Chapter 9 - Nationals 1970-1983

Chapter 9

1970 to 1983


A new phase of Australian softball began in 1970. Its principle features were the expansion of the national championships to include three age divisions for girls and women, a rapid increase in the number of international matches, controversy overthe interpretation of the pitching rules and a complete separation of administration of the AWSF from the championships. (See Chapter 2)  In 1970 the WAWSA hosted the inaugural Under 16 Girls’ championship in January followed by the Senior Women’s championship in March. The Under 16 Girls competed for the Esther Deason Shield presented by the WAWSA to the AWSF to recognise Deason’s leadership. The Under 19 Women’s championship was instigated by Victoria in 1974 and formally recognized in 1976 by the national body now known as the Australian Softball Federation (ASF). The trophy for this age group was the Elinor McKenzie Shield named in honour of an outstanding member of the First World Champion team.


After the Australian team’s fourth placing at the Second World Championship in 1970, the AWSF realized that it had to increase the number of international competitions. Australia and New Zealand exchanged visits in 1972, 1973, 1975 and 1977, the latter one being held in Perth. A Canadian team – Green and Louie Realtors – toured Australia in 1974. Australia then toured Canada en route to the Third World Championship in Stratford, USA, in 1974. Third placing vindicated the decision to play more international matches. On the way home Australia played in the Caribbean, the Netherlands and Indonesia. Another Canadian team – Doc’s Blues – played a Test Series in 1976 in Adelaide. The Fourth World Championship was held in El Salvador with Australia playing warm-up matches in the USA. The ASF then hosted the First Mini-World Series in Brisbane in 1980 hosting teams from Canada, New Zealand, Japan and the USA. Australia entered two teams. The same year Australia toured China. New Zealand then held a Pan Am Series in 1982 with Australia again entering two teams. En route to the Fifth World Series in Taiwan, Australia played warm-up matches in the Philippines. The ISF introduced world championships for under age teams in 1981. Canada hosted the First World Youth Championships for both Under 19 women and men. Australia only participated in the women’s event. The Goodwill Series in 1983 focused on the under age team when the National Chinese Under Age team played matches in Sydney and Melbourne. Australia’s success was hampered by a different interpretation of the pitching rule. Illegal pitching became a major controversy at many national championships. To non-Victorians it appeared that Victorian umpires, who dominated the umpiring ranks, favoured their own State and were supported by Umpire-in-Chief, Marj Dwyer, also a Victorian. To address the problem the ASF secured a federal government grant to sponsor American pitcher Charlotte Graham to conduct clinics in all States and Territories. However, the controversy continued. At the 1979 national championships the South Australian team walked off the diamond in the third innings after its two pitchers were called for illegal pitching numerous times. Such was the concern that under age pitchers were being crucified before they had a chance to fully develop that a truce was called for the 1980 Under 16 Girls’ championship which was then hailed as the happiest for some time.


The new phase was simultaneously frustrating and exciting for WA softball. A growing number of supporters expressed their frustration at the inability of the Senior women’s team to recapture its golden form of the 1950s. This in turn lead successive State coaches to defend their team against the ‘knockers’ who had usually not attended national championships except when they were held in Perth. Arch rivals, Victoria, continued to be the powerhouse of Australian softball with substantial numbers in the national team who seemed to be much older than the WA players. WA claimed that it always had a young team because in the 1960s and ‘70s players who married left the sport and seldom returned but this is somewhat tenuous given that Nina Menner, Greta Craig, Shirley Schneider, and Lorraine Page were all married when they played for WA. However, the Under 16 Girls’ team offered hope as it performed strongly with top four placings. Vicki Delavale was one player to progress through the ranks and set an unbeaten record of being the youngest ever player to represent WA. She was selected as a12 year old in 1978 and played four seasons in the Under 16s, the last two as captain. She also played in the Senior team in 1982. The frustration was intensified when substantial growth in metropolitan club softball did not flow through to interest in representing the State. In 1970 there were 14 clubs fielding 34 senior teams. By the 1983-84 season 41 clubs fielded 100 senior teams with at least 1200 players but only between 25 to 30 players attended selection trials. The Under 16 selection trials attracted between 60 and 80 young hopefuls and the Under 19s were also well supported but numbers standing for the Senior team remained static. Nor did the excitement of the under age players flow through. Over time the majority of State players came up through the ranks from Under 16 to Under 19 to Seniors. But there was a substantial loss of young players who did not try out after their initial attempts at the Under 16 trials. Few players came into the Under 19 and Senior teams without prior experience in the Under 16s. It seemed that most participants were happy just to play club softball.


WA was determined to perform well in front of the home crowd in 1970. A mix of very experienced and new players was selected. Nina Menner played in her thirteenth carnival while Gail Hall was in her seventh. Peggy Beckett was making her sixth appearance. Glenys Watters, Shirley Claxton (nee Kern), Shirley Schneider and Fay Brown were all in their fifth State team (but not necessarily consecutive ones). For Joyce Jones it was her fourth team. Lyona Masters and Rhelma Austin were in for the third time, Dot Kelly (nee Garie) had played in 1960 and 1961. Cathy Dempsey was a second year player while Kay Pengilly, Gail Bockesette, Lauren Forner and Pat Flanders were the novices. Forner had previously played in the State Junior team. Unfortunately expectations of an outstanding performance were not fulfilled. Victoria proved to be the dominant team once more being undefeated in the two rounds and going on to win the championship. WA stumbled to finish fifth. Coach Roberts was worried about the high number of errors in the field. With the bat WA was statistically second to  Victoria. Roberts was dis-appointed that members of the Junior squad and team were unaware that they could play in both the Junior and Senior national championships. Roberts also detected a lack of ambition among A grade players to play for their State. The fitness testing of players was a ‘farce, as there are always people disputing a player’s fitness’. More disturbing to Roberts was the fact that she was informed after the carnival that two players were pregnant. Pitching was now an ongoing concern. Fortunately Roberts’ optimism for the future prevailed. ‘All things said and done, the fact remains that the team tried hard, and the team spirit and well being of the side was great. I know that in years to come, W.A. will become strong contenders for the Gilley (sic) Shield’The national selectors were busy throughout the carnival as 68 players had nominated for the Australian team of 16. At the conclusion of the championships the team for the Second Women’s World Championship in Japan was announced. Nina Menner and Gail Hall were selected and Lyona Masters named as reserves.

Nina MENNER (nee Malatzky)

Life Member: 1984

Hall of Fame: Inaugural Inductee: First Player: 2007

I was young and I had the love for the sport and I think that’s very important in sport. When you have the love for it you play from your heart and you give it everything.


