of the Social Committee their efforts were not universally accepted. Some clubs questioned the merits of raising £50 for the State team when they were short of funds themselves. There were suggestions that only girls whose clubs contributed the required sums of money would be eligible for the State team and some voiced the opinion that those who wanted go to Brisbane should pay themselves. Eventually it was decided that individual and club finances would not be considered in the selection of players. An article in The Daily News reported that in 1953 the basic wage for men was £11/18/6 (not quite $24) per week and for women it was £7/15/- ($15:50).[xxxv]Team selection began with the identification of a squad of about 30 players which was published in the press. This was followed by an exchange of opinions in Grumble (Letters) page of The Daily News by a range of people masked by pseudonyms. The initial response from One Who Knows praised the selection of Judy Smalpage as ‘definitely the most promising catcher in the State’. Interested Spectator claimed to be ‘a keen softball follower [who] was surprised that of the squad selected to practise for State representation, nine were from Nedlands Rookies and seven from Blue Jays’. State Selector W. (Bill) Wells was given the right of reply and pointed out that since:

Nedlands Rookies and Blue Jays have recorded 11 wins and one defeat and 10 wins and two defeats respectively, shows that their players must be of State standard. Victoria Park, the next team has six wins and six losses, and have lost all four fixtures against the first two teams. Of the eight Nedlands players selected, seven were members of last year’s carnival winning side.


A week later under the sub-heading ‘That Softball Team Again’ two letters praised the selectors and one letter recommended a different team. Perhaps the most telling letter was from Not in the Squad who stated that ‘both teams are really hard to play against. The players know what they are doing at all times, and their previous carnival performances prove they should be in the practice squad’.[xxxvi] This was all too much for Pommy of Floreat Park whose letter was printed under the sub-heading of Back to the Stove, Girls. Pommy argued that:

a women’s place is in the home, not on the field of sport. If we want our women to retain any semblance of femininity, we must do our utmost to ensure that they do not descend to yahooism, vulgarity, improper criticism and bad sportsmanship that seems to testify Australian “sporting” circles.


At the end of February the squad was reduced to 14 players: Fay Whittaker (South Perth), Dot Jenkins, Pat Tatham (Fremantle), Judy Smalpage (Victoria Park), Doreen Hawkins, Joy Sladden, Pat Lynch, Norma Stone (Captain), Jean Henderson, Betty Merrett (Nedlands Rookies), Rona Trotter, Joan Sanderson, Bernice Dansey (Vice Captain) and Flo Ireland (Blue Jays). The traveling party included coach Bill Wells (Blue Jays), manager Joy Rippin (Blue Jays) and scorer Shirley Roberts (Nedlands Rookies). The latter two represented the WAWSA at the AWSC meetings. Nedlands Rookies coached by Featherby had six representatives, Blue Jays coached by Wells had four and Fremantle had two. Of the remainder one was from South Perth and one from Victoria Park. Fay Whittaker’s position was put in jeopardy when she broke her left thumb. She had to be cleared by her doctor to take her place in the team. A photograph in The Broadcaster showed a very happy Whittaker showing Coach Wells her thumb after her medical clearance.[xxxvii] Flo Ireland was a former Australian cricket representative having toured New Zealand in 1948 and served as president of the WA Women’s Cricket Association. She made the State team in her first year in softball.[xxxviii] Sixteen year old Judy Smalpage was the youngest team member. Her family gave her cheques towards her expenses and her brother-in-law, a tailor, made her State blazer. This generosity warranted a special mention in a report in The Broadcaster in February.[xxxix] Joan Sanderson’s family also provided plenty of assistance. Sanderson lived at Boya, 15 miles from Perth. She practiced her batting each morning at 6am in a local quarry.[xl] Her family threw and fielded balls as she batted them into the quarry walls. This no doubt contributed to her winning the A grade batting average for the 1951-52 season and having an average of .367 at the time.[xli] Sanderson’s passion for softball drew positive comments from Victorian captain-coach, Myrtle Edwards, and her own club coach, Bill Wells, who considered Sanderson to be the keenest member in Blue Jays club and perhaps the association. Living at Boya meant Sanderson had to travel by bus to and from Perth for training and matches. When training finished at 7pm she than had to wait for the 9:30pm bus. Arriving at her stop she then had a two-mile walk home. Prior to the teams’ departure the Executive had given Rippin an envelope to open in Brisbane. When she did so, she found that she had been nominated as a reserve player.


To ensure that the State team was ready for the national championships a special match was held against “The Rest”, a team made up of players who did not make the State team. Fortunately, the State team defeated “The Rest” 6-2. Before the match the most talented performers in the association attempted to set new world records for a number of specialist skills. These records were set by female members of the Amateur Softball Association (of America). Judy Smalpage was fastest around the bases in 11.6 seconds followed by Pat Lynch in 11.8 seconds, both well short of the world record of 9.1 seconds. Smalpage also hit the longest home-run with a distance of 172 feet 8 inches (just over 52 metres). Lynch won a local style of fungo hitting for distance with a hit of 199 feet (almost 61 metres).[xlii] In J. nuary 1953 the AWSC advised WA that accommodation had been booked at the Oxford Private Hotel. The tariff was 18/- per night per player for bed and breakfast. Initially, it had been proposed that the team would fly to Brisbane, especially since NFC now offered assistance with travel. These ambitious plans were abandoned in favour of much cheaper train travel. The £700 saved was considered an advance for the 1954 team to travel to Melbourne.[xliii]


The journey each way took six days and nights with the forward journey departing on 7 March and arriving in Brisbane on 12 March for the carnival which ran from 14 to 27 March. The team was away for four weeks. As experienced train travelers, the WA team prepared well. Shirley Roberts vividly recalled:

We had been told there was no food past Adelaide. If you got out at Adelaide station, you had a voucher for tea. Ah ha, we had been to Adelaide in ’51 and we weren’t going to die of hunger on the way to Brisbane, were we? You would not believe what got loaded on that train, the array of food and fruit … There was this huge crate of fruit, there was tinned food. We all had everything. People cooked pies and god knows what. ‘Cos nobody told us that they stopped at places like Murray Bridge and stuff like that where you could get out and get a hamburger and a cup of coffee. We just thought we wouldn’t be eating after Adelaide unless you had that yourself. Makes you think of the migrants in the 1850s, you know … Anyway, that was hysterical and then we got to Cooke again, or whatever the border was, and found that we couldn’t take fruit and vegies through. There were kids, not necessarily Aborigines, but their dads were working on the telecom lines and railway lines and stuff. They came down and we were handing out fruit, and honest, there were kids, this is in 1953, that had never seen a peach.[xliv] 


Beyond Adelaide, the team faced new challenges. Interstate trains arrived in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney respectively early in the morning and the forward connections did not depart until the evening which meant that the team had a full day in these cities. In Melbourne they wandered around the city while in Sydney, NSW player, Edith Richards came to their rescue. In her tiny red car she transported all 20 team members to her small flat where they were able to shower and eat before boarding the train for the final leg of the journey to Brisbane. Traveling second class meant that the team sat up all the way from Adelaide to Brisbane. The smaller players like Pat Tatham and Shirley Roberts were able to sleep in the overhead luggage racks. Mindful that his team had only had a brief throw around out on the Nullabor Plain when the train stopped at Cooke, coach Wells, directed players to drop their luggage at the Brisbane accommodation and then go out for a run. Whether it was the determination to defend their title away from home or the excitement (and rest) on the long train journey WA began with a victory over NSW in the opening match on Saturday 14 March. Each team played one match per day during the double round robin. WA defeated NSW (twice), SA (twice), Queensland (once) and Victoria (once) and drew with Queensland and Victoria. With no outright losses WA finished two games clear of Victoria and Queensland. Queensland with a higher percentage than Victoria met WA in the grand final of nine innings. WA claimed its second consecutive title.


The second match against South Australia proved to be the most dramatic. With the score 3-1 against WA Wells opted to take full advantage of rule changes being used for the first time at the carnival. Betty Merrett reached second base from her own hit and brought two runs in to level the scores. Wells decided to remove Merrett and replace her with the much faster Joan Sanderson. South Australian coach, Johnny Tyson, challenged Wells for not requesting Tyson nominate a courtesy runner from the WA line up, a procedure that usually resulted in the slowest runner entering the game. Wells stressed that Merrett was leaving the game, a situation with which Tyson was quite happy. Sanderson reached third base on the next hit by Judy Smalpage. With one down and runners on second and third the pressure was on the next batter, Dot Jenkins. She kept her focus and let a ball go through. The South Australian catcher missed it and it went into the net. For these championships such a ball was declared dead with the runners automatically advancing one base. Sanderson came home to give WA a 4-3 victory. Tyson had been instrumental in getting the coaches to change the rule. While Tyson accepted the decision, the AWSC officials rebuked Wells and challenged him to show them the relevant rule in the book. Not being a ‘tactful young bloke’, Wells told them to go to their hotel room and read the rulebook! Next day the officials apologised.[xlv] 


Sanderson, ‘Sandy’, also incurred the wrath of Wells, when she used a favoured bat in another match and got out. Wells grabbed the bat and threw it out of the ground exclaiming, ‘Don’t use that so-and-so bat again.’[xlvi] WA’s victory was remarkable because the “Ekka” or Exhibition Ground was a quagmire after heavy rain, a situation WA players never experienced on Langley Park even in the depths of winter when they played hockey and basketball. Wells continued to train the team which provoked some angst amongst the players who thought it was unfair that the coach should remain dry while they got soaked and very dirty. Wells struck a bargain with the players: If they won the carnival they could roll him in the mud. Once Wells removed his State blazer revenge was sweet. Following his rolling in the mud, Wells was then hosed down.[xlvii] The finals were played on Thursday 26 March and Australia played The Rest the next day. Wells was nominated to coach the latter team but was defeated by Queensland stalwart Mack Gilley. The Constitution of the AWSC precluded men from coaching Australia since that position was only open to women. Pat Lynch, Doreen Hawkins and Judy Smalpage were WA’s representatives in the Australian team while Dot Jenkins and Fay Whittaker were included in The Rest. The Gilleys Shield was presented to WA at a dance on the Friday evening. WA players also featured prominently in winning individual trophies with Pat Lynch named the Best Fielder and Betty Merrett the Best Batter. With the carnival spread over two weeks there were numerous social activities including a trip to Southport on the first Sunday and a boat trip to Bribie Island on the second Sunday followed by the Official Dinner at the Lennox Hotel. Both Saturday evenings all teams were guests of Mr Frank Arthur at the Speedway and on Wednesday evenings they could attend the Red Cross Radio Show broadcast by 4KQ.

