Keith Harper

Monday, January 25, 2021 - 8:22 AM

KEITH HARPER – ALL AUSTRALIAN WINGMAN

When wingman Keith Harper was voted Perth’s fairest and best player 70 years ago in 1951, it signalled the start of a brilliant career in which he captained both the club and the state, and gained selection in the All Australian team in 1956.

Keith was a dedicated centreline player. He was centreman in the 1949 grand final side against West Perth, and again in the 1950 decider when Perth went down to South Fremantle by six points in a thriller.

But the doors didn’t open immediately after the grand finals and his first club award. He had to wait till 1953 to gain state selection for the first time, which was for the national carnival in Adelaide. He then became a fixture in the WA side, making 18 appearances in interstate clashes as a wingman.

His leadership qualities were recognised in 1954 when captain-coach, Ern Henfry, retired as a player mid-season. Keith took over the captaincy, filling the role until his own retirement in 1960. The highlight was leading the club to a nail-biting two point win over East Fremantle in the 1955 grand final, breaking a 48-year premiership drought. 

A robust, uncompromising left footer, Keith was recognised as one of the best wingmen in the country through the 1950s as awards came his way. He won a Simpson Medal in the clash against Victoria in 1954, captained WA in 1955-56 and gained three more Perth fairest and bests: 1953, 1957 and 1959.

In 1954 he was joined in the league side by younger brother Roy who kicked two goals in the 1955 premiership win. Roy was equally as tough as Keith in his 213 games – mostly as a defender – winning three fairest and bests, representing WA for three years and winning the Simpson Medal in 1962. He was also league skipper in 1964.

Describing Keith’s style in the club history, From Redlegs to Demons, Ern Henfry said: “He had nearly everything as a footballer. He was strong, fast and determined, and a great mid-fielder.”

Keith and Roy are Life members and were recognised as joint Club Legends in 2003. They were elevated as inaugural members of the club’s Hall of Fame in 2015. Keith was also an inaugural member of the WA Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Coincidentally another Perth champion wingman and WA and club Hall of Fame inductee, Greg Brehaut – also a left footer and a triple premiership player - gained All Australian selection in 1969. Sadly Greg died in 1993.  

Unfortunately both Keith and Roy have also died. And Keith’s wife Jeanette, who represented him at the Hall of Fame induction, died in January (2021).

  • PETER KENNEDY