South Perth

Hell’s Angels


State Team

Player Senior Women: 1957-58, 1961-73

Captain: 1967-1971, 1973

Assistant Coach Senior Women: 1983-1985

Australian Team

Senior Women: 1965, 1967, 1970, 1972

Australian Softball Hall of Fame: 1985

State Association

State Umpiring Badge: 1977


WA Sports Federation: All time great: 1979

Australian Sports Medal: 2000

Nina’s love of softball began at Gosnells Primary School in the late 1940s. She continued to play it at Armadale High School where she was also an outstanding track and field athlete and played tennis, basketball (netball) and was an A grade hockey player. Her first contact with club softball was at South Perth when she watched her older sister play. Nina was eventually asked to fill-in and she quickly became a regular team member, making her presence felt when she played A grade at just 13 years of age in 1953. Initially Nina played short stop and in the outfield but ‘deep within myself I had a hunger to be a catcher. I wanted to be a catcher’. With excellent co-ordination and exceptionally fast reflexes, Nina was ideal for the position. She was also consistent in either offence or defence. In 1954 she transferred to Hell’s Angels and was a member of its 1960-61 A grade premiership team which broke the dominance of Blue Jays and Nedlands Rookies. Nina was named best player for Hell’s Angels for numerous seasons and the club recognized her contribution by awarding her Life Membership. She transferred to Apache in 1973 and she continued to play A grade for them until 1986. One of the attractions of Apache was that they trained north of the Swan River which was considerably closer to Nina’s home.


Nina made her debut in the State team at 17 years of age in 1957, the year in which she was married. She continued to represent WA until 1973 except for the 1959 and 1960 national championships when she gave birth to her two children. She captained the State team from 1967 to 1973 but was forced to withdraw in 1972 when she sustained a serious knee injury in the A grade grand final. Nina’s consistency brought her to the attention of the national team selectors. She was a member of the victorious 1965 Australian team that won the First Women’s World Championship in Melbourne. ‘I was very fortunate that I was the only West Australian in the Australian team that were the world champions so I don’t think I could ask for much more than that’. Her versatility in the field ensured that she retained her place for the 1967 Test Series in South Africa, the Second Women’s World Championship in Japan in 1970 and the 1972 Test Series against New Zealand.


One of the challenges for Nina was getting fitted for her national team uniforms. She had to post her measurements to team Manageress, Merle Short in Melbourne. ‘I’ll always remember my first Australian uniform, it came from Melbourne via IPEC, I’ll always remember that, a big IPEC truck’. Fortunately, her uniforms were always a perfect fit, possibly due to her own talent at sewing and craft and knowing exactly how to take measurements. She also managed to find time to make her children’s clothes. Ever keen to promote softball, Nina enthusiastically took to coaching including a series of clinics held in Asia by the 1970 Australian softball team. She coached Apache Junior A grade to its first premiership in 1976. She coached Apache Senior A grade from 1980 to 1986. As well she coached the Metropolitan A team to State Championships in 1980, 1982 and 1986 and runners up in 1981. In 1981 she also coached in the talent identification program conducted by the ASF.   This depth and breadth of experience gave her sold grounding to be a State selector and Assistant Coach for the State team from 1983 to 1985. When the coach accreditation courses began in the early 1980s Nina not only gained her accreditations but willingly shared her experience as a lecturer.


To maintain a balance and to give something back to the sport she loved, Nina also successfully completed the requirements to become a State A Umpire. ‘I enjoyed umpiring… I just wanted to be part of it all’.  Nina was easily lured back to softball when the WASA took responsibility for hosting the softball component of the Masters Games held in Perth in 1993. She played in the victorious Legends team adding more medals to her impressive collection. Nina’s played in an era before sponsorship was a norm in elite sport. She was continually involved in fund raising be it collecting drink bottles or delivering telephone directories, all of which was very time consuming for a young, working mother. As a national team member she was particularly appreciative of the financial support given to her by the WA softball community, her employers and Slater and Gartrell sports store. Nina’s contribution to club, State and Australian softball was recognized with nomination for the WA Sportsman of the Year award numerous times. She became a Life Member of the WA Softball Association in 1984. As a member of the 1965 Australian team Nina was among the first inductees into the Australian Softball Hall of Fame announced at the South Pacific Classic held in Melbourne in 1985. Nina was the first West Australian player inducted into the WA Softball Hall of Fame established in 2007. Throughout her 30 year softball career Nina also worked full-time first as a comptometerist and later as a personal assistant to a company director. When she was in serious training for international events she was able to negotiate to start work an hour later or finish an hour earlier so that she could fit in the intense training required. ‘A lot of times I used pop into the pool on the way to work and do swimming’. A fitness club in Perth allowed Nina to use its facilities twice a week for weight training and a sauna. Training alone for the national team required extra drive and Nina’s dedication ensured that she trained at least once a day six days a week.  I feel that I was just a very ordinary person that loved the game and was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and they needed someone like me. I’ve been very, very fortunate and have had a lot of companionship from a lot of players throughout the time and it was a big part of my life. I suppose there was a stage towards the end when I wondered what life was going to be without softball … but when the time comes everything just fits into place. You just accept it and move on.  When she retired to Exmouth with her family she became a passionate lawn bowler winning the Pilbara Star for the best lady bowler in 2004 and was runner-up in 2007.

They faced a challenging preparation as their training requirements were designed by Australian Coach Myrtle Edwards and George Bake, her Melbourne based fitness adviser. Written copies were forwarded to the State Secretary, Marie Taylor, who was given responsibility for ensuring that the players adhered to it. As well, Menner and Hall were permitted to conduct their own fundraising with the proviso that it was not under the auspices of the WAWSA. Initially the Executive decided that the team to represent WA in Hobart in 1971 would only have 14 players. At the December Council meeting the Executive justified its decision by stating that the matter had been:

… discussed at length before deciding on the number, and on the State Teams [sic] performances over the last few years we have now got to the stage where every match is extremely vital and it was decided that the top nine will have to play in as many games as possible … it was decided to only send 14, however should anything happen we can send another player over at a later date.


The team fine-tuned their skills at a camp at Safety Bay. Unfortunately, Gail Anderson broke her ankle and was replaced as pitcher by Shirley Schneider. An additional player was added. Common sense prevailed and 16 players made the trip to Hobart. It almost paid off although WA were beaten 18-2 by Victoria in the grand final. Coach Roberts felt it necessary in her report to defend the loss reminding ‘critics at home’ that this was WA’s first appearance in a grand final in eight years. The team performed courageously against the strong batting of Victoria which included 11 of the 16 members of the Australian team. Roberts singled out youngsters Cheryl Arnold and Karyn Harris for praise and declared that the future of softball rested with its younger players. Nina Menner capped off the tournament by being named in the Australian team to tour New Zealand in 1972. WA adopted new playing and walking out uniforms approved by the Executive in January for a trial period of 12 months:

The new playing uniform [was] Gold Shirts, Black Pants, long gold socks, with the Swan emblem on the shirts. The walking out uniform [was] a Black pinafore style dress with a long sleeve gold blouse underneath with a tie effect which [with] a small Swan embroidered on the tie, Gold Trilby hat, Gold gloves with Black shoes and handbag.