1953 National Champions with Gilleys Shield

Back L->R: Joan Sanderson, Betty Merrett, Rona Trotter, Bill Wells (coach), Doreen Hawkins, Dot Jenkins, Judy Smalpage, Jean Henderson

Front L->R: Flo Ireland, Fay Whittaker, Norma Stone (captain), Joy Rippin (manageress), Bernice Dansey (vice captain), Pat Tatham, Joy Sladden

Inset: Pat Lynch

1954: Melbourne

Selection of the State team was placed in the hands of Featherby, Wells and Wenn. Featherby was State Coach because his club team, Nedland Rookies, had won three consecutive premierships. The team included six players from Nedlands Rookies coached by Featherby and Red Sox coached by Wenn plus two from Blue Jays coached by Wells and Pat Tatham as the sole Fremantle representative.  The 1954 carnival in Melbourne was quite unique. Tasmania joined the competition swelling the number of State teams to six. The New Zealand team also played in the round robin against all states in preparation for the three-match Test Series played immediately after the national championship. The presence of the visitors extended the tournament to three weeks. To accommodate the Test Series only a single round robin was played. Teams played one match per day with a bye which served as their rest day. 


Such was the excitement generated by WA’s encounter with Victoria on Sunday 14 March that The Sun News Pictorial ran the match report under the heading ‘£5 notes flung at softball girls’. WA scored two runs in the first innings and one in the third innings with Victoria coming back with two runs in the final innings. Money was thrown at the players in recognition of the fine competition. In another match NSW took some of the shine away from WA by coming from behind off a hit by Shirley Grant to give NSW victory and an equal share of the lead with Victoria. WA failed to make the final which was won by Victoria. Doreen Hawkins had the misfortune to break her leg and flew home before the end of the championship. Later in the year, the value of the WAWSA Accident Fund became clear when she was reimbursed £15, the full amount permissible.


There were several free days before the Test Series. All State teams remained in Melbourne to support their national team and to learn from watching the inter-national matches. Each team was rostered to undertake officiating duties. Western Australian and Victoria oversaw the Third Test. Two West Australians, Pat Lynch and Norma Stone, were members of the Australian team that defeated New Zealand, 3-0. As well, a number of players were included in teams that played in the curtain raisers before each Test Match. Pat Tatham pitched in one of those games and was utterly dismayed when her left fielder stood and watched a huge homerun hit by a New Zealander soar overhead.[xlviii] There were plenty of opportunities for the teams to mingle as there were official functions, social evenings and a picnic to Emerald Lake in the Dandenong Range, about two hours from Melbourne by train. Tickets were also made available to pictures, dancing, boxing, the trots, speedway and ice-skating.


1955: Sydney

Wells (Blue Jays) was re-instated as State Coach with Featherby and Arthur Sladden (both Nedlands Rookies) assisting him on the Selection Panel. Wells’ winning record at national level took precedence over Featherby’s success in the local competition. A move to preclude two coaches from the one club serving as State Selectors was defeated allowing Featherby and Sladden to retain their positions.  The 1955 team included seven Nedlands Rookies (Norma Stone, Judy Smalpage, Pat Lynch, Doreen Hawkins, Shirley Roberts, Greta Wilson, Helen Thomas) and seven Blue Jays ( Merle Woods, Barbara Groves, Flo Ireland, Dot Preston, Maureen Connell, Joan Sanderson, Rona Trotter, plus coach Wells).


The second WA-Victoria match was enlivened by the changing allegiances of a shaggy dog. Jim Vine reported in the Brisbane Courier Mail that ‘a decrepit old pooch, a constant visitor at the game beat Pat Lynch to a ball hit over her head deep into left field. As if primed for the occasion the dog grabbed the ball and it became dead (the ball, not the dog). The advancing Victorian runner was forced to return to third base thus giving WA a one run victory. According to Vine the WA team savoured its victory and as a consolation gesture, they presented Victorian coach Myrtle Edwards with a handsome china dog. The accuracy of Vine’s story was not adequate for WA coach Wells who worked as a journalist and was the media liaison officer for the WAWSA. Wells’ version appeared in Vine’s column a couple of weeks later. Wells pointed out that the run saved by the dog was only the tying run. To win Victoria would have had to score another run. Wells also revealed that if the dog had been a bit sweeter smelling, there probably would not have been a shaggy dog story at all. During the week Wells had been feeding scraps to the dog. On the day of the incident, the dog switched its allegiance to the Victorian bench but they chased him away because he really needed a bath. The dog was heading back around the outfield towards the WA bench when he saw and stopped the ball.


1955 National Champions

Back L->R: Doreen Hawkins, Bill Wells (coach), Rona Trotter

Centre L->R: Barbara Groves, Flo Ireland, Pat Lynch, Dot Preston, Maureen Connell, Greta Wilson,

Front L->R: Shirley Roberts, Joan Sanderson, Helen Thomas, Jan Flick, Norma Stone (captain), Judy Smallpage, Merle Woods

The faith in Wells was rewarded when WA reclaimed the Gilleys Shield. In a one-off experiment, the championship was decided on points accumulated over two rounds. There were no finals. The carnival was also memorable for first-time State player, Helen Thomas, who as the last batter in the final match for WA hit a home run that proved to be the winning run.[xlix] Wells was rewarded as the WAWSA’s second Life Member. WA had played in five national championships and won three of which Wells had coached two.


Life Member: 1955

We won because we had a good side, a dedicated side and a side that I don’t think ever thought they weren’t going to win. I think they thought, you know, we’re Western Australian, we’re the greatest State team of them all. And they proved that.


Blue Jays

Demons (Batting Coach)

South Perth Angels (Coach)

State Teams

Assistant Coach Senior Women: 1952

Coach Senior Women: 1953, 1955


Committee member: 1949-56, 1984-86

Publicity Office


Coach of The Rest: 1953

Bill Wells came to softball from baseball. As a youngster in the mid-1930s Bill watched baseball games played on Langley Park. It ignited a lifelong passion for

the sport including following the American leagues as best he could from WA. His playing career began at Kent Street Senior High School when he was in his teens. ‘I was catcher at Kent Street and I soon learnt … why they call the catcher’s mask and glove and pads and that … the tools of ignorance’. After high school he played one season with Nedlands then transferred to South Perth then Perth. He coached Perth Tigers to a night baseball premiership in 1955. A motorbike accident forced him to take a year off after which he returned to play as an outfielder/baseman.  During World War II he joined Swans, a pickup civilian team formed to play against US military personnel stationed in Perth. The Americans introduced the WA baseballers to softball:

We got murdered in every game we played. I’d never seen anybody curve a softball before but some of those guys could throw curves and drops … do anything. We had greater difficulty with their pitching than they had with ours. Then, this lass I was going out with started playing with a side that only lasted a few months. They were collectively hopeless as softballers. Very nice people but absolutely … no skills at all, couldn’t throw, and couldn’t run and couldn’t hit. Then I was asked to umpire a few games and help out.


In 1949 a group of girls asked him to coach them. He suggested that they have a few practices to ‘see if you like me and if I like you and we get on together … I was probably thinking that rather or not whether I would like them but whether they were going to have any ability’. The girls intended to only practice for the 1949-50 season and then play in the following one. To Bill that was ‘crazy, you know, you get better practice by playing than you will training for a season then starting next year’. The team became Blue Jays. In their second season in the competition they won the A grade premiership. Bill took them to two more premierships in the 1954-55 and 1955-56 seasons. During the 1950s Blue Jays regularly battled for premiership honours with Nedlands Rookies. Bill’s sister was scorer for Blue Jays and he made sure that she took to the diamond the regulation three matches to be eligible to play in the finals if the need arose. Her time on the diamond was minimal but within the rules.


Bill coached and managed the first metropolitan team when it played against Northam Krackerjacks in early 1949. He did not go to Adelaide with the first State team in 1951 but in 1952 he was Assistant Coach to George Wenn when WA won its first national title in Perth. To Wenn’s credit he realized that the opposition were deciphering his signals quite quickly so he let Bill take over. Bill had made the intentions of the WA team clear when he met the NSW team at the airport. In casual conversation a NSW representative asked Bill how he expected WA to perform. He replied categorically that WA would win. The NSW representative seriously doubted that WA could beat Victoria. When asked how NSW would perform, he was told that they would finish second. In his normal direct style he then asked NSW why they bothered to come! ‘As far as I was concerned, if you were going to try and finish second, well, why play?’ At that stage Bill had not seen Victoria or any of the other States play but ‘unless you’re going to try and, unless you think you’re going to win, then you know, it doesn’t seem any point in taking part … I mean the only reason you keep score is to know who won …’


He was head coach for the victory in 1953 in Queensland.

I don’t say I thought I was the best person for the job but I thought I was somebody that could do the job and I think unless you think you can do the job then you’ve no right to be in the job. I think you’ve got to realize that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes. I was a fiery young devil and had a bit of a temper.


When it mattered most Bill proved that he had learned how different interstate softball was from club softball. In a crucial match against South Australia when the scores were tied Bill chose to replace a slow base runner with a faster one rather than adhere to the prevailing convention whereby the opposition could nominate a courtesy runner, usually an even slower one. As a result WA won. The South Australian coach and the umpire concurred with Bill’s interpretation of the rules. But, the national officials were aghast at what they perceived to be flagrant disregard for the rules and even more taken aback when Bill told them to go back to their hotel room and read the rulebook. Next day, they acknowledged that Bill was correct. In appreciation of his efforts the WA team doused Bill in the quagmire that the Brisbane Exhibition grounds had become after almost a fortnight of continuous rain. To cap off the carnival Bill was appointed coach of The Rest to play in the traditional match against the players named in the Australian team. The AWSC Constitution at the time precluded men from coaching the Australian  team.  Despite his record with two successful WA teams he was not appointed State coach in 1954. Preference was given to Ron Featherby who coached Nedlands Rookies to three successive A grade premierships. However, Bill did go to Melbourne to the carnival as a supporter. WA finished third in 1954. Bill found it hard just to be a spectator but was not critical of Featherby because the breaks did not go his way. Bill then worked in Melbourne for several months before the cold drove him back to Perth and coaching. 


