Fond memories of Sharks’ success

Justin FrisSouth Western Times
South Bunbury league coach Stephen Bilcich in front of his old locker at East Fremantle Oval with daughter Ebony.
Camera IconSouth Bunbury league coach Stephen Bilcich in front of his old locker at East Fremantle Oval with daughter Ebony.

If you spot South Bunbury league coach Stephen Bilcich at a fish and chip shop over Easter, chances are he will not order any shark — given his close ties and passion for the East Fremantle Football Club.

Originally from Carnarvon, Bilcich played his junior football with St Pats in Geraldton before heading down to Perth for a crack at WAFL level with the Sharks.

By the time he retired after the 2000 grand final, Bilcich, a decorated club captain, had played 215 games and shared countless memories with both his family and famous faces.

“I left home to go to school in Geraldton when I was 15 and came to Perth when I was 18,” he said. “When I first started (in 1989), Brian Peake was still playing at East Fremantle before he went across to Perth for a couple of games. I got to play a game with “Bomber” and complete a few pre-seasons with him. Paul Harding also had come back to the club and I had a lot to do with him, including playing in a premiership with him in 1994.”

Following the flag victory with Harding and company against Claremont, the tenacious on-baller finished third to teammate Craig Treleven in the Sandover Medal a year later.

However it was arguably the 1997 season — which despite ending in a heartbreaking grand final loss against bitter rivals South Fremantle — which inspired Bilcich and the Sharks to bounce back better than ever.

“It was the 100th year of the club and everything seemed to be happening and working,” he said. “We just could not quite get over the line in ‘97.

Stephen Bilcich with former Sharks teammate Steve Malaxos in 1997, which was the Sharks’ centenary year in WA football.
Camera IconStephen Bilcich with former Sharks teammate Steve Malaxos in 1997, which was the Sharks’ centenary year in WA football. Credit: Ron D'Raine/Ron D’Raine.

“It would have been the icing on the cake if we had been able to, but South on the day were a little too good for us.

“In a way, it was probably the reason why we won in 1998 against West Perth. All the boys made a commitment to play on the following year (after the grand final loss). Some of them were great players and might have wanted to go back home to Victoria, but they ended up staying an extra year.

Bilcich’s appreciation for his wife Samantha and children Max, Maddy, Ebony and Holly is well known throughout the football community, however this passion is also mirrored with how he coaches.

“I try to build relationships one on one and try to develop players as people,” he said. “ I would like to think I have developed a good rapport with each player.”

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