A new look enhanced team spirit. Val Prunster attested to this in her manageress’ report noting:

The new playing uniform was terrific. As well as looking colourful on the field, the girls received compliments from other states. The walking out uniform was not only bright and effective in a group, but also drew great comments. During the few hours spent in Melbourne, people were stopping members of the team in the street and asking who they were and making comments on their smartness. Whether this outfit is to be continued is up to the future Executive, I can only say the girls carried themselves well and were proud of the new uniform. The Australian President (Esther Deason) said that not only did we have a young side, the change in uniform did justice and she was all for it.


Second placing hinted at the possibility of a resurgence in the fortunes of the Senior Women’s team but optimism was dashed when the team could only manage fourth placing at the next four championships. After the 1972 championship Coach Roberts stated in her report that fourth placing was ‘not a good result, but the best that could be expected under the circumstances’. She felt that the team lacked the ‘killer instinct’. If the team took an early lead they went on to win but if the opposing team lead from the start then WA fell behind. Many players seemed to treat the trip as a holiday with playing softball very much a secondary consideration. Players also appeared to exaggerate the seriousness of injuries but when play was over were able to devote plenty of energy to enjoying themselves. Reducing the team to 12 or 13 players was recommended as a way of ensuring that all were used and that more than one experienced catcher was selected. For Roberts it was not a matter of excusing inconsistent performances but rather time ‘to recognize our faults and do something about them’. John Claxton coached the 1973 team. After another fourth placing Claxton tabled his ideas at the AGM. He thought a major problem was the lack of consistent fast pitching which put WA in a catch-22 position as it did not have the defensive repertoire of skills to challenge its opposition, and without regular exposure to fast pitching WA batters were troubled offensively. In the field, Claxton considered WA needed to be more desperate to get the ball and dispose of it quickly. This critical information had to be immediately directed to junior players so WA could become a force again within a four-year timeframe.


After yet another fourth in 1974 Claxton presented a very detailed statistical analysis of each match and player plus comparative statistics against the other States. Claxton was aided by the new Scorer, Lorraine Malcolm, beginning two decades with the Senior team. Only one round was played at the end of which WA had three wins and three losses and entered the finals with an outside chance of victory. Unfortunately, WA lost all three finals matches. The outstanding problem identified by Claxton was the inability of the team to concentrate for a full match especially in defensive plays. WA did out-bat the other States but got fewer runners on bases and fewer of these scored. The pitchers performed satisfactorily. The remedy proposed by Claxton was the amalgamation of some A grade teams arguing that fewer teams would mean more pressure, a contrary stand to previous cases for more teams in A grade to expose more players to pressure. He cited examples from sports such as Australian Rules Football and night baseball to support his case. Coaching clinics were also needed. He felt the need to defend his team against the ‘knockers’ stating that they were the best representatives for WA. As far as Claxton was concerned the team lived up to its motto ‘We’ve got spirit’.

Claxton again coached the team in 1975 and recorded another fourth placing. The team prepared with the intention of playing two rounds plus finals, that is, playing up to 15 matches over 11 days. There were more double headers than previously experienced and for the first time matches were played at night under lights. Claxton noted that with State and club training and matches the players had softball six days a week prior to leaving for Sydney. Claxton summarized his detailed statistics by stating that ‘figures will show that whilst we are comparable with the other States in overall team batting average, runs batted in and earned runs we were disastrous in the field’. The lack of pressure softball in WA club competition seemed to be an underlying cause ‘a fact that was brought out by some senior players – that we really only get to play real pressure Softball once in every 12 months, whereas the other States get more games under pressure by visiting other centres and their Club games are more intense’. Claxton commended the team for adapting over time to the carnival conditions. To his dismay team harmony deteriorated after ‘some hasty remarks’ and he doubted if they were a happy team off the field in the closing stages of the tournament. He also pondered the possibility that the most experienced batters were batting for themselves rather than the team.

Shirley Schneider then took the helm for the next 18 seasons except for 1979 when she was Assistant Coach to John Claxton. In 1978 she went to the championship with two pitchers aged 16 and 17 and who were both called for illegal pitches which seriously affected their confidence. Schneider reported that in her opinion the two areas requiring attention were the depth of pitching and lack of desperation in the field. She was, however, optimistic that the introduction of the Under 19 team would provide a continual flow of good young players.


A highlight of 1977 was the playing of a three match Test Series against New Zealand in Perth immediately after the national championship. It was the first time since the visit of the South Africans in 1960 that the WAWSA had hosted an international team. While it gave all members of the WA softball community the opportunity to see two outstanding teams in action, WA was sidelined to some extent because it did not have any players or officials in the team.

Claxton’s return in 1979 saw the team finish fifth, losing fourth place on percentage to NSW. To Claxton WA fielding was steady but could be improved while the main weakness was leaving runners on bases. The outcome for the 1980 team did not augur well when, in August 1979, a group of 28 players petitioned the Management Committee to replace Shirley Schneider as coach with John Claxton claiming that Claxton was the better coach of the two. At that stage Claxton had coached Nedlands Rookies A grade to the premiership in the 1977-78 season while Schneider’s club Demons had not succeeded since the 1972-73 season. In fact, Bedford Youth Club was the most successful A grade team during the 1970s. There was also a widespread belief in most


Life Member: 1976

Hall of Fame: Inaugural Inductee: Team Official: 2007

It’s the only sport I threw myself into. I played social tennis and badminton and all that but softball was the only sport I got interested in … it just became part of my life.



Pink Tops

Melville Saints



Convenor: 1993-96


Manager Under 16 Girls: 1970

Manager Senior Women: 1971, 1976-82, 1986-90


Executive: 1961-63, 1968-74,

Board of Management: Life Member Delegate: 1987 to 2000

Junior Committee: 1968; Convenor: 1972

Fund Raising Committee: 1977-82

Finance Committee: 1981-90

Convenor, National Junior Championships: Perth, 1974


Australian Softball Federation Service Award: 1993

Australian Sports Medal: 2000

Val’s softball career could be said to have begun on the bus from Fremantle to Perth when one of the girls, Marie Millett, said she was playing softball. Although not at all inclined towards sport at school Val decided to ‘have a go at that’. That was in 1951 and Val played until 1981 then continued scoring for her team ‘for yonks’ and in softball administration through to the mid-1990s. In her first year Val played with the Fremantle B grade team with her preferred positions being left field, shortstop and third base. Her team did not travel to Perth for matches that season but the opposing teams came to play them at Fremantle Park. However, Val and many of her teammates found that it was easier to train in Perth at Langley Park since there was not enough time for them to get to Fremantle by bus after work for training. In 1953 this group broke away from Fremantle and formed Pink Tops, a clear statement of the major colour of their uniform. When Pink Tops looked like folding, Val was approached by Marie Millett again and they saved the team which subsequently became Melville Saints. Val married Des Prunster in 1954 and her first daughter was born in 1956. Tragically, a third child died in 1960. In summer while Des was fully involved with cricket Val traveled by bus from Bentley to Palmyra to leave the girls with her mother and then caught another bus to Perth to play softball. Val Johnson approached Val to ask her join the Executive and she was a member from 1961 for a couple of seasons. When she was not on the Executive Val Prunster was a delegate for Melville Saints to Council meetings. 