In 1955 Bill was re-appointed State coach for the carnival in Sydney which WA won. Later that year he was appointed the second Life Member of the WAWSA.  During this period Bill was one of three selectors who chose each State team. With Nedlands Rookies and Blue Jays dominating the A grade competition, most of the State team was drawn from these two teams. Such was the passion of softball supporters at the time, that there was an exchange of letters in the press criticizing the selectors! ‘We used to get criticized because most of the players came from two teams and the two teams were coached by two of the selectors but I think the main thing was that we won …’. Bill believed that most players were position specialists and that ‘you might have half a dozen good outfielders and you only want four for a carnival so I’d say two were unlucky and missed out … it’s no good having two outfielders sitting on the bench and not having a good shortstop or a good second baseman’. Players such as Shirley Roberts acknowledged Bill’s ability to teach the skills. He ‘always believed that I’ve had the ability to help people with their batting skills. I was never much of a hitter myself but, I don’t know, you can look at people and see things they’re doing wrong. I think too many coaches try and interfere with people’s batting stance. You don’t do that unless you definitely can improve them’. He heeded his own advice and did not attempt to change the cross-handed batting action of one of WA’s leading betters, Pat Lynch.


Bill was in his mid-twenties when he coached Blue Jays and WA. As a young man coaching young women he showed astute maturity. ‘… you had to use different methods with different girls. Some you pleaded with, others you jumped on, others you patted on the back. Some you got along with, some you didn’t’. Even though several of the players were the same age as Bill ‘they called him Mr Wells’.  Bill left Perth in 1956 to work in Sydney editing a weekly film industry newspaper. He did play a season of baseball with the Punchbowl Dodgers but apart from watching a few softball matches his work kept him fully occupied. Through his work he met many of the leading movie stars who came to Sydney to promote their films including Deborah Kerr, Ernest Borgnine, Peter Finch and Alfred Hitchcock. In the early ‘60s he spent several months working in Japan but did not particularly like it. He did, however, appreciate the opportunity to watch Japanese baseballers in action. He returned to Sydney and in 1962 married his wife Beryl. In the early 1980s they returned to Perth because Bill’s mother was in poor health. Back in Perth Bill worked for a Public Relations company before resuming his career as a journalist. This allowed him to renew his passion for boating as he wrote reviews of both yachts and powerboats. He then established his own business, Marine Media Services. He briefly revived his passion for softball at both club and association levels. He served as a batting coach for Hell’s Angels followed by Demons and a couple of seasons with South Perth Angels during which they won the A grade premiership. As well, he was club delegate to WAWSA meetings. He also attempted to expand newspaper coverage of softball in 1971 when he was given permission to do write-ups for the Daily News. The same season he took responsibility for the printing and distribution of the fixture books and was most frustrated when they were not ready for the start of the season and he had to distribute photocopies of the fixtures through to mid-November. In the late 1990s he and Beryl retired to Queensland. Throughout his softball career Bill was known as Bill Wells. This was his family surname but his father was in vaudeville and used the stage name of Beecham. When his father settled in Perth he established a journalism and public relations business under the name William Beecham and Associates. Bill worked for his father for a while and became known as Bill Beecham, Junior. He legally changed his name when he was working in Sydney.


Three West Australians were selected in the Australian team: Pat Lynch, Dot Preston and Janice Flick, first time WA representative, who capped off a remarkable journey as the first non-A grade player to be selected in a State team. She played for Northern Suburbs B Reserve team. Rona Trotter made The Rest as Vice Captain. Wells was again over-looked as coach of The Rest. Max Smith from South Australia was appointed. The Australia versus The Rest and the curtain raiser matches were not played due to heavy rain.  WA’s supremacy in Australian softball was highlighted in a feature article in an NSW publication MAN in August 1955:

Insofar as production of stars go in sport generally, the New South Welsh girls have not produced Australia’s Premier State line-up. That honour seems to have been mortgaged by the softball girls of the Western State. These days the Western Australian Women’s Softball Association is by far the dominating body in Australian softball. Eight years ago the Western Association could boast only a diminutive group of six clubs. Now there are seventy.[l] The author’s enthusiasm seems to have upgraded teams to clubs.

1956: Adelaide

The 1956 national championship returned to Adelaide. Memories of their first trip were lingered and the WAWSA was concerned about the costs of accommodation and what would be provided. Despite this caution, Coach Des Ward noted in his report that it had been necessary for the WA team to relocate after unpleasantness with the proprietress over lack of facilities at their original accommodation. Additional expenses were incurred as a result.  Selectors for the 1956 State team were Des Ward, Tommy Smith and Wells. Ward was coach. Of the 15 members in the 1956 State team, six had previously been named in Australian and/or The Rest teams. Again the team composition showed the dominance of Blue Jays with seven representatives plus four from Nedlands Rookies (and the coach) and one each from Bassendean Bombers, Northern Suburbs, Fremantle and Hell’s Angels. Norma Stone was captain for the fourth consecutive year. She attended AWSC meetings with Val Johnson. A newcomer from Fremantle Rebels was Marjorie (Midge) Nelson embarking on a softball career that would see her become the first Australian player inducted into the International Softball Hall of Fame in 1983. A talented all round sportsperson, Nelson also represented Australia at hockey and basketball. In 1956 she was considered ‘a brilliant shortstop with terrific batting power’ but she achieved her fame as catcher and captain of Australia.[li]


During the 1956 carnival Nelson established a record of six home runs. In 1985 the ASF introduced awards for out-standing players and the medal for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) was named in honour of Nelson. Pat Grice recalled Nelson’s days at Fremantle:

She came to us as a 15 year old and I trained her. She became an absolutely fabulous person and I just say, “Taught her everything that she knows.” We had runners on bases once and I put a bunt on her and she didn’t see the signal and hit a home run. I went off at her and said, “You didn’t see the signal.” I don’t know if she deliberately didn’t see it or not but she hit a home run so what could I say? Another time she slid into second base and there was some dispute as to whether she’d been tagged or not and the umpire said, “Did she tag you?” She said, “Yes.” So she was given out and I said to her after, “What did you say that for? You should have said, I don’t know. It’s up to the umpire to see you,” but she’s so honest she said, “Oh, yes.” You should have said, “Did you see her tag me?” if the umpire said, ‘No’, well that’s it. You should have stayed on second base.” She became an All Australian player. When she was here I tried to make her catch because she was a brilliant catcher. She said, “I don’t like catching, I want to play short stop.” Very foolishly I said, “Alright”, because she was a brilliant short stop, too. And we had another reasonable catcher. As soon as she goes over to Victoria, they make her catcher and then she’s in the team as an All Australian catcher.[lii]

In a forward-looking move, the WA selectors included 14 year-old pitcher Helen Henderson from Hell’s Angels, the youngest ever to represent WA at a State carnival. She ‘was selected to gain carnival experience’. South Australia won the Gilleys Shield for the first and only time defeating WA in the grand final.


1957: Perth

For the WAWSA the biggest challenge in the 1956-57 season was the hosting the national championship for the second time. It seemed from the AWSC and WAWSA minutes that the rivalry to conduct ‘best carnival’ was equal to the contests between the States on the diamond. The experience gained from hosting the 1952 carnival and traveling interstate every year since ensured the WAWSA set high standards. A considerable number of sponsors were recruited. Coca Cola provided product, chairs and shelters. Caris Brothers jewellers set aside a shop window for a display. The Fremantle Women’s Pipe Band performed at the Opening Ceremony. St John Ambulance rostered first aid attendants for all games. Swords Club opened their rooms for the catering. The Night Baseball Association facilitated softball matches as curtain raisers and shared the profits of catch cards sold by softballers. The NFC provided administrative assistance. The 1956 State team became the Social Committee, relieving clubs of some of the onus of raising funds for the State team. A Committee of mothers of players and office bearers prepared sandwiches and looked after the cool drink stall. Mothers included Mesdames Blennerhassett, Preston, Johnson, Dansey, Patrick and Sanderson. Fathers were also involved with Messrs Preston and Johnson attending to all the cartage of equipment as well as manning the turnstiles at the WACA and Subiaco Oval. There was a busy schedule of social events including a day trip to Rottnest Island, barbeques at players’ homes, night baseball, the trots and theatre. Such was the efficiency of the operation of the Association that in mid-February it was decided not to hold any more meetings until after the carnival with a note in the minutes stating that ‘Members to act on their own initiative, but to keep in touch and get consent from other members. This was particularly courageous given that four venues were used: The Esplanade and Langley Park during the week; the WACA (Sunday matches of round robin); and Subiaco Oval for the grand final held at 3pm after the completion of the Subiaco Football Club trials. The Esplanade again proved a draw card for lunchtime crowds from city offices.


Three players joined the State team for the first time: Dorothy Bond (Blue Jays), Ruth Kern (Nedlands Rookies), and Nina Malatzky (Hell’s Angels). The latter was described in the carnival programme as the ‘Most promising catcher in WA’. By 1965 as Nina Menner she was the second ranked catcher in Australia (to Midge Nelson) and WA’s only representative in Australia’s first victorious world champion team. Blue Jays with nine players dominated the 1957 State team, Nedlands Rookies had four including captain Norma Stone plus the coach, Northern Suburbs one plus the Assistant Coach, Hells Angels two with Fremantle Rebels, and Bassendean Bombers one each with the Manager from the Bombers. Males dominated the support staff of the State team with Ward (Nedlands Rookies) as Coach, Smith (Northern Suburbs) as Assistant Coach, Max Kitchens (Bassendean Bombers) as Manager and Barry Williams as scorer. The Assistant Scorer was Elaine Millward. An advantage of hosting the national championships was naming a larger than usual team of 18 players. Later at AWSC meetings Victoria introduced a motion to limit the touring party including officials to 20.

On the diamond, the WA and Victorian teams fought tight battles although Victoria faltered momentarily for its first ever loss to NSW. Victoria regrouped, however, with victories over WA in the semi-finals and grand final. The reporter for The West Australian praised the efforts of WA’s young pitcher, Helen Henderson, but felt the rest of the team did not support her. Both the scoreboard and the errors highlighted how much Victoria had rattled WA. Victoria won 13 to 2. WA had 11 errors to Victoria’s 0.


As in 1952, the national softball championship co-incided with an Australian lawn bowling carnival with Smith’s Diary in The Daily News of 28 March reporting that there were ‘eight short of 1,000 women bowlers’ in Perth. Both championships were played on The Esplanade. Softballs often landed on the bowling rinks. This tickled the imagination of The Daily News cartoonist, Rigby, and on 26 March he presented a clever drawing in which a very buxom softball player in a tight uniform entered the bowling rinks to retrieve the ball from the matronly bowlers. The caption went to the heart of women’s sport with a bowler saying, ‘Give the girl her ball back, dearie – we’re all together in the fight for woman’s rightful place in the sporting world’.  In the Annual Report, Johnson was full of praise for the press but less so for club softballers who had not supported the championships as had been anticipated.


