Bernie Naylor enters Australian Football Hall of Fame

Thursday, May 31, 2018 - 7:47 AM
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WHILE the Victorian media might be proclaiming him the John Coleman of Western Australia, make no mistake Bernie Naylor's goalkicking exploits came first and the South Fremantle legend took his rightful place in the Australian Football Hall of Fame this week.

The goalkicking feats of Naylor are legendary and he ended up kicking 1034 goals for South Fremantle in 194 matches between 1941 and 1954, with a four-year gap because of World War II.

While kicking a record 23 goals in a game along the way, he was six-time league leading goalkicker, nine-time South Fremantle leading goalkicker and a fairest and best winner in 1953.

Naylor also played 16 matches for Western Australia where he kicked 44 goals, but his career wasn’t just about his individual exploits.

He was part of a remarkably successful era at South Fremantle as well playing in premierships in 1947, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954 with his last game being the 1954 Grand Final triumph over East Fremantle.

So kicking 1034 goals, playing for WA 16 times, leading the league's goalkicking six times and your club's nine times, playing in six premierships and winning a fairest and best already made Naylor a legendary figure at South Fremantle and in West Australian football.

It was always a matter of time for him to be inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame and now that has happened in 2018.

Naylor's recognition and celebration of his career hasn’t stopped this century with him inducted into the West Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and then in the inaugural class in the South Fremantle Football Club Hall of Fame in 2011.

He was then elevated to legend status in the South Fremantle Football Club Hall of Fame in 2016 and now has taken his place in the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Naylor was inducted in Melbourne on Tuesday night alongside Mel Whinnen, Wayne Johnston, Terry Wallace, David Neitz and Matthew Scarlett with Kevin Sheedy elevated to the status of legend.

The South Fremantle legend, who vies with George Doig and Austin Robertson Jr for the title of WA's greatest spearhead, performed some astounding goalkicking feats, including claiming the elite-level record of 23 goals in a game and the WAFL record of 167 in a season.

But Naylor always shied away from the limelight and, when pressed to reveal his secrets, always declared he owed everything to his teammates.

Naylor died of cancer in 1993 at 70, so his induction into the Australian Football Hall of Fame has been an emotional experience for his family.

"It's absolutely wonderful. The whole family is over the moon," Naylor's widow Pat said.

"Bernie never played football for any rewards - he just played for the love of the game.

"He was so modest that whenever he went to a football function he'd say, 'I just want to take a back seat so that no one would even know I was there.'

"He probably wouldn't show it, but if he was still here he'd be thrilled to bits."

The 10th surviving child of a West Australian father and Victorian mother, Naylor was recruited from amateur team Fremantle CBC Old Boys.

At 18 in 1941, he bagged 6.5 on debut for South Fremantle and 60 goals for the season, including nine of his team's 15 goals in a semi-final win.

Naylor missed four important developmental years when the WAFL was suspended from 1942 to 1945 because of World War II. He served as a signal man in Darwin and New Guinea, where he practised his goal shooting by kicking between palm trees.

After the war he started making up for lost time, heading the 1946 goalkicking table with 131 (including a reported 90 before receiving a free kick). It was the first of five centuries and was his proudest individual achievement.

Naylor was the weapon in South Fremantle's six premierships over the next eight seasons, using his speed, smarts and sure hands to mark on leads before finishing off his work with deadly torpedoes.

The right-footer employed an unorthodox grip for his signature spiral punt (which he learned from former WAFL player Jim Ditchburn), turning the lace 90 degrees to the right so that it was partly covered by his right hand.

Naylor practised his goalkicking religiously from about 40 metres, focusing on "rhythm and timing".

He was also an amateur meteorologist, Pat Naylor revealing: "On Friday nights and Saturday mornings he'd check the sky and the weather, because he wasn't a wet-weather player."

A thigh injury prompted a move to half-forward for almost two seasons before he returned to the goal square and greater glory.

Naylor's phenomenal 167-goal season in 1953 - an effort he later revealed he "hadn't visualised" - featured his astonishing 23-goal haul, which included 12 in a quarter.

"This is a great day for me, but without the assistance of my teammates, I could not have broken the record," Naylor said after passing the previous record of 19 that he also shared.

"They had to get the ball and give it to me. All I had to do was kick it."

In the 1953 and 1954 Grand Final triumphs, Naylor kicked eight and seven goals respectively.

After the latter success, the 31-year-old bank officer retired to focus on providing for his five children.

"I have had a lot of fun and I have no regrets," he explained.

In his last three seasons, Naylor amassed 447 goals in 63 games - an average of 7.1 a game - for a career tally of 1034 goals in 194 games.

The Bernie Naylor Medal is awarded to the WAFL's leading goalkicker.

BERNIE NAYLOR
194 games for South Fremantle 1941, 1946-54, kicking 1034 goals
16 games for Western Australia, kicking 44 goals
South Fremantle premiership 1947-48, 1950, 1952-54
South Fremantle Fairest and Best 1953
South Fremantle Leading Goalkicker 1941, 1946-54 
WAFL Leading Goalkicker 1946-48, 1952-54
West Australian Football Hall of Fame 2004
South Fremantle Football Club Hall of Fame 2011
Legend in South Fremantle Football Club Hall of Fame 2016
Australian Football Hall of Fame 2018