Val had a break away from Melville Saints for five seasons from 1968-69 to 1972-73 when her daughters were at Mercedes College. Initially she used to assist transport the boarders to hockey in winter but got caught up in softball:

I was driving passed and this group of girls was training for softball on Langley Park. I parked the car and went over and introduced myself to the bloke who was trying to teach them. [He] was just someone who worked for the Catholic Schools Association as a volunteer. I said I was interested in helping them and so we entered two school teams. When my girls had finished there that fell by the board and I went back to my club.

Val’s influence spread beyond Mercedes College as she was asked to lecture on softball at a number of other catholic colleges. The only aspect of softball that Val did not really like was umpiring. ‘I hated umpiring. There’s always someone arguing with you’. Although, as a committed club member she did fulfill her allocated umpiring duties but preferring a base to the plate. When necessary she did, however, umpire for schools. Val’s interest in junior softball resulted in her being appointed in 1968 to a committee with Penny McKeig and Don Leyland to ‘investigate all aspects of Junior Competition with regard to fostering and promoting the same.’[i] The following season Val convened the first Junior Committee.  The 1969-70 season was a very big one for the WAWSA hosting both the inaugural Junior (Under 16) and Senior Women’s national championships in January and March respectively. Val was Manageress for the WA Under 16 team. The following year she was asked by some of the senior players to stand for Senior Manageress and she was elected. However, she did not regain the position again until 1977 then held it until 1982 and again from 1986 to 1990. During her first stint as Senior Manageress the position also entailed chairing the Fund Raising Committee for all three women’s State teams, Under 19 having been added in 1979. Bottle drives, raffle tickets and Operation Stop Clock all became part and parcel of Val’s workload. Her meticulous attention to detail saw her devise spreadsheets to keep track of everything from uniforms to players’ levies much to the delight of Treasurer Nox Bailey who could then readily reconcile the books with the invoices from the suppliers. Managing teams was not without its downside and having to submit messy reports where players had broken team rules distressed her. She held firm to her belief that ‘in softball we subsidized the players and we fund raised … so when you go away with a team it is not a holiday, you’re there to play and for that week I expected them to toe the line’.


It was a natural progression to move to Chair the Finance Committee for the 1981-82 season until 1990 when the governance of the Association was restructured. During Val’s time on the Finance Committee budgeting became a routine means of determining team registration fees.  Val was made a Life Member of the WASA in 1976 and from 1987 served as the Life Members’ delegate to the Board of Management until the position became defunct following further refinement of the Board membership in 2000. Val also tended to the social side of the Life Members’ group arranging an annual dinner/luncheon.  Val’s softball commitments had to be juggled with he commitments to her family and her employment. One of her daughters chose to play softball with Hell’s Angels and the other with Apache then Hell’s Angels so ‘I had three different uniforms on the line on Monday  mornings!’ Meeting and mixing with players and officials from interstate and overseas was also part and parcel of Val’s softball career. In 1957 and 1963 she was Liaison Officer for the Queensland team during national championships in Perth. As Manageress of the Senior team she was WA delegate to the AWSC meetings held in conjunction with the national championships. In 1974 Val was Convenor of the Under 16 national championships, the second time they were held in Perth. Players from South Africa in 1960, New Zealand in 1977 and Australian officials were billeted in the Prunster household. Daughter, Teresa, followed on as Liaison Officer for the Queensland team when it was in Perth. Apart from the designated official positions, Val was always willing to turn her hand to the not so glamorous and public positions and worked as a volunteer whenever WA hosted national and international events. Her forte became the provision of refreshments for dignitaries attending official functions.  Having started with junior teams and progressed to senior teams, it was perhaps not surprising that Val should finish her softball career with Veterans’ softball. When the WASA hosted the first Masters softball in 1993 Val was Convenor. The WA players – women and men – enjoyed themselves so much that it was decided that a Veterans’ competition would be held at the State Softball Centre at Mirrabooka each Tuesday evening in summer. Val convened this for three easons including running the canteen and selling more raffle tickets plus securing umpires with the help of Albert Dumaresq. Val’s husband, Des, served as Registrar. When Veterans became an official section within the WASA for the 1996-97 season a new convenor, secretary and registrar were elected. In his Annual Report the new Convenor, Derek Atkinson, noted that ‘I believe it is fair to say that each of us who filled those positions did not realize just what Val and her husband did for Veterans Competition in the formative years … their efforts … laid a solid foundation for us to build on’.


During all of this Val was employed by Betts and Betts footwear retailers initially on a part-time basis and later full-time. Her job was to help set up and open new stores, a demanding task in the 1970s when new retail centres were flourishing in suburbs like Kwinana, Rockingham and Midland. For a while she was based in the Claremont store specializing in fitting children’s shoes. With an R&I Bank in Claremont, it was a little easier to bank money coming in through fund raising and player levies. Val’s husband Des was also a keen sportsman playing football, cricket, baseball and basketball for Wembley Athletics. Later in his career he became a full-time administrator of country basketball in WA. women’s sports that men were better coaches than women and at numerous national championships Schneider was the sole female Head Coach although other States had female assistant coaches. The petition was lodged without a signatory but signed during the Management Committee meeting. Heated discussion followed until Bill Grice called for a point of order and stated that the petition and the manner of its processing was unconstitutional and could not be discussed. The coach had been elected by secret ballot and her appointment was constitutional. The names of the players signing the petition were listed in the Minutes of the November meeting. A Special Meeting was subsequently held at which the issue was thrashed out

resulting in a decision that there would be no further discussion by either side. There were several outcomes. First, the practice of selecting a squad from all A and A Reserve grade players was abandoned. Instead a letter was sent to all A and A Reserve grade teams seeking to discover which players were available, since a number had indicated that they would not be. Thirty-two players attended the three selection trials. Second, of the 14 players selected to represent WA, 8 were first year players, 3 had one year of experience and the remaining 3 had more than one year. As well as the normal pressure of the national championships, these players had to cope with the pressure created in WA because of the petition. Manageress Val Prunster wrote in her report ‘They felt they had to win games to prove their position in the side’. Shirley Schneider expressed her pride ‘to see the character and determination displayed’. Playing in Brisbane on the relatively new international diamond with its unfamiliar shaved infield was a challenge but WA did manage to push eventual runners-up Victoria to eight innings.  Then followed a descent into the bottom half of the eight team competition and by 1983 WA was in sixth position. However, the Under 16 team provided hope.


When each State fielded only one team in national championships it was open to players of all ages. Exceptionally talented juniors did come to the fore. Helen Henderson, a pitcher with Hell’s Angels, first represented WA in 1956 in Adelaide. In the championship programme it was noted that ‘Helen was selected to gain carnival experience, but could be one of the team’s most valuable players. At 14, Helen is the youngest player ever to represent WA’. She played in four tournaments including Brisbane in 1959 when WA won the Gilleys Shield.  Following the success of the Women’s First World Champion-ship in Melbourne in 1965, softballers around the country began thinking about the development of future teams. It soon became apparent that much more needed to be done to foster juniors. A Junior State team was seen as an incentive for young Perth players to focus on softball and lay the foundations for strong future Senior teams.