1958: Hobart

In 1958 a new destination was added to the national softball roster– Hobart. For WA a new mode of travel was added – flying. The team traveled by train to Melbourne then flew across Bass Strait to Hobart. The Social Committee raised £700 and each member of the traveling party was levied £70 to cover the costs of their flights and accommodation. Selectors for the team were coach Ward plus Vern Stannard and Smith. Norma Stone led the team of 14 players with Flo Ireland as her deputy. It was Stone’s eighth carnival. New members were Georgie Lamb, third base; Dot Garie, centre field; and Joan Ford, catcher. With six teams in the competition, teams had a match every day excluding those set aside for a river cruise and the free day. WA started poorly and had only one win after three matches. WA were pushed all the way in their first encounter with Tasmania leading 20-0 at the beginning of the fifth innings. WA fought back to win 24-20. The report in The Mercury noted that it was the longest match of the tournament at 2 hours 10 minutes and played in steady drizzling rain.[liii]


In the second match against NSW with WA down 4-7, Ruth Kern came on as pinch-hitter with 2 out and loaded bases, ‘the ultimate tight spot in softball. She hit a home run down third base line. The Mercury captured the moment. ‘She was nearly crying with joy as she jogged around the diamond, and was hugged and chaired off the ground by her team’.[liv] WA won 10-7 to set up a rematch with NSW in the semi-final. If conditions were bad during the match against Tasmania, they were appalling for the semi. As described in The Mercury ‘Nine goose-pimpled West Australian girls yesterday fought their way into the final of the Australian softball championships. In icy wind and rain on King George V Oval the girls drubbed the shivering NSW team 15-6. Snow was falling on nearby Mt. Wellington. Helen Henderson held NSW to 9 hits while Midge Nelson scored four hits including 2 home runs. On a rain sodden diamond, Victoria defeated WA, 5-3, in the grand final.[lv]


1959: Brisbane

Queensland hosted the 1959 national championship. Financial constraints meant that WAWSA funds were juggled between accounts again. Team expenses totaled £1,048 made up of £500 raised by the Social Committee, £122 from the Accident Fund, £225 levy on State players, £42 special levy and fines and £150 from the General Fund with a deficit of £9. The WA team was restricted to 13 players plus the coach and manageress/scorer. Midge Nelson (Fremantle) was captain following Norma Stone’s retirement and Joan Sanderson (Nedlands Rookies) was Vice Captain. New team members were Jean Douglas and Norma Stott (Blue Jays), Leonie Loveridge (Bassendean Bombers), Val Hurst (Swan Districts), Lorraine Mortyn (Northern Suburbs). The “old hands” included Joan Sanderson (vice captain), Ruth Kern (Nedlands Rookies), Helen Henderson (Hell’s Angels), Merle Woods, Maureen Connell (Blue Jays) and Dot Garie (Bassendean Bombers). Max Kitchens (Bassendean Bombers) was in his second championships as WA coach while Val Johnson was making her sixth appearance as Manageress/Scorer. In addition, loyal supporter John “Pop” Wood traveled with the team at his own expense. He took his first aid kit with him and became “Pop, the First Aid Man” to all teams. Not all supporters were happy with the team selected and some voiced their opinions in the Sport Soapbox of The Daily News. Ex-Softball Fan challenged the ability of the veterans from the 1958 team while On-looker wondered why there was only one player from Hell’s Angels – Helen Henderson – yet Angels were five games clear on the A grade ladder.[lvi] 


Train travel was the least expensive option and the players only had sleeping berths across the Nullabor. For the remaining three legs of the journey they sat up. In Melbourne Judy de Lacy from the Victorian team arranged a sight-seeing tour for those WA players who did not have relatives or friends to look after them. In Sydney Bill Wells hosted the coach and manageress to lunch with much reminiscing about previous championships. Having left Perth on Sunday evening the team arrived in Brisbane the following Friday. On the final two legs, the Victorian team traveled on the same train but in sleepers! It apparently did little for the Victorian players as WA defeated them, 1-0, in ten innings in the first match on Saturday morning. Adversity was WA’s ally with victories in 11 of its 13 matches including a 9-3 win over Victoria in the grand final. WA won the Gilleys Shield for the fourth time giving it the same number of wins as Victoria since WA entered the competition in 1951. Joan Sanderson, in her eighth successive year in the WA team, was the only player to have played in WA’s four national championship victories.

Back L->R: Helen Henderson, Val Johnston (mgr/scorer), Midge Nelson (captain), Max Kitchens (coach), Joan Sanderson (vice captain), Norma Stott, Val Hurst

Front L->R: Georgie Lamb, Leone Loveridge, Jean Douglas, Maureen Connell, Ruth Kern, Dot Garie, Merle Woods, Lorraine Mortyn

Despite national success Johnson’s used her concluding remarks in her President’s Annual Report to chastise the broader WA softball community:

Western Australia, as the holder of the Gilley (sic) Shield, should take more interest in the administration of softball in Australia. This can only commence in the Clubs and State Association. Players must realize that it is not sufficient to play the game well, without umpires, organizors (sic) and other officials, a Club or Association cannot function or prosper. At the last Australian carnival Victoria had 5 Umpires officiating – W.A. 1. Many players thought this unfair, but what are you and your Clubs doing to remedy this?

Dominating the AWSC agenda was the planning for the tour by South Africa in 1960 with WA members particularly excited at the prospect of hosting their first international event.


Life Member: 1961

Hit ‘em where they ain’t![lvii]


Bassendean Bombers

State Team

Manager: 1957

Coach: 1959 – 1963

Selector: 1957-1963

Junior Selector: 1974

Chair, Social Committee: 1959-63


Executive Committee: 1956 to 1958

Vice President: 1959 to 1964

Property Man: 1959-60


Chair, Grounds Committee: 1963

Max Kitchens was one of four American ex-servicemen who migrated to Western Australia in September 1947. Having previously been stationed in Perth during World War 11 he was eligible for re-establishment aid in Australia.[lviii] Kitchens and his young family settled in Bassendean. He founded the Bassendean Bombers Softball Club which debuted in the 1950-51 season.  Max coached its teams through until the mid-1960s. He regularly umpired A grade matches as well.  Max joined the Executive of the WAWSA in 1956 and served the Association in a variety of administrative roles including Vice President for five seasons.  


The 1956-57 season was an important one for the WAWSA as the Association hosted the national championships for the second time. Max became fully involved in the planning and conduct of the carnival. His specific role was to manage the WA team, the first male to do so.  In 1959 he coached the WA Women’s team to its fourth national championship in Brisbane. Val Johnson who was the team’s scorer recalled that: 

Max was a very exuberant person who’d get carried away. He’d get to the stage he knew something had to be done but … he was a good tactical coach … not a pressure coach. If you were batting, you batted. If you were going into the batter’s box, you were going in there to get a hit. There was no way he was going to pull bunts on people. You weren’t going to be playing a game to lose by heck, you were going to be playing. The only way Western Australia was going to win games was to bat. His what-its-name was “Hit ‘em where they ain’t!’


He continued as State Coach until the completion of the tournament in Perth in 1963. In 1960 he gained international experience as a coach when WA hosted the South African team that was en route to play a Test Series against Australia in Melbourne.

As coach it was also his job to chair the Social Committee charged with raising funds for the team. He seemed to take it all in his stride including the jumble sales and cake stalls. In his last year with the State team in 1963 he was also in charge of the preparation of the grounds for national championships held in Perth for the third time.  He was held in the highest esteem in WA softball and was respected for being direct. Former State player Shirley Schneider recollected that:

he was one that called a spade a spade. He was never an offensive gentleman. He was very blunt, and if you made an error you could expect to be dragged off. He wouldn’t come and say, “Sorry, darling, you’ve got to go out.” He’d just call time, call your name, and you knew you were coming out. No if’s, but’s, maybe’s. you were just out of the game.

He was also a very keen baseball player and coach of Swan Districts and Bellevue Baseball Clubs.  Such was his standing in the softball community that even in the 1970s attempts were made to induce him to return to softball as an Assistant State coach but he declined. He did, however, lecture at the Junior Camp in the 1974-75 season.


1960: Hosting South Africa then on to Melbourne

Prior to the 1960 national championship, the WAWSA hosted the South African team that was en route to Melbourne for a Test Series. The South Africans arrived at Fremantle Harbour on Saturday 27 February, 1960, and spent the afternoon watching the grand finals of all but A grade. That match was played on Sunday at Perth Oval as the curtain raiser to the South Africa versus the WA State team match. Flo Ireland (Blue Jays) pitched two games losing to Nedlands Rookies in the A grade final then winning against South Africa. The West Australian sports reporter Pat Higgins argued South Africa would not experience another 2-11 defeat. She reasoned that they now knew the WA style of play, they had recovered from their long sea trip, they would not feel the heat in their heavy uniforms in a night match, they would not be troubled by the sun and they, like WA, would benefit from playing together as a team.[lix] On Monday the visitors traveled three hours south by car to Collie for a match against a combined Southwest team. They returned to Perth on Tuesday and played the State team at 9:15pm under lights after a soccer match between Fremantle Tricolore and Azzurri. WA won again, 8-3. The final match of their hectic itinerary was played at lunchtime on Wednesday on The Esplanade with South Africa breaking through for a 6-5 victory.


The visit was a cultural shock to both teams. To the West Australians like Val Johnson the South Africans appeared to be from a higher social class and were obviously used to ‘being waited on hand and foot’ by servants.[lx] The West Australians epitomized the working class ethic of Australian softball whereby everyone ‘pitched in and did what had to be done’. Expecting the South Africans to be like themselves – and to reduce costs – the WAWSA arranged for their guests to be billeted with local players. It became apparent, however, that the visitors would have been more comfortable in a hotel.[lxi] South Africa traveled by train to South Australia for more matches and then to Melbourne. The WA team left shortly afterwards and arrived in Melbourne on Sunday 13 March in time for the opening match between South Africa and a Melbourne team which was followed by an official reception and the AWSC meeting.


