1995 – Western Reds are born in Perth
Originally the Perth Pumas when tabled for submission in 1992, Perth’s own Rugby League team the Western Reds played their first ever game in 1995.
Featuring some big names in their squad such as: Mick Potter, Mark Geyer, Peter Sheils, Rodney Howe, Greg Fleming, Brad Mackay (Capt), Matt Rodwell and coached by Peter Mulholland.
The Reds met St George at the WACA in their first game and put on a good showing – winning 28 to 16 in front of a crowd of 25,000.
The Reds had a very respectable season in 1995, they won 8 of 11 home games – making it a graveyard for away teams at the WACA. The Reds came in 11th at season end, missing the playoffs by 1 spot – as 10 of the 20 teams formed the final series.
1996 saw the Super League War break out; and players such as Craig Innes and Brad Mackay left to join ARL aligned clubs Manly and Illawarra. The Reds were able to gain Robbie Kearns and Julian O’Neil – but tough times lay ahead.
The Reds joined the Super League Tournament in 1996; 1 of 10 teams in the competition. Poor onfields performances and dwindling crowd figures let to financial problems for the Reds and speculation was rife the team would be re-located to Melbourne.
The ill-fated Reds were eventually wound up at the completion of the 1997 season. The bulk of the playing squad was eventually signed by the Melbourne Storm; Kearns, Howe, Geyer and Bell all taking up offers from the Storm.
Sadly that was the end of Perth’s foray in the NRL; such a shame considering Perth had started to produce it’s own juniors – players such as: Shannon Hegarty, Matt Petersen and Daniel Holdsworth.
The ARU has now taken to Perth; forming the Western Force and seizing on the lost League opportunity. Interestingly, while Perth houses Union and AFL teams – they do have the largest local Rugby League competition outside of NSW and Queensland.