During the last weekend in March 1966 Shirley Roberts took a junior team to Bunbury for three matches which it won: 27-1, 28-6 and 25-9. Don Smith, Dick Watters, Ian Boyd and Ross Properjohn also traveled to Bunbury to umpire the matches. Many parents made the trip on Sunday to offer support. The venture cost $145 of which $100 was raised in just seven days minimizing the levy on each player to just $3:50. Roberts was glowing in her praise saying, ‘A very obvious fact that emerges from this report is that I am very proud of W.A.’s Junior team, - not merely for their success in the games, but their zest and keenness in everything’.  By 1968 the Junior State team was fulfilling its purpose. Sixty-five players attended trials after which a team of twelve was named of whom just two had not had previous experience in the team. One of the two was Gail Anderson who was to become the leading pitcher and captain of the Senior team in the 1970s. The Juniors played and defeated three different Bunbury teams.  The growth in juniors was particularly pleasing to President Colin Smith who stated in the Annual Report ‘If any Association’s future can be judged by the strength of its juniors, then softball in W. A. should improve steadily in ability and strength’. Lorna Forner made the transition to the Senior team in 1970.


In the 1968 Sydney Senior Women’s Championship program it was noted that:

Softball is a fast growing sport being played in Primary and Secondary Schools, Colleges, Universities and all branches of the Australian services. Throughout the Commonwealth some 100,000 girls play Softball, and within this group approximately 30,000 are registered members of clubs.

With such strong numbers in junior softball it was fitting then that the AWSF decided to establish an Australian Junior Championship to be held in approximately the second week of January each year (school holidays) and to award the first one to the WAWSA in 1970.

One of the most important initiatives of the WAWSA to foster its talented juniors and provide them with an insight into their future possibilities was the annual Junior Camp. The first one was held in August 1969 at the Bickley Camp. It was organized by the Junior Committee which also conducted the sub-junior and junior competitions on Saturday mornings. The camp was open to all interested players who paid a small fee towards their food and accommodation. Under the leadership of the State Junior coach senior players taught basic skills and techniques. Over the years the camp was held at most of the campsites owned by the Department of Sport and Recreation.


During the 1968-69 season the State Junior team continued its traditional matches in Bunbury over the Labour Day Weekend in March. In his report Coach Leyland noted that 75 girls had participated in the selection trials held over four weekends in January. The team was announced in the newspaper after the A grade grand final and pockets were presented to the players at the Association Presentation Evening. The team was increased to 15 players. It recorded three wins: 15-6, 15-5 and 10-3. In anticipation of the more formal arrangements in 1970 the team adopted a new uniform which was a replica of that worn by the Seniors. The uniforms ‘were admired by the people of Bunbury and were a credit to the mothers, girls and friends who spent many hours sewing prior to our trip’ according to Manageress Penny McKeig. At the conclusion of the season another 10 players were invited to join a squad for specialized training. Several Association umpires also traveled to Bunbury. In addition to umpiring the Junior matches they assisted with the semi-finals of the Bunbury association. Five of the players in the 1969 Junior team played in the Senior team in 1971: Lorna Forner, Karen Harris, Cheryl Arnold, Susan Richardson and Christine Miller. The inaugural Australian Junior Softball Championships were played between 10 and 18 January 1970 in Perth. Members of the first WA Girls Under 16 team to compete in an official national championship were Gail Anderson (captain), Karen Harris (vice captain), Cheryl Arnold, Pam Babb, Margaret Anderson, Janice Della-Bosca, Christine Brown, Rae Nash, Judy Kitchens, Irene Culverwell, Lynette Friedman, Susan Richardson, Barbara Thorn and Lyn Jarvis.

Source: Australian Junior Softball Championships, Inaugural Series, Perth 1970.

The WA youngsters acquitted themselves very well finishing the qualifying round in first position but going down to Victoria 3-2 in the grand final. Of the players who debuted in the first interstate competition Gail Anderson, Karen Harris and Susan Richardson made the Senior team in 1972 with Lyn Jarvis as a reserve. Coach Brian Properjohn was pleased with the team effort and Manageress Val Prunster considered their playing ability to be of A grade standard and their behaviour a credit to all. The timing of the championship so close to the Christmas holidays did present a problem in securing complete uniforms. Prunster noted in her report that ‘Our socks never left the Melbourne factory and our Liaison Officer, Paula Higgs, undertook to dye 28 pairs of socks’. Because the WAWSA was also hosting the Senior championship in March a one-off levy of 20 cents per player was added to the 1969-70 club registration fees. Every effort was made to keep costs to a minimum and the interstate juniors were billeted. Shirley Roberts recalled that:

We did it through the clubs … I’m very proud of it because what we did was we hand picked the clubs and then we had to do it very discretely … when you hand pick the homes … I was really busy too but I did take one … and she was the youngest player in the Queensland side. … you had to write a letter to the family of the girl you were billeting and say my name’s Shirley Roberts, I do this and I’m very reliable … we wrote to each other, the parents


Roberts was Senior State coach at the time. The clubs which billeted players were Fremantle Rebels (NSW), Nedlands Rookies (Queensland), Blue Jays (Victoria), Bedford Youth Club (Tasmania), Gee Bees (ACT) and Dolphins (South Australia). For Val Prunster it was also her introduction to the challenges of chaperoning a team:

It’s all new and I can’t find my team and I’m out on the oval and I’ve got no team … [Brian Properjohn’s] got one of his mates to give them a pre-game pep talk and they’re all locked away in a room with a man without a manageress … I used to have to reinforce what Essie [Esther Deason] and them would say at Australian meetings – the girls it didn’t reflect back on softball if something bad happened. We had all are not to wear their uniforms down the shops, everyone’s got to get changed so these rules and they were pretty strict in those early years.


The Under 16 team for the National Championships in Melbourne in 1971 comprised 14 players drawn from seven clubs. Don Leyland took over as coach with Paula Higgs as Manageress. The relationships between them deteriorated over the training period to the point where the Executive called a Special Meeting early in January to resolve their differences and to have monies being held by the coach paid to the Association Treasurer prior to the team’s departure for Melbourne. Four reserves were also named and the selectors given the right to make replacements as they saw fit. Five members of the team had previous experience but there was concern that most team members lacked experience in Senior A grade competition at the time of selection. To overcome this problem scratch matches were played against Demons, Gee Bees and Blue Jays. State Senior players also helped out. Fortunately, the team again finished second, this time to NSW. Coach Leyland deemed the semi-final against Victoria to be the highest standard reached by WA during the carnival with the match going to 10 innings and lasting 2 hours and 20 minutes. Leyland attributed the grand final loss to nerves, batting failure and the ongoing illegal pitching controversy spreading to the junior ranks. Indeed he had instructed pitcher Lois Britten to pitch at two-thirds of her full pace to avoid being called. When the team was down 8-2 caution was thrown to the wind and Britten pitched normally with no further runs scored off her. Manageress Higgs reported ‘they have a saying ‘We are the Mighty West’ and at all times this feeling was with them. The black and gold uniforms helped reinforce this feeling, and their morale was ever high’. To make the trip exciting some sightseeing was included before competition commenced. Higgs also argued for the inclusion of another female official.