Monday afternoon the WA team began its defence of the Gilleys Shield shakily going down to Victoria, 13-1. They rebounded well to defeat SA 10-3, Queensland 2-1 and Tasmania 9-1 before South Australia stopped them with a 5-4 win. At the end of the first round Victoria lead with five wins with WA and SA equal with three wins, followed by NSW, Queensland and Tasmania. WA finished the second round one win behind Victoria and one win clear of SA. After a fright in the preliminary final WA again played Victoria in the grand final with the home team claiming an easy 7-0 victory. Shirley Schneider recalled:

It was a good tournament. I really enjoyed playing. We had two other members from Hell’s Angels playing in the State team, Pam Ensor and Rosi Roki. I guess I was quite successful. I was the only player in the grand final in WA to get a safe hit which made me quite pleased. The first game we played against Victoria, Helen Taylor was pitching and she struck [our] first nine batters out. Didn’t even get a bat to ball. Coach asked us what the hell we were doing, and the captain came back very quickly and said, “Trying to see the ball.” She [Helen Taylor] was very quick. Quite frankly I hadn’t seen or faced a pitcher of that speed before. We adjusted later on. We actually beat them [Victoria] in the second round, so we did quite well. We played off in the grand final and got THRASHED by Victoria unfortunately.[lxii]


Attention then turned to the Test Series against South Africa. Three WA players were selected in the Australian team: Flo Ireland (Vice Captain), Ruth Kern and Jean Douglas. Val Johnson was scorer. In a close fought series Australia won the first match 7-1, South Africa the second 10-3 and Australia the third 2-1 thus giving Australia the series 2-1. Away from the diamond officials met to discuss the possibility of an international series with participants from all nations where women played softball.


1961: Sydney

The ACT was included in the championship on a provisional basis playing just two matches. The first match was against the sixth placed team and the second match against the fifth placed team. With the completion of the requisite paperwork, the ACT was accepted as a full member of the AWSC. WA fielded a relatively experienced team with nine players having previous experience and four new players. After a disappointing opening match in which WA went down to Queensland (1-3) the combination of experience and youth proved up to the task and came back with victories over Tasmania (9-1), Victoria (3-1) and SA (5-4). In the second semi-final Victoria defeated WA (4-3) but WA regrouped to defeat Queensland (1-0) in the preliminary final to set up another meeting with Victoria. WA lost (2-5) despite Dot Garie hitting a home run in the fifth innings. WA had now appeared in all but two grand finals since its debut in 1951.


1962: Adelaide

Although beaten by South Australia, 13-11, in the opening match, the report in The Advertiser described the WA team as ‘formidable’. WA began very well to be 6-1 after the first innings. However, three pitching changes could not contain SA. Hazel Hayward was considered the most effective of the WA pitchers. During the match against Tasmania, new coach Rod Byrne caused a stir by taking exception to a remark by SA commentator, Kath Correll, who refused to continue after Byrne took her to task. WA were unaffected winning 10-5.[lxiii]  At the end of the minor rounds WA was tied with Victoria and South Australia on 10 points each but Victoria had the superior percentage of 83.6, South Australia 71.3% leaving Western Australia in third position with just 61.1%. WA went down to Queensland, 8-7, in the first semi-final and were eliminated. Finishing fourth was WA’s lowest finish in national competition since 1951. Victoria took out the title with a 10-0 victory over Queensland. Flo Ireland was selected in the Australian team to tour New Zealand. To help her financially ‘we made buttons or streamers in club colours and sold them at the semi-finals, finals and grand finals but that was a personal thing to raise money for Flo to go …[lxiv]


1963: Perth

The summer of 1962-63 began with Perth hosting the VIIth British Empire and Commonwealth Games for ten days between 23 November and 1 December 1962. Athletes competed in nine sports at the new sporting facilities including Perry Lakes Stadium, Lake Monger Velodrome and Beatty Park Aquatic Centre. The visitors were housed in a new village development in Floreat Park. A special communications centre catered for up to 200 hundred journalists and television reporters. Television had only arrived in Perth in 1959. It was the first major international promotion of Perth and it gave locals confidence in their ability to compete on the world stage.[lxv] As summer gave way to autumn the WAWSA hosted the national championships for the third time. A number of people had dual roles. Flo Ireland was President of the WAWSA and captain of the State team. Max Kitchens was Vice President and State coach. Pat Tatham was Secretary and team Manageress. Barbara Groves was Treasurer and a State player. Rona Trotter was State Scorer and AWSC delegate. Shirley Schneider was a player and joined the afore-mentioned on the Executive and State Carnival Committee. Pam Ensor was a player and Secretary of the Social Committee. Greta Hall was a player and Treasurer of the Social Committee. Others on the Executive and State Carnival Committee were Joy Marsland (ASWC delegate), Mrs J Atkins and Jenny Browne who chaired the Social Committee. Mrs A Meloncelli was the Official Scorer for the carnival.


To allow Flo Ireland and Max Kitchens to devote themselves to team duties during the carnival Pat Tatham chaired the AWSC meetings, as this role was still the responsibility of the hostess State.  Max Kitchens was appointed Chairman of the Ground Rules Committee at the first AWSC meeting. While much of the AWSC business addressed routine administration of the national championships and promotion of the sport, much excitement was generated by a verbal report from Esther Deason of Victoria. With her Victorian colleagues, Marj Dwyer and Merle Short, Deason had toured the USA in mid-1962 and put the wheels in motion to conduct the First Women’s World Championship in Melbourne in 1965. In addition two special meetings were held at The Esplanade. The first special meeting was called after NSW met Tasmania in the first round. Controversy had erupted when central umpire, Enid Gathercole, ordered NSW acting coach, Bandy McPherson from the ground. McPherson was assisting


Life Member


Hall of Fame

Inaugural Inductee: Player: 2007

We couldn’t wait for August and September to come around so we could start training.


Blue Jays

Association Best & Fairest: 1949-50,1950-51, 1951-52

State Team

Player Senior Women: 1951-57

Captain: 1956

Vice Captain: 1955, 1957

Manager: 1960, 61, 62,

Scorer Senior Women: 1963,

Delegate: 1960, 1963

Assistant coach: 1960


Executive: 1952-58

Property Man: 1953-56

Australian Team

Rest: 1955, 1956 (vice captain)

Rona Trotter (Trot) had wanted to play basketball but the younger girls with whom she worked as a ledger-machinist at Zimpels were keen to try the new sport of softball, so she joined with them to form Blue Jays team for the 1949-50 season. Trot was 26 years old when she began playing softball and made her first State team when she was 28. Her two great loves were horse riding for fun and softball for competition. For a short while in the 1950s she was able to combine them by riding her horse, Lady Marina, from her home in Wembley to Sunday morning softball training on Langley Park. Lady Marina was left in a paddock near where the Pan Pacific Hotel now stands. Trot worked tirelessly to improve her softball skills under the watchful eye of Blue Jays and State coach coach Bill Wells. In the beginning Trot knew as much about pitching as ‘a bucket of stale water’ but once given the task she set about being the best she could be. She had a pitching screen set up in the backyard of her home and had it marked for different sized batters. Bill Wells recalled that even when the players went on picnics and holidays Trot took her glove and ball along so she could practice. What Wells ‘liked about Trotter as a pitcher, oh, amongst a lot of other things, she was a tremendous control pitcher. You’d see her warm up before a game and the catcher would hold the glove up and the ball would go into the glove… you could tell before the game …’. Her action was a regular slingshot but a natural bend in her arm that resulted in her arm finishing across her body meant that some umpires called her for illegal pitching. Trot also had the advantage of being one of the tallest softball players at five feet nine and a half inches (176.5 cm) which enhanced her pitching although ever-modest Trot attributed much of her success to the very good fielders she had behind her. Trot was reliable with the bat but knew that batting towards the end of the line up she was not expected to hit home runs to win games, her job was to advance the runner. Her all round ability resulted in her winning the WA association Best and Fairest in her first season and in three of the first five seasons it was awarded. She played in WA teams which won the Gilleys Shield as national champions in 1952, 1953 and 1955.


Coach Bill Wells said, ‘she was brilliant in the big games. She was brilliant all the time but in big games she was really good. A tremendous control pitcher and a hard worker’. Trot retired from playing after the 1957 national championships in Perth. She moved to Sydney and played briefly with a team which had a black and gold uniform, the same colour scheme as WA. Her mother died shortly afterwards and Trot returned to Perth. She leased an apartment overlooking Langley Park for which she held special affection, often referring to it as ‘mine!’

Back in Perth Trot maintained a place on the State team as manageress and scorer and in 1960 was assistant coach on first base for both the matches against the visiting South African team and the national championships. She enjoyed being with the girls because, as one of the older people to join the sport, they kept her young. However, she was very shy and speaking at meetings was very demanding so she preferred to be a voting delegate to AWSC meetings and let the other WA delegate hold the floor.  In a preview of the 1961-62 season Pat Higgins noted in the Sport Section of the Page for Women in The West Australian that ‘Blue Jays have Rona Trotter as its coach – she is the only woman coach in A grade’. Blue Jays won successive A grade premierships in the 1961-62 and 1962-63 seasons. Away from A grade Trot was respected for her generosity in coaching youngsters just learning to play softball and devoted a lot of her spare time to this aspect of the sport.


During the 1950s and 1960s softball and baseball had a close affinity. In a social match South Perth baseball players had great difficulty hitting Trot’s softball pitches. Only three baseball players hit the ball to the outfield and two of those were caught. She was the only woman on the team and was judged to be best afield.[lxvi In the aforementioned preview of the 1961-62 season Higgins devoted a sub-section to Scorer mentioning that:

Baseball is one man’s sport in which women perform a responsible task – several of the teams have women scorers. Specific mention was made of Miss Trotter, Blue Jays coach, is the official scorer for Perth and she had to contain her excitement on Sunday when Perth beat Swan Districts in the A grade baseball grand final. Miss Trotter has scored for Perth for several seasons.[lxvii]  Golf became her preferred sport when she retired from softball. She played pennant golf for Mt Lawley.

NSW Coach-player, Margaret Clyde. As a former WA State baseballer McPherson’s actions attracted attention from The West Australian and The Daily News.[lxviii] McPherson had queried an umpiring decision on a strike. When he walked onto the diamond and attempted to call “Time” he was ordered to leave vicinity of the match. He retired to The Esplanade Tea Rooms. He told the press that the umpires took such actions to limit coaches from giving signals to the batter and base the runners. He then asserted that he would have to use flares from the top of an office building. In response, Marj Dwyer, Chairman of the Disputes Committee, stated that no player or official could engage in derogatory remarks and that banning the offenders stopped trouble before it started.[lxix] NSW lost 8-6. NSW lodged a letter with the Disputes Committee. As Chairman of the Disputes Committee and involved in the incident, Marj Dwyer, was replaced as Chairman by Esther Deason with Lorraine Mildren from South Australia joining the committee. NSW sought to have their coach exonerated but the Disputes Committee upheld the umpire’s decision. The AWSC determined that no further media statements were needed since the reputation of the AWSC had not been affected. The second special meeting was to confirm the success of the umpiring candidates and to formally thank WA and Pat Tatham for their efforts. In addition the matches and meetings, the WAWSA had organized a barbeque lunch at Serpentine Dam (a new water supply for Perth) followed by a drive to Rockingham Beach, evening entertainment at night baseball matches at the WACA and a farewell dinner at the Adelphi Hotel. The trip to Serpentine Dam took place on Monday 25 March, the day Queen Elizabeth II formally opened Council House in St George’s Terrace.[lxx]


The State team was very experienced. Flo Ireland and Maureen Connell made their ninth appearances. Others had between two and seven years experience with the exception of two newcomers, Georgina Stack and Judy West. Blue Jays and Hell’s Angels provided four players each with three plus the coach from Bassendean Bombers, two from Victoria Park and one each from Fremantle Rebels and Southern Demons. There were no Nedlands Rookies representatives. Competition was intense because the AWSC had decided that the carnival should be a single round plus finals. In the match against the ACT Flo Ireland was responsible for 5 of WA’s runs. ACT scored only 1 run. Ireland scored a run off the first ball of the day, batted in two runners in the second innings, hit a home run in the fourth innings and came home again in the sixth innings.[lxxi] WA continued on its winning ways with victories over SA 5-1 in the semi final and Victoria 4-2 in the preliminary final, however Queensland proved too strong in the grand final defeating WA 8-2. It was WA’s tenth grand final appearance. The press report noted WA made serious fielding errors. For Queensland it was their first trip to WA and their first national championship.


