Subiaco Oval was first used for football in 1908, but only as the home ground of the Subiaco Football Club. Finals were played on a range of grounds, including Perth Oval, the WACA, Midland Junction and Leederville Oval.
In 1936 Subiaco Oval was established as the headquarters of the WAFL. It set up office and all finals and state games were played at Subiaco Oval thereafter.
For the next 30 years very little development occurred at the ground. There were two relatively small grandstands, a Members Stand on the north-eastern flank and an old Public Stand on the north-western flank. The rest of the ground comprised of grassy sloping banks, which provided for standing room only when crowds were large.
With spectators standing shoulder to shoulder, several grand finals attracted crowds in excess of 50,000. The record crowd was 52,781 at the 1979 derby grand final between East Fremantle and South Fremantle. East Fremantle became Premiers with a 33 point victory but not before a third quarter brawl which involved almost every player on the field.
The first major post war ground development was completed in 1969, with the opening of the 3 Tier Stand at the western end of the ground. This was followed by another development in 1981. This involved demolishing the old Public Stand and building the large 2 Tier Stand that extended from the 3 Tier Stand all the way around to the Members Stand.
The entire southern side of the ground remained standing room until a third development which coincided with the introduction of the Fremantle Football Club into the AFL in 1995. The development provided a large amount of covered seating for the public as well as state of the art corporate facilities.
The fourth and final stage of the major development was completed in 2000. This development provided more covered seating for the public and many more corporate facilities.
The colourful history of WA football is acknowledged with the naming of the entrances to the ground and function rooms within the stadium after some of the significant contributors to the game.
John Todd Entrance
John Todd burst onto the WAFL scene as a brilliant 16 year old for South Fremantle in 1955. In that same year he became the youngest Sandover Medalist in history. Early in his second season he suffered a very serious knee injury. Despite never fully recovering he played in excess of 150 games. In 1959 at just 20 years of age he was appointed league coach of South Fremantle and later went on to coach East Fremantle and Swan Districts. After coaching the West Coast Eagles for two seasons in 1988 and 1989 he returned to Swan Districts and then South Fremantle where he eventually became the second person to coach three different WAFL clubs to premierships.
Merv McIntosh Entrance
Despite his career being severely curtailed by the war years, Merv McIntosh played 217 games for Perth as well as 20 state games for Western Australia. He won 3 Sandover Medals, 3 Simpson Medals and 7 Best and Fairest awards for his club. He won his third Simpson Medal in his last game which also happened to be a premiership winning game. At his peak he was regarded by many as Australia’s premier ruckman.
Steve Marsh Entrance
Steve Marsh played 265 WAFL games and 19 state games. He won the 1952 Sandover Medal and the following year won the Simpson Medal. He was a major driving force behind South Fremantle winning six premierships in 8 years and during that time also won 4 Best and Fairest awards. In 1957 he transferred to arch rival East Fremantle as Captain / Coach and won the premiership in his first year.
Merv Cowan Entrance
Merv Cowan commenced his service to WA football as an underage player during the war time WAFL competition and concluded some 55 years later. He finished his playing career in 1957 after 170 games with East Fremantle and immediately served the club in several roles including Secretary, Selector and President. For over 20 years he served as a member on the WAFL Board of Management before finishing as a board member with the Fremantle Dockers in 1997.
Whinnen Dempsey Gates
Mel Whinnen and Bill Dempsey both enjoyed memorable careers with the West Perth Football Club. Coincidently their careers almost paralleled each other and a well known memorabilia item has them identified as “The Cardinal Twins”. Whinnen and Dempsey commenced playing in 1960 and played 371 and 343 game respectively. These were the highest and second highest game totals for any one club. Between them they played in 7 premierships and both won Simpson Medals. During their careers they were renowned for their fairness and sportsmanship and this was reflected in the respect accorded them by opposing clubs.
Dr Peter Tannock Entrance
Whilst Dr Peter Tannock played just over 50 games for East Perth he is most respected for his role as an administrator within WA football. In 1989 he became Chairman of the newly constructed WA Football Commission and at this time WA football was in serious trouble. 5 of the 8 WAFL clubs were in serious financial trouble, the West Coast Eagles were unsuccessful and insolvent and facilities at Subiaco Oval were unsatisfactory. He retired in 1999 however he provided a dramatic transformation to WA Football over the decade. Accomplishments included the reconstruction of West Coast Eagles administration, making them highly profitable as well as successfully playing in 10 finals series including 2 Premierships. Redevlopment of Subiaco Oval had also taken place during this time.
Bill Walker Room
Bill Walker’s record comprises 4 Sandover Medals, 305 games for Swan Districts, 20 state games, the 1967 Simpson Medal, All Australian selection in 1969, 3 Premierships as well as administration positions with Swan Districts for over a decade.
Ross Capes Room
Ross Capes umpired 275 games including 8 grand finals. When he retired in 1982 he became the coach of the WAFL umpires for 3 years. Whilst still umpiring he officiated in 9 successive seasons of state football games.
Polly Farmer Room
Polly Farmer is described by many as the greatest player to ever play the game. He was the only West Australian named in the AFL Team of the Century and was named as one of the 12 inaugural Legends when the AFL launched the Hall of Fame in 1996. His football record includes 356 games, 6 premierships, 10 Fairest and Best awards, 36 state games, 3 Sandover Medals and 4 Simpson Medals.
John Worsfold Room
John Worsfold joined South Fremantle as a 17 year old in 1986. He played 19 games in his debut season and was immediately selected as a member of the inaugural West Coast Eagles squad. In 1991, he was named captain at just 22 years of age. He eventually captained them to 2 Premierships in 1992 and 1994. After retiring in 1998 he took an assistant coaches position at Carlton before returning to West Coast and coaching the team in back to back Grand Finals, winning the 2006 Premiership. John Worsfold resigned from being the Senior Coach of West Coast Eagles at the end of the 2013 AFL season.
Barry Cable Room
Barry Cable commenced his career in 1962 and just 2 years later won the first of his 3 Sandover medals. By the end of his career he had played over 400 games, won 6 premierships, 8 Fairest and Best awards and 4 Simpson Medals. In 1979 he was awarded the MBE for his services to football and is highly regarded along with Polly Farmer as perhaps the two greatest players produced in WA.
This room recognizes the contribution of the Doig family to WA football. 17 family members played league football but by far the most famous Doig was George Doig. From 1933 – 1941 he kicked an amazing 1082 goals which was a season average of just over 120 goals. Not surprisingly he was named at full forward in the WA state Team of the Century and in 1988 was inducted into the WA Hall of Champions (inclusive of all sports).
Outridge Hoft Room
This room honours WA’s Sandover medalists and recognizes the inaugural winners Tom Outridge and Cyril Hoft. Outridge played over 200 games for Subiaco and in 2008 was named in the forward pocket in Subiaco’s Team of the Century.