Such was the growth of softball by 1972 that not all players were known to the Executive so a barbeque was held in November 1971 for the State Junior team to meet the Executive. The State Junior team played in Sydney and finished fifth, a credible performance in the eyes of first year coach, Gail Hall. Wet weather made conditions difficult and interference to base runners was problematic throughout the tournament. Manageress Val Culverwell was pleased with the way in which the ‘girls both on and off the field never gave up at any stage, especially the girls on the bench, they did their utmost to encourage the team in every way’. Train travel from Perth to Sydney was tiring and expensive and Culverwell argued for more assistance for the Juniors. Again the issue of a third female official was raised as several times Culverwell found herself simultaneously trying to score and attend to an injured player.


In 1973 Coralie Fielding was the first country player to be selected in the State Junior team but subsequently transferred from Geraldton to Nollamara to play in a more challenging competition. An approach was made to the WAWSA Executive for assistance with her airfares to and from Geraldton but rejected. Instead the WAWSA agreed that Fielding not attend training until the completion of the school year. Her parents decided to send her down anyway. The State Junior team traveled to Adelaide. They were buoyed by receipt of numerous telegrams from supporters in WA, an important gesture since ‘the consensus of opinion, prior to departure, was that the team was much weaker than in previous years’. Don Leyland resumed the helm as coach. He considered that the team played above expectations to finish third behind Victoria and South Australia. The qualifying match against Victoria was one of the highlights of the carnival with neither pitcher conceding a walk. WA made 11 hits with only 2 errors while Victoria had 9 hits and 3 errors but scored four vital consecutive hits in the sixth innings to win 4-2. Leyland noted ‘WA’s pitchers are some of the slowest in Australia’. The inclusion of an ‘extra’ female official proved beneficial ensuring constant supervision of the team especially when the coach and manageress were required to umpire non-WA matches. By this time the ASF had established a roster for hosting the Girls’ Under 16 National Championship. In January 1974 it was held in Perth for the second time. To promote the social aspects of playing elite sport, all six State teams stayed at Currie Hall, one of Halls of Residence at the University of Western Australia. Bed and breakfast cost $6.25 per head. Hosting the championship in Perth provided an opportunity to experiment with the appointment of an Assistant Coach. Joyce Jones was nominated for this position after it was established that she would be able to combine it with her duties as a member of the Senior State team. It was also decided that youngsters nominating for the team would be provided with an information sheet detailing the costs involved. This form had to be signed by the nominee’s parent before they could participate in the trials. Costs were lower because the team did not have to travel but they were still required to fund raise to cover the costs of accommodation, meals, and social events.

Joy MARSLAND (nee Rippin)

Life Member: 1963

Hall of Fame: Inaugural Inductee: Administration: 2007

It’s an exciting game. You play week after week for 1-nil games.

It’s an exciting game … enemies on the diamond, best of friends at happy hour.


Flying Club

Blue Jays


Nedlands Rookies

State Team

Player Senior Women: 1952, 1953 (playing manageress)

Manageress Senior Women: 1953

Manageress Under 16 Women: 1974-84


President: 1952-53

Vice President: 1951-52, 1953-54, 1965-77

Executive: 1954-56, 59-60,

63-64, 64-65

Junior Committee: 1973-84

State Umpiring Badge: 1969


Joy Marsland Trophy for Night Softball: 1983

Australian Sports Medal: 2000

Joy Rippin worked as a shoe machinist and was invited to play softball by a work mate who asked,

“Would you come down, we’re short. Would you come down and play”? I said, “What are you playing?” She said, “Softball.” “How do you play that?” “ It’s like rounders.” “ Oh, yeah, I know I’ve seen rounders, hit the ball and run the bases …” I went down and she introduced me to Val [Johnson]. Val was walking across the ground and she said, “Here, catch this, Here [whizz].” I stuck my hand out and caught it. She said, “Oh, you look like you can catch a ball,” so she sticks me out in the outfield and starts telling me, “If the ball comes out on the full, in the air, you’ve got to try and catch it.” I said, “Well, I haven’t got a glove so she lent me a glove. So I got put in the outfield. I’ve got a feeling I caught two that day but they were just about down my throat. I’ve never been out of it since.


Twenty-three year old Joy joined Flying Club for the 1948-49 season. For the 1950-51 season she was recruited by Bill Wells to join Blue Jays. Joy narrowly missed selection in the inaugural State team in 1951 but traveled with the team to Adelaide as a supporter even participating in the practice session held at Cooke, out in the Nullabor, while the train took on water. Joy was a member of the victorious WA teams in 1952 and 1953. In her second year, because at 28 years of age, she was one of the older players, she had the added responsibilities of being manageress as well as a player Coach Bill Wells recalled that ‘I intended to play her tomorrow and tomorrow and then we sort of got to the end of the series and Joy hadn’t played but it was a tribute to the sort of person she was that she never complained. She was 100 percent behind the team on and off the field …’. From the outset Joy quickly became immersed in the administration of the WA Women’s Softball Association usually holding several positions simultaneously. Joy was first elected Vice President for the 1951-52 season and was elected President for 1952-53 season when Val Johnson was strickened with poliomyelitis. She then served another term as Vice Preisdent. Joy was the Trustee for the Accident Fund from 1954 to 1970. This required her to ensure that a small sum of the registration fee was set aside to cover any claims for reimbursement of medical expenses made by players who were injured while playing or training. In 1965 she again became Vice President and continued until 1977.  Joy’s commitment to the advancement of softball was highlighted by her extended period of service as Convenor of the Junior Committee from 1977 to 1984. Each Saturday morning from October to December she oversaw the sub-junior competition held on Langley Park. There were four or five grades of softball plus several grades of tee ball. The Junior Camp also came under the jurisdiction of the Junior Committee and Joy played a prominent role as an organizer and coach. Her passion for the development of junior softball included 12 years as manageress of the Under 16 team from 1974 to 1984. This included hosting barbeques at her home to help team members get to know each other. For many Joy was a second mother and this earned her the affectionate title of ‘Mum’.


When Blue Jays folded in 1972 Joy joined Demons and coached them for six years. She then moved to Nedlands Rookies A2 for another six years during which time they competed in the finals each year winning two premierships and being runners-up three times.[ii] As well Joy undertook umpiring duties and in the 1973-74 season obtained her State Umpire’s badge and was a member of the Umpries’ Examination Panel for several seasons. Ever generous with her time she undertook additional duties such as umpiring finals for country associations. She retired from practical umpiring duties after the 1979-80 season but continued to help out with lecturing and school groups. Having had wonderful experiences in States teams Joy was always a willing member of the WA committees overseeing national carnivals when WA was host state. Joy finally retired from softball at the end of the 1983-84 season after 36 years, a feat recognized in a feature article in The Northern Suburbs News of The West Australian. Joy married Ray Marsland in 1956. Their three daughters – Lorraine, Sandra and Diane - played softball with Nedlands Rookies. Diane was a member of the State Under 16 team in 1976 and 1977. When Ray retired from work, Joy decided to retire from softball so the pair of them could travel. Sadly in later life Joy suffered severe ill-health but her family ensured that she was present to be an inaugural inductee into the WA Softball Hall of Fame in 2007.