1964: Hobart

Many of the experienced players retired from State softball after the 1963 carnival in Perth. The 1964 team had eight new players. The coaching staff were all in their first year, too: Colin Smith (Coach), Dot Treloar (Manageress/AWSC delegate) and Shirley Kennewell (Scorer/AWSC delegate). Flo Ireland, playing in her eleventh carnival, led the team. Prior to leaving Perth the team suffered a major setback when Smith was unable to obtain leave from his employer, the Education Department of WA, because he was not a player. Just a week prior to the team departing, Jim Foxton picked up the reins. At the meeting of team officials in Hobart WA also advised the Dot Treloar would be a playing manageress. Shirley Roberts returned to the team for her sixth and somewhat surprising appearance. She was coaching Nedlands Rookies and had two players whom she believed were of State team standard. However, they would not go to the trials. As Roberts recalled:

Oh, come on, okay, well off we go. I’ll come down. …. And the thing with me is when I get down there and if you’ve got to warm-up and if you’ve got to run, well, I just play softball. So two weeks later they make the announcement on the squad. These two kids get dumped and I’m still in.[lxxii]


Life Member


Hall of Fame

Inaugural Inductee: Player: 2007

Everything moved so quickly in a game and something was always happening.

You feel good when you come off the field when everyone does their best.


Blue Jays

State Team

Player Senior Women: 1953-64 (excluding 1959)

Captain: 1960-64

Manageress: 1955-56, 1958

Australian Team

Player Senior Women: 1960, 1962

Vice Captain: 1960, 1962


President: 1961-63

Executive member: 1957-1965

Flo Ireland was born in Kalgoorlie and moved to Perth with her family when she was 14. She had a passion for all sports and began her State and national career with women’s cricket often starring as a slow bowler. She toured New Zealand with the Australian women’s cricket team in 1948.  She joined her sisters in Blue Jays Softball Club for the 1952-53 season. She made her first State softball team in her first season. Her preferred playing position was second base but she also took the plate as pitcher when required and was described in the programs for the national championships as a ‘brilliant infielder and consistent batter’. With the exception of 1959 she played for WA 10 times from 1953 to 1964 with three trips as player-manageress and steadily rose through the ranks to become vice captain and then captain. Flo was a member of the teams that won the Gilleys Shield as national champions in 1953 and 1955. Pitching in her last tournament in Hobart in 1964 Flo was struck in the lower chest by the ball but still managed to roll the ball to first base and complete the play.  In 1960 she made her debut for Australia in the Test series played in Melbourne against South Africa and retained her position for the 1962 tour of New Zealand. Both times she was vice captain and Australia won both series.  Off the diamond Flo took on administrative roles as the need arose with 1963 being her busiest season. In addition to being State captain she was also State president when WA hosted the national championships for the third time. Unfortunately, WA lost the grand final to Queensland.


At the 1964 AGM a special presentation of a State team photo and inscribed ball was made to Flo Ireland and team mate Barbara Groves for their efforts in coordinating fund raising for the State team by selling catch cards at the night baseball at the WACA. Flo spent both summer and winter at Langley Park. When she was not on the softball diamond training or playing, Flo played hockey for Fremantle plus men’s or international basketball as it was known in the 1950s and table tennis with premierships in all of these in one year! A feature of Flo’s sporting commitment was her loyalty to her team. She only changed teams once – from Grads to Fremantle in hockey. Upon her retirement from softball she took up golf.  Flo had a variety of jobs before she joined the Australian Army in which she served for almost two and a half years at the end of World War II. She then worked at Sandovers followed by a long period as a ledger machinist in the Public Service. In 1964 she lobbied the Public Service to allow the State Coach, Colin Smith, to have leave to travel with the State team to Hobart. Despite her best efforts Smith, a school teacher, was not granted leave because he was not a player.  Of her softball career she said, ‘I wouldn’t have missed it for quids … the train trips … the atmosphere … it was great fun’.

At the 1964-65 AGM Flo Ireland became the WAWSA’s seventh Life Member recognising her longevity as an office bearer, State player, member of the Australian team and recipient of the A grade best and fairest award on three occasions. In 2007 Flo was an Inaugural Inductee into the WA Softball Hall of Fame as a player.

Roberts had last played in the 1957 team in Perth. Having been amongst the youngest players in the 1950s, in 1964 she was still in her twenties, but older than most and very determined. The training techniques of Smith challenged Roberts:

He was one of the new breed that believed in all these exercises. Oh, God, I was dead, you know … if I ran over to the road and back down at Langley and right round the Park. Then you’d do bench steps, 50 bench steps on the park benches … and then you ran backwards and all this sort of stuff. I didn’t even attempt to run around Langley Park … I used to gradually run down to the pumping station, which is just before the change rooms but we didn’t have the change rooms [then]. I’d hide there until they were on their way back and join in. And then, they’d all rush over to do their 50 bench steps and I’d make sure I was last and I’d be puffing and sweating and labouring away and I’d come dancing fresh because I’d go and start counting at 42. And, I never ran backwards. I thought I was so clever because Colin thought the world of me. … He knew all the time I wasn’t doing it. But what he liked about me was that when you come to play softball, you play softball.[lxxiii]

The 1964 Australian champion-ship reverted to a double round robin plus finals format to give nominees for the Australian team maximum opportunities to impress the selectors. With so much youth in its team WA with 8 points managed fifth placing at the end of the rounds behind Victoria 22 points, SA and Queensland 16 each and Tasmania 12 points. Queensland eliminated Tasmania, 20-3, in the second semi-final Victoria defeated SA, 7-4. In the preliminary final SA proved too good for Queensland, 5-2, to set up another showdown with Victoria which Victoria won convincingly 10-1. All States encouraged their players to stand for selection. Despite the youth of the team, the WAWSA still believed that they were talented and nominated 10 players. Victoria nominated 16, SA 15, Queensland 14, NSW 6, Tasmania 5 and ACT 3.[lxxiv] They came under close scrutiny from the Australian selectors: Audrey McLaughlin (Queensland, Chairman), Bess Dornan (Victoria) and Edna Nash (NSW).  With everyone’s attention focused on the world championship, Tasmania opted for a no frills carnival. The only social functions were the welcoming tea on the first Saturday evening and a farewell dinner after the grand final. The dinner assumed great importance because the AWSC decided to announce the Australian team for world championships at approximately 9:30pm. Nina Menner was WA’s sole representative although WA liked to brag that it had provided the impetus for Midge Nelson, now a fixture in the Victorian team, to become one the world’s greatest players. No WA people nominated to be officials or volunteers in Melbourne. [lxxv]

1965: Canberra

In late March, one month after the successful world championship, the 1965 national championship was held in Canberra for the first time.[lxxvi] Travel to the ACT meant that the WA took its annual train trip as far as Yass in NSW then completed the remainder of the journey by bus. For the second year in a row WA nominated a young team. Eight were first time representatives. Five other players were second year representatives. Captain Glenys Watters was in her third year. Nina Menner was the most experienced with eight years in the WA team and Australian representation. Brian Properjohn was in his first year as coach, as was his assistant Lyle Pengilly and Scorer/Delegate Eileen Cook who also replaced J Greer as a player. Manager/Delegate Shirley Boyd (nee Kennewell) was in her second team. WA began the carnival disastrously going down to SA 4-0 and Victoria 8-0 but bounced back with a convincing 16-4 win over the ACT thanks to three home runs from Nina Menner. WA scraped home against Tasmania 5-4 but lost again to NSW 6-2 and then Queensland 7-0. WA did not fare any better in the second round and did not make the semi-finals. Victoria was again the dominant team buoyed by the presence of eight members of the victorious Australian team and under the guidance of Australian coach, Myrtle Edwards.

1966: Brisbane

WA softball was now in the midst of a period later recognised as the doldrums.[lxxvii] Changes in governance, retirement of key players and lack of success of the State team unsettled WA softball. There were only three new caps and the rest except for Nina Menner had between two and four years of experience. Menner was in her ninth State team. The team finished second last. The hot and humid conditions in Brisbane and the long, tiring train journey were not acceptable excuses. Rather Coach Brian Properjohn described the team as ‘hopelessly outclassed’ and lacking cohesion He noted in the Annual Report that ‘at no time during the Carnival did the players pull together as a team’. Manageress Shirley Boyd attempted to get to the root of the problems by calling a special team meeting but she could not flush out the real issue. Since the majority of the team had played together previously this change in attitude was most alarming. Despite this turmoil Nina Menner rose above it all to be selected in the Australian team to tour South Africa in early 1967.

1967: Melbourne

A full calendar of social events was maintained to raise funds for the State team. All teams were asked to support Melbourne Cup Sweep, a fashion parade, 100 Club and Bingo. As well the State Presentation Night and trophy presentation went ahead as cabaret evenings.