The State Junior team finished fifth behindVictoria. Don Leyland was its coach and Joy Marsland began her decade as manageress. Leyland, Marsland and Jones had a hectic time as they were also rostered to umpire when WA was not playing and to attend lectures given by Australian Umpire-in-Chief, Marj Dwyer. Kaye Pengilly became the first former Senior team member to coach the Under 16s in 1976. Her assistant was Bob McKibbin who was to spend the next two decades coaching Under 16 then Under 19 women’s teams. Lil Smith began her nine years as Scorer and unofficial seamstress who was always prepared to renovate uniforms to help parents of team members save money. Such was WA’s frustration with the calling of illegal pitches that the cover of the 1978-79 Annual Report featured a crudely drawn sketch of an umpire signaling an illegal pitch with the Umpire-in-Chief in the background apparently supporting the call. By 1980 sanity prevailed and illegal pitches were not called at the Under 16s which resulted in a much happier event for all participants. One pitcher to benefit from this was Vicki Delavale who debuted as a 12 year old in 1979 and continued in the Under 16s until 1982, the same year in which she also played in the Senior team. She was in the Under 19 team in 1983 and 1985. The Under 16s reached the grand final again in 1982. Coached by Bob McKibbin the 1982 team proved up to the task right up until the sixth innings of the grand final when they were nil-all with Victoria. However, a couple of errors in the field and some strong batting by Victoria saw them bring eight runs home and WA could not answer them.


In contrast to its enthusiasm to embrace and develop Under 16 softball the WAWSA opposed a proposal by the Victorian Softball Association in 1971 to introduce a National Under 18 Championship to fill the gap between the Under 16 and Senior Championships. The cost was considered prohibitive and it was felt that ‘good’ players would make the Senior team anyway. Victoria led by example and in January 1974 hosted an18 and under competition. Entry was by invitation which removed the onus on States having to nominate teams. WA did not participate. NSW won the first tournament. TheASF took over the competition and in 1976 it officially became the Under 19 national championship.


By 1978 WA realized that it would fall behind the other States/Territories if it did not field an Under 19 team. The WAWSA accepted that it would have to dig deeper to fund the extra team and be prepared to host another national championship. The inaugural Under 19 team was Shirley Harris (captain), Lee Naughton (vice captain), Tracey Peake, Donna Brajkovich, Anna Senjushenko, Sue Baker, Debbie Macbean, Lynda Watson, Jenny Girdlestone, Kerry Beard, Kelly Smith, Carlene Risely and Julie Piercy. Former State player Barbara Corby was coach with Don Smith as her assistant. Roma Piercy took on the demanding role of manageress with Hilda Brajkovich as scorer. Corby put a great deal of emphasis on both the physical and mental develop-ment of the team and by the time they departed for Brisbane she was ‘feeling quietly confident, the only thing I felt that could stop us was bad weather. Little did I realize that this was to be the case – RAIN – MUD & SLUSH’. (Emphasis in original) Such were conditions that matches were transferred from Downey Park to Ballymore Rugby Union Headquarters while the rain continued to pour down. WA finished the qualifying round in second position with four wins from six matches. However, in the double elimination system of finals WA went down to Victoria and then Queensland to end the championship in third place, a respectable effort given the other States had several more years of experience at the Under 19 level.


The team maintained solid performances with two more third placings before slipping into the lower placings. Don Smith followed Barbara Corby as coach for three years. Bob McKibbin took charge in 1983 and continued until 1996.  Julie Piercy was WA’s first Under 19 player to be selected in a national team. She was a member of the Australian team which finished fifth in the First World Youth Championships in Canada in 1981. Joanne Donnan was unlucky not to be selected as well. After the Under 19s she was added to the WA senior team for her second national championship in the same year. WA did not win a national championship in any division from 1970 to 1983 but the Under 16 and Under 19 teams were amongst the top teams in their divisions and were a source of optimism for a brighter future. The lack of enthusiasm for State honours among senior club players was a major source of frustration at a time when softball was experiencing unprecedented growth in WA. As a result WA had few representatives in national teams. As well only one international team visited Perth, New Zealand in 1977. Despite this WA had earned a very creditable reputation as a host of national championships. Team lists for WA teams from 1970 to 1983 are presented in Appendix 1.

Back L->R: Hilda Brajkovich (scorer), Jenny Girdlestone, Donna Brajkovich, Shirley Harris, Barbara Corby (coach), Don Smith (assist coach),
Sue Baker, Anna Senjushenko, Julie Piercy, Roma Piercy (manager)

Front L->R: Linda Watson, Lee Naughton, Carlene Riseley, Debbie MacBean, Kerry Beard, Tracey Ness, Kelly Smith

Shirley BOYD (nee Kennewell)

Life Member: 1970

I did everything I wanted to do in softball. I reached the top and made good friends. I reached the goal I wanted to reach that I thought I never would but the friendships are more important.


South Perth Community Centre

Hell’s Angels


State Team

Scorer/Delegate Senior Women: 1964

Manageress/Delegate Senior women: 1965-66

Scorer Under 19 Women: 1981-92

Australian Team

Scorer Under 19 Women: 1986-87


Executive Committee: 1965-69

Scorer Perth Senior Championship: 1977


Scorer Perth TransTasman Series: 1977

Shirley worked in the city and during the 1952 national championships hosted by the WAWSA, she was one of the many office workers who spent their lunch breaks down at The Esplanade watching the action. She finally took to the diamond as a player at the age of 21 when a friend asked her to play. She played a couple of seasons with South Perth Community Centre and when that club folded she joined Hell’s Angels where she was a player and coach of the lower grades. The highlight of her playing career was as a base player when Hell’s Angels broke through for its first premiership in the 1960-61 season. At Hell’s Angels Shirley learned the demands of scoring which was to become her forte leading to a position with the State Senior women’s team for its trip to Hobart in 1964. Shirley was very realistic in her approach to softball accepting that ‘I couldn’t make it as a player, I hadn’t been around for long enough as a player, but I could score’.


Along with many of the team, the flight from Melbourne to Hobart was Shirley’s first. The following two years she wore two hats as Manageress for the State team and WA delegate to the AWSC meetings held in conjunction with the national championships. Having served on the committee in WA she was well equipped for this latter job. She continued to serve on the Executive until 1969.  After marrying and having her three children, Shirley continued to score for her club team and for national championships held in Perth. In 1977 she scored for the Senior Women’s championship and the Trans-Tasman Series held immediately afterwards. As Shirley did not drive, she (and her children) often walked from their home in Bayswater to Yokine Reserve. When the family moved to Doubleview, she took the bus to Leederville and then walked the remainder of the way. In 1978 she transferred to Demons to score for its A grade team but often found herself covering several matches each Saturday afternoon. She returned to State ranks as scorer for the Under 19 women’s team in 1981 and maintained the role until she retired from softball in 1992. To help fund her softball trips, Shirley took a part-time job as a school cleaner. She also worked alongside other team officials to run lamington drives and cake stalls at shopping centres as part of the fund raising drives. As a committed team member Shirley was a willing volunteer and worker for whatever jobs had to be done including stints in the canteen.


Her attention to detailed statistics earned her a berth as scorer for the Australian Under 19 women’s team which toured Canada in 1986 and played in the Third World Youth Championships in Oklahoma City (USA) in 1987. A bonus of the trip was the opportunity to see the other side of the world and visit Disneyland, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. For Shirley ‘it was an adventure, that’s the way I looked at it, an adventure, something that you could possibly tell you grand kids about, all those trips’. In 1989 she was one of eight WA scorer’s awarded retrospective Level 4 accreditation when the ASF introduced its accreditation system for scorers. During her time with the WA Under 19 women’s team she also served as a Selector which meant any time she was not scoring was spent watching young players in preparation for the trials each October.  eldest daughter, Debbie, continued the family tradition as scorer with Demons junior teams then progressing to score for Metropolitan teams in the State Championships in 1982 and 1983 then State Under 16 Women’s team in 1984. Debbie herself was just 16. Shirley’s husband, Ian, also served as a groundsman for club and championship matches. Shirley passed away in 2011 after a long illness.


Life Member: 1975

In one way it’s an individual thing because you get so engrossed it takes over your life and I was very much in favour of that particularly what you got back from the girls and what you tried to do … but if you’ve got a wife like I’ve got who’s around and scores and does everything else for you, well it was plain sailing for me. All I had to do was coach and Lil filled in the blanks.


Nedlands Rookies

Hell’s Angels/South Perth Angels

State Teams

Assistant Coach Under 19 Women: 1979-80

Coach Under 19 Women: 1981-82


Executive: 1965 to 1972; 1977-78

Junior Committee: 1972-1983

Junior Selector: 1968-72; 1974-76

Under 19 Selector: 1979-82

Propertyman: 1968-75

Coach Metro (2): 1978

State Umpiring Badge: 1968

Convenor of Umpires: 1972-73

Other Awards

WA Football League Propertymen & Trainers’ Association Life Member

Churchlands Netball Club Life Member

Don Smith played Australian Rules Football and baseball with the Wembley, the latter in B grade. He married Lil in 1948 and together they had three daughters: Kaye, Sue and Donna. For the Smiths, subsequent sport participation was very much as a family unit. When their daughters began playing softball at Churchlands Primary School Don helped out with sport on Friday afternoons. The family became involved with Nedlands Rookies Softball Club in 1961. The daughters’ team played in the school competition at Langley Park on Saturday mornings after which they piled into the Smith’s station wagon, went to Crawley and changed from their school uniforms into Rookies uniforms in preparation for returning to Langley Park to play in the Junior A grade competition in the afternoon. In its 50th Anniversary publication, Rookies attributed their strength in the junior ranks to the coaching work of Don. He progressed through the ranks to the senior grades and often found himself with two or three teams to attend to so ‘Saturdays were pretty hectic and with training every night in between. I also took pitching practice down at Langley Park and had to set up my own lights’.

His efforts were rewarded with several premierships in day and night softball. His expertise with juniors was also valuable as a selector for the State Under 16 team. Youngest daughter, Donna, was totally immersed in softball. According to the Nedlands Rookies 50th Anniversary publication she was the youngest ever competitive sportsperson in WA when she took took to the diamond at just 5 years of age and 30 inches tall – a very difficult target for opposing pitchers. Donna was a central plate umpire at 11 and played in the Under 16, Under 19 and Senior women’s State teams including captaining the Under 19s and playing Seniors in 1982. Don expanded his horizons by coaching the Metropolitan team in the State Championships and in 1979 became Assistant Coach of the Under 19 Women’s team for two years and then Coach for 1981 and 1982. In order to do this it was necessary for him to leave Rookies and join Hell’s Angels because ‘I needed a high position in coaching a team and I didn’t get it at Rookies. I went to Angels and they grabbed me to go to A grade straightaway’. Don continued to coach through until 1984. During this time the name Hell’s Angels was replaced by South Perth Angels to remove any suggestion of association with bikie gangs and make the softball club more acceptable to young girls.

Throughout Don’s baseball and softball days ‘Lil went up the line with me’. Lil began scoring for Wembley B grade baseball and kept learning to progress to be the scorer for the State Under 16 softball team for nine years from 1975 to 1983. Like Don, Lil’s commitment extended beyond her basic duties and she used her dressmaking skills to help make uniforms to save parents some of the expense involved with State teams. Like many coaches at the time Don undertook his share of umpiring duties and in 1968 attained his State Umpiring badge but ‘I much preferred to coach’.  is early days at Rookies Don became their representative at the WAWSA meetings. As early as 1964 he had made a positive impression because he was asked to consider becoming WA’s delegate to the AWSC meetings but he was unable to take this up. He did, however, become active in the Association administration on the Executive from 1967 onwards. He was propertyman responsible for the safe keeping of equipment and uniforms belonging to the Association. Each Saturday morning he (and Lil and the girls) were at Langley Park before 9am to ‘clean all the dog droppings off the oval’ and set up the diamonds and in the afternoon to rope off the A grade diamonds. Whenever the WAWSA hosted a national event Don put his hand up to assist including the first national Under 16 tournament held in Perth in 1970.

The Smiths were also fully involved with the Junior Committee set up by the WAWSA in the early 1970s. Lil in particular took on the arduous role of cook at the annual Junior Camp. At one stage Don and Lil ran a competition for eight junior teams in the South Perth area on Saturday mornings.  Don got the chance to play softball himself when the men’s competition commenced in 1976 and he was pitcher for Rookies for five years. He was awarded Life Membership of both Rookies women’s and men’s clubs.   Keen to see softball reach more people in the Perth community Don took a leadership role in the 1974-75 season in discussing the possibility of introducing district softball. Unfortunately, this was somewhat ahead of its time and was put on hold. Determined to keep their daughters together in sport, in winter the Smith family turned its attention to netball again focusing on the Churchlands area. At one stage they managed up to 16 teams. Don was a Life Member of Churchlands Netball Club. However, by Don’s own admission most of the work fell to Lil since Don was also committed to Subiaco Football Club as a trainer. As a trainer Don traveled to Adelaide for the State-of-Origin match in 1979 and was also associated with the Teal Cup team in 1982 and 1983. His efforts in football earned Don Life Membership of the Propertymen and Trainers’ Association. All of Don’s sports commitments fitted around his employment with the Commonwealth Bank as an armourer until the bank phased out guns. Then he was in charge of the stores department. His knocking off time varied and thus he established discipline with his softball teams so that they could do their warm-ups before he arrived at training.


[i] Minutes, 11 September 1968.

[ii] Marsh, D. (1984, May 9). ‘Mum’ ends 36 years service to softball. The West Australian: Northern Suburbs News.