Following the criticism of the previous State team and especially the suspicion that one (or more) players had concealed injuries prior to the team’s departure it was decided to appoint a medical officer, Dr Ken Fitch, to examine all members of the State team. The biggest change for WA was the appointment of Shirley Roberts as the first female State coach. Roberts was the most successful club coach with five consecutive victories with Nedlands Rookies A grade in the 1960s and decided that she could put WA on the road to recovery. ‘I tried to give WA an image when we went away and we got that. We didn’t turn out star players but we weren’t regarded as Hicksville because our administration became so good’.[lxxviii] Melbourne was a demanding carnival for Roberts:

I got in as State coach. We had a manageress who got pregnant and it was a bit too late to do anything about it so the obvious thing was Shirley was manageress, delegate and coach. I thought it was great except that I used get home at 6 o’clock with the team and [then] get to go to a meeting and never [got] to bed till 2 o’clock so I never had much fun in Melbourne.[lxxix]


1968: Sydney

Drawing on all her previous experiences, Coach Roberts conducted a weekend training camp at Rottnest and this contributed to team spirit and enthusiasm. Despite a series of mishaps WA finished third with Roberts declaring that WA was now out of the doldrums. Captain Nina Menner and Vice Captain Peggy Beckett each suffered broken legs and there was a spate of other minor injuries. However, Roberts was very happy with the team’s performance and behaviour on and off the diamond. She acknowledged the importance of the efforts to promote junior softball. ‘The average age was 19 ½ years, - the youngest ever selected. This in itself speaks for W.A.’s efforts in promoting junior softball in the State, an example which all States are now most interested in fostering’. Roberts drew attention to a perceived weakness in pitching skills. She called for the establishment of a “School for Pitchers”. Off the diamond the team was easily noticed because their updated walking out uniform: a black blazer complemented a yellow frock and smartly styled white hat.


1969: Adelaide

Although the WA team could only manage fourth placing Coach Shirley Roberts highlighted WA’s batting strength with the players reaching first base 242 times, scoring 123 runs with only 46 scored against them. Ten home runs were hit by Gail Hall (3), Nina Menner (2), Pat Harvey (2), Glenys Watters (1), Joyce Jones (1) and Rhelma Austin (1). Some times it appeared that the team was too quick as the umpires tended to heavily penalize base runners for leaving the base too soon. Errors in the matches against Victoria and NSW in the second round harmed WA’s chances of success. NSW broke through to win its first national title. One explanation given for the problems experienced by the WA players at the national championships was that WA umpires seemed to be more lenient and lacking experience at national level. In her report Roberts appealed directly to WA umpires since there were no WA umpires in attendance at the carnival. In particular, she called on local umpires to pay closer attention to runners leaving the base too early.


Life Member: 1966

Hall of Fame: Inaugural Inductee: Administrator: 2007

The biggest thing was the friendships that we made that we’ve still got.


Blue Jays

Nedland Rookies



Coach: Legends: 1993-94

State Team

Player Senior Women: 1951-52, 1955-57, 1964

Scorer Senior Women: 1953

Coach Senior Women: 1967-72

Manageress Senior Women: 1967-68


President: 1955-6

Social Committee: 1952-3, 1969-70

Secretary: 1953-4, 1954-55, 1956-58, 1965-70

NFC Delegate: 1953-4

Executive: 1959-60, 1970-72

Publicity Officer: 1969-70

AWSC Delegate: 1967-68

Other Sports

Amateur Basketball Association of

Western Australian: Women’s Division Secretary 1957-60.


Shirley Roberts (Robbo) did not like softball as a schoolgirl because it was boring. She was waiting for the 1949 hockey season to begin when:

"a lass that I worked with, Rona Trotter, was getting very distressed because half her softball team hadn’t turned up and Shirley, the big hero … says, “Don’t worry, I’ll ring all the girls from school that played softball. I hate it.” Rona was further distressed when none of the girls contacted her so Shirley said, “Look, I played it a primary school. I don’t like it but for you I’ll try if it means you don’t have to forfeit.”

During their lunch break Rona taught Robbo the basics of throwing and catching and then took her to training after work. Blue Jays Coach Bill Wells ‘took me sight unseen and said, “Right, you’ll catch” because that’s what they were short of. In those days you didn’t have a body protector and the mask. It made you a very good catcher’. It certainly did because 16-year old Robbo was the ‘baby’ of the first WA women’s team to participate in a national carnival in 1951. Robbo was particularly enchanted with her State uniform:

"we knew all about dress standards. We knew you had to have a blazer which we did. It was a black blazer with a gold and black stripe all round it. The State pocket was the State emblem plus bats and balls. We had our uniform. The rest of the uniform was any coloured skirt you had, and a blouse and a pair of shoes and you just wore your blazer with it. … Mine was a beautiful salmon pink, appliquéd with dancing ladies, skirt, and a white blouse with my State blazer and I thought I was wonderful.

On the diamond there were two memorable highlights for Robbo. First:

I wasn’t noted for being a batter by any means … I’m a left hand batter and she was such a fast pitcher. I hit the ball too late but got a safe off Myrtle Edwards . I’ve never forgotten that and neither has she … straight over shortstop ‘cos I hit the ball so far back. It wasn’t good batting on my part, it was just a jag.   Myrtle Edwards was the dominant Victorian and Australian pitcher. The second highlight came when WA was fielding. Robbo was catching and chased a foul ball:

"I had a tendency when my head was in the air, I didn’t look anywhere else. They had all the dignitaries sitting back sort of near the fence on benches, I mean there wasn’t all this protocol they’ve got today. Apparently I just kept going and I took them all flying. I didn’t catch the ball and I was very annoyed about that. They impeded me I felt."


WA only won one match against the hostess state, South Australia, but gained so much confidence.  WA hosted the 1952 carnival in Perth. With Val Johnson hospitalized with polio the rest of the team became Val’s “legs”. Robbo recalled that ‘I’d appointed myself liaison officer to everybody who would speak to me … I just greeted them at he train with, “Hello, I’m here to take you down to the … drapers to buy your sheets because we have no sheets for the beds so you have to buy your own sheets.”’ What she didn’t reveal until some time later was that she worked for the draper! The interstate visitors were housed at the Showgrounds in Claremont and slept on camp beds supplied by the army.  Robbo, playing at third base, was a member of the WA team which won its first national championship in Perth. The following season she transferred to Nedlands Rookies for inter-club competition. Bill Wells, Assistant Coach of the 1952 team and Coach for the 1955 team described Robbo as ‘an infuriating player to play against because she couldn’t hit but she could bunt the ball and she’d find away to get on base. She was a really good little player, Shirl’.  Of her coach Robbo stated that he was ‘the best’ and she nominated him as her mentor.  

In 1953 Shirley traveled to Brisbane for the defence of the national championship. She was the Scorer. To her amazement the Scorer was not allowed to sit on the team bench, she had to sit in the grandstand. The championships were played at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds. She played State softball again from 1955 to 1957 after which she retired from State level to concentrate on her career. In 1964 she made a surprise return to the State team. She was coaching Nedlands Rookies and had two players she believed were of State standard but they were reluctant to attend the selection so Robbo agreed to go with them. Once at Langley Park she couldn’t resist joining in. Robbo made the team. Her two protégés did not. Colin Smith was the coach and he was ‘one of the new breed of coaches that believed in all these exercises. Oh, God, I was dead’. Later she confessed that:

I used to gradually run down to the pumping station [on Langley Park] … I’d just hide there until they were on their way back and join in. and, they’d all rush over to do their 50 bench steps and I’d make sure I was last and I’d be puffing and sweating and labouring away and I’d come out dancing fresh because I’d go and start counting at 42!


Robbo discovered that the Colin was well aware of her deviances but valued her dedication once she was on the diamond. Robbo then focused on coaching. She was the first woman coach to take Nedlands Rookies to a premiership and lead them to five consecutive ones from 1965-66 to 1969-70, a feat still to be equaled. This gave her the confidence to aim higher. In 1966 ‘I had the temerity to stand as State coach. I was a woman and I got it!’ Robbo coached the team from 1967 to 1972 during which time WA was consistently among the top four teams including second placing in 1971, the best finish by the WA team since 1963. She was proud that ‘I tried to give WA an image when we went away and we got that. We didn’t turn out star players but we werent’t regarded as hicksville because our administration became so good’. Her former players described her as a very, very strong person who demanded much of them. There were no half measures and Shirley could be quite blunt and hard on her team but players who were able to work with her gained much from her strength.


Immediately after the 1971-72 finals Robbo notified the WAWSA that she was forming a new club, Apache. A considerable number of Nedlands Rookies players transferred to the new club and Apache went straight into A grade for the 1972-73 season. Robbo has become disenchanted with Nedlands Rookies feeling that she was left to carry the load and was not getting the help needed to run the club. In contrast, there was some concern at Rookies that Robbo had become somewhat autocratic and there was insufficient communication with players and supporters, especially the parents of junior players. Robbo played a couple of seasons with Apache then concentrated on coaching.  Once Robbo had tasted the thrill of interstate softball in Adelaide in 1951 she threw herself into the administration side. Such was her commitment to softball that she cried when she was not elected association secretary as a 17-year old! She made amends by holding that office from 1953 to 1955 then was President for the 1955-56 season followed by another two seasons as Secretary. When the WAWSA hosted the Australian championships for the second time in 1957 ‘I was Secretary by this time. I was boss cocky … Everyone will say that’s Robbo speaking even if you have it in print without my name, they’ll say, “That’s Shirley Roberts.”’ She then took a break and came back as Secretary from 1965 to 1970. At the conclusion of the AGM in 1970 a presentation was made to Shirley for her work as Secretary and a special note was made in the Minutes that ‘for once Shirley was stuck for words and had nothing to say except, “Thanks very much.”’


In her first three years as State coach, Shirley was also Manageress with WA the only State to have combined the roles. In her 1967 report to the WAWSA Roberts advocated this dual role but later realized that separation of the roles was necessary as the championships became more demanding probably because the manageress was WA’s delegate to the AWSF meetings. These were held in conjunction with the national championships. She vividly recalled that in Melbourne in 1967 ‘that was terrific. I thought it was great except that I used to get home [accommodation] at 6 o’clock with the team and then get to go to a meeting and never get to bed till 2 o’clock so I never had much fun in Melbourne’. The AWSF was immersed in rewriting its consitution and was particularly mindful of the need for explicit terminology. A lot of time was spent debating the appropriateness of the words ‘must’ and ‘should’. New South Wales delegate Joan Fitton took it upon herself to check with a dictionary only to find that must was defined as ‘a state of excitement in elephants’. This became a private joke between Robbo and Joan. When the AWSF decided to introduce a junior competition Shirley was instrumental in securing the first Under 16 national championship in Perth in January 1970. Robbo knew that lite junior softball was essential for the growth of softball. As early as 1966 she coached the WA State Junior team which won matches against Bunbury teams in what became an annual fixture in the WA softball calendar. Robbo had an enormous workload in the 1969-70 season. She was the WAWSA Secretary and assisted with the Under 16 national championship. As well she billeted a player from Queensland. In March 1970 WA hosted the Open competition and Robbo was State Coach. Throughout her three decades as player, coach and administrator Robbo had enormous belief in her own abilities. This often led to disputes with others who were equally passionate about the sport. In later years she acknowledged that ‘I’m a one-man band, I really am … I fought with everyone’. Even in 1952 she and Val Johnson had major disagreements over the conduct of the national championships in Perth. When she was on the AWSC she fought with the office bearers. At club level the disagreements continued and in 1972 she quit Nedlands Rookies and formed Apache taking many Rookies players with her. What she did she firmly believed it was for the better of softball and she maintained strong friendships with club, State and national colleagues.

Shirley resumed her coaching career in 1993 when the Veterans’ competition commenced and guided Legends to the first two premierships in the WA competition. Robbo was ‘very glad I won the inaugural one and the last one. You should have seen me, there was so much adrenaline running. It is really

wonderful. You never lose that … I was playing it like a carnival and so was my team’. Legends also won gold and bronze medals at the Australian Masters’ Games in Perth and Brisbane respectively. Robbo’s health was declining rapidly and she was unable to travel with the team to share its national

success.  Like most sportswomen in the 1950s Robbo also played winter sports with hockey and basketball (not netball) being her preferences. She was involved in the establishment of the women’s division of the basketball association in 1957. She was its first secretary and held the position for several

seasons, a ‘natural’ position for her given that in her employment she worked in various administrative positions such as secretary, telephonist and ledger machinist. It is also likely that she was one of the three representatives of the women’s division which met with the men’s association to determine control of women’s basketball.[lxxx] At the time she was Secretary of the WAWSA and thus played a unique role in the establishment of two American sports in WA.


Following the success of the Inaugural Softball Reunion in Melbourne in 1981, Shirley decided to organize the 1984 Golden Oldies celebration for ‘former State players and officials from all States to meet again after the space of so many years’. The reunion co-incided with the WAWSA hosting the Senior Women’s national championship in March and thus encouraged many interstate visitors to attend. In her welcome address printed in the reunion newsletter Shirley recalled ‘how quickly the years go by … it does really seem as though it was yesterday when we sold raffle tickets, held jumble sales and walk-a-thons to raise the finance necessary to travel from State to State to compete at the national championships for the coveted Gilleys Shield’. The programme for the evening included a video (organized by Bill Wells) of the re-enactment of the can-can performed by the first WA team in Adelaide in 1951 as their contribution to the traditional concert.


Robbo’s dedication to WA softball was first recognized in 1966 when she was made a Life Member. When the WA Softball Hall of Fame was established in 2007 Robbo was a posthumous inaugural inductee in the category of administration.  Roberts also wanted WA umpires to focus on pitching during club matches. Despite improve-ments, Roberts felt this was ‘another fetish’ of the umpires who called many illegal pitches especially on first time representative Gail Anderson. This was the beginning of a long period in Australian softball marked by intense controversy about illegal pitches.  By 1969 the WA Women’s team had played at 19 national championships with 10 grand final appearances for 4 victories. It had developed an intense rivalry with Victoria which had established a remarkable record of 13 national championships since 1947. Internal governance problems temporarily weakened WA softball during the 1960s. The AWSF was a world leader having initiated the first world championship for either women or men. Its administration had become streamlined and competent under the guidance of Esther Deason and Merle Short. Six States and the ACT contested the national championship each March. The next step was to foster the growth of junior softball and to include an under age championship that would provide a stepping stone to the senior ranks.


[i] Shirley Roberts, Interview, May 1995.

[ii] Lake, M. (1999). Getting equal: the history of Australian feminism. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, p. 187.

[iii] Shirley Roberts, interview, May 1995.

[iv] Shirley Roberts, Interview, May 1995.

[v] Heather Asquith, Interview, June 2010.

[vi] Shirley Roberts, Interview, May, 1995.

[vii] AWSC Minutes, Friday 16 March 1951, p. 2.

[viii] Confirmed in photo caption in The Daily News, Saturday 22 March 1952, p. 7.

[ix] No hold-up to bowls carnival. The Daily News, Wednesday 5 March 1952, p. 15.

[x] Shirley Roberts, Interview, May 1995.

[xi] Shirley Roberts, Interview, May 1995.

[xii] Pat Grice, Interview, January 2003.

[xiii] Bill Beecham, Interview, May 1992.

[xiv] Minutes, 22 and 23 March, 1952.

[xv] AWSC Minutes, 24 March 1952, p. 2.

[xvi] Val Johnson, Interview, September, 1991.

[xvii] Backs to the bowls, men: A softball game is on. The Daily News, (CHECK)

[xviii] Rona Trotter, Interview, February, 2003, p.2.

[xix] Women’s State softball team, The Broadcaster, Saturday 16 February 1952.

[xx] Women’s State Softball Team. (1952, Saturday 16 February). The Broadcaster, p. 25.

[xxi] Bill Beecham, Interview, May 1992, p. 14.

[xxii] Bill Beecham, Interview, May, 1992, p. 12.

[xxiii] Great win for WA. The Daily News, Friday 28 March, p.7.

[xxiv] Pat Grice, Interview, January 2003, p. 6.

[xxv] The Daily News, Saturday 29 March 1952, p. 1.

[xxvi] Bill Beecham, Interview, May 1992, p. 19.

[xxvii] Over 7,000 at softball final, (1952, Saturday 5 April). The Broadcaster, p. 25.

[xxviii] As above.

[xxix] Minutes, AWSC Meeting, Sunday 30 March 1952, p. 3.

[xxx] Australian Softball Championships, Perth, 1952, Souvenir program, p. 5.

[xxxi] Bill Beecham, Interview, May, 1992, p. 14.

[xxxii] Easy win for Australia. The Daily News, Monday 31 March 1952, p. 2.

[xxxiii] “Spotlight on Sport” at Youth Night, The West Australian, (1952, October 2) p. 8; “The spirit of youth in pageant”, The West Australian (1952, October 10), p.5.

[xxxiv] Beecham, Interview, 1992.

[xxxv] The Daily News, Tuesday 27 January 1953. Perth Basic Wage Stops Rising – After 6 years, p. 1.

[xxxvi] See The Daily News, Opinion Column from 29 January to 7 February, 1953.

[xxxvii] The Broadcaster (1953, Saturday 7 February), p. 20.

[xxxviii] Flo Ireland is specifically mentioned by Cashman and Weaver (9119)in their text ‘Wicket women: Cricket and women in Australia’ as one of the players who defected from cricket to softball in the 1950s.

[xxxix] Lucky Judy Smalpage (1953, Saturday 28 February). The Broadcaster, p.15,

[xl] Schmitt, Hugh. (12 March 1953). Hit it where they ain’t. The Australasian POST, p. 16-17.

[xli] Lucky Judy Smalpage. The Broadcaster. Saturday 28 February 1953, p. 15.

[xlii] Sporting Weekly, March, 1953.

[xliii] Softball. S.P.C.C. – Victoria Park Matched in vital game. Sporting Weekly. Friday 16 January 1953, p. 7.

[xliv] Shirley Roberts, Interview, May 1995.

[xlv] Bill Wells, Interview, May, 1992.

[xlvi] Pat Grice, Interview, January 2003.

[xlvii] Coach gets hose down. (1953, Saturday 25 April). The Broadcaster, p.18.

[xlviii] Pat Grice, Interview, January 2003.

[xlix] Australian Women’s Softball Championship, Adelaide, 1956, Programme, p. 7

[l] Ebert, S G (August 1955). The girls who back-stopped baseball. MAN, p. 50.

[li] Australian Women’s Softball Championship, Adelaide, 1957, Programme, p. 7.

[lii] Pat Grice, Interview, 10 January 2003.

[liii] The Mercury, (1958, Thursday 27 March), p. 26

[liv] Softball ‘Dream Hit’ won match. (1958, Friday 28 March), The Mercury, p. 18

[lv] WA to fight out final. (1958, Saturday 29 March), The Mercury, p. 33.

[lvi] Selectors at Fault, Sport Soapbox, The Daily News, 17 February 1959, p. 4; Three players from top teams, Sport Soapbox, The Daily News, 18 February, 1959, p. 4.

[lvii] Johnson, Interview, September 1991

[lviii] Settlers from America. 45 due in Sydney today. (1947, Monday 22 September). The West Australian, p. 1.

[lix] P Higgins, Softball could be harder for WA’, The West Australian, 1 March 1960, p.14.

[lx] Johnson, Interview, September 1991.

[lxi] Embrey, L. (1995). Batter Up! The history of softball in Australia. Bayswater, VIC: Australian Softball Federation. P. 43.

[lxii] Shirley Schneider, Interview, May 1992.

[lxiii] Quarrell, Lois (1962, 21 March). SA’s first defeat in softball. The Advertiser, p. 19.

[lxiv] Shirley Schneider, Interview, May 1992.

[lxv] Gregory, J. (2003). City of Light: A History of Perth since the 1950s. Perth, WA: City of Perth. See especially Chapter 2.

[lxvi] Red Faces on the Diamond (1955), Daily News.

[lxvii] Higgins, Pat (Wednesday, October 11, 1961). Demons enter senior softball. The West Australian, Page for Women, Sport.

[lxviii] In his interview Bill Beecham recounted how Bandy McPherson had been imported from NSW to pitch for Perth Tigers in the night baseball competition in 1955. In one match against Swans, McPherson hit three home runs and the fourth time he came up to bat, much to his frustration, he was walked. Beecham consoled him with the fact that his three runs had helped Perth Tigers to victory but McPherson wanted the fourth one, too: “He’d say something and then he’d go out and do it.” Bill Beecham, Interview, May 1992.

[lxix] Coach ordered from ground. (1963). The West Australian, (23 March), p. 24. Softball coach sent off (CHECK DETAILS)


[lxx] Gregory, J. (2003). City of Light: A History of Perth since the 1950s. Perth, WA: City of Perth, p. 111.

[lxxi] WA enters semi-final, WA 7 ACT 1. (1963). The West Australian, (28 March). P 41.

[lxxii] Shirley Roberts, Interview, May 1995.

[lxxiii] Shirley Roberts, Interview, May 1995.

[lxxiv] AWSC meeting, Minutes 7 March 1964, p. 217

[lxxv] See Embrey, L. (1995). Batter up! The history of softball in Australia. Bayswater, VIC: Australian Softball Federation, Chapter 3.

[lxxvi] For details of the development of softball in the ACT see Embrey, L. (1995). Batter Up! The history of softball in Australia. Bayswater, VIC: Australian Softball Federation.

[lxxvii] See Chapter 2 discussing the Governance of WA softball.

[lxxviii] Shirley Roberts, Interview, 20 May 1995.

[lxxix] As above.

[lxxx] Logue, Fred (nd.) Men’s basketball in Western Australia: The formative years (1946-1962). Presented by Basketball Western Australia (Incorporated).