East Fremantle Football Club legend and WA Football Hall of Fame inductee Alan Preen passed away aged 81 on Sunday, November 27.
Preen will be long remembered for his elite skills which saw him represent Western Australia on 15 occasions, finish runner-up in the 1958 Sandover Medal and twice win East Fremantle's fairest and best award.
He was named in the Sharks' Team of the Century in 1997 and inducted in the WA Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Games: 137: East Fremantle 122, Western Australia 15
Goals: 108: East Fremantle 93 Western Australia 15
Honours: Australian Carnival player 1956 and 1958, All Australian 1958
Sandover Medal runner-up 1958
East Fremantle Fairest and Best 1954 and 1958
East Fremantle Premiership player 1957
East Fremantle Team of the Century 1997
A brilliant football career terminated voluntarily at its zenith after seven seasons featuring almost mandatory State selection, All Australian selection, twice club fairest and best and Sandover Medal runner-up is now a difficult concept to understand.
For outstanding all-round sportsman Alan Preen, however, interstate transfer frustrations and the lure of professional cricket in the United Kingdom proved too strong and an already great football career was cut short at the age of just 24.
A product of the Fremantle Boys School, Temperance League and Fremantle Ex-Scholars competitions, Preen established himself as the regular centreman in the powerful East Fremantle team at the age of only 17 in 1953. His play featured superb left-foot kicking, highly skilful ball-handling and deft evasion skills.
In his second season he won selection in the State team against Victoria and was thereafter a permanent fixture in WA sides apart from 1957 when a clearance dispute kept him out of the game until late in the season. His second season was particularly noteworthy for his first fairest and best award which was won with more than double the votes of his nearest contender.
At 177cms and 70kgs, Preen was slightly below the average size for a key forward but his leap and agility enabled him to excel at centre half-forward and he played the majority of his football in that position. He was, however, one of the most versatile players of his era, and could play with great effectiveness as a support ruckman.
He occupied a ruck-roving role when one of the best players in East Fremantle’s 1957 premiership winning team. The following season was perhaps his best and Preen starred in the four Australian Football Centenary Carnival games in Melbourne to be selected in the All Australian team, won his second Lynn Medal as East Fremantle’s fairest and best and was runner up to Ted Kilmurray (East Perth) for the Sandover Medal.
As a cricketer, Preen was a highly-proficient left-arm medium pace bowler who represented Western Australia in 13 first class matches between 1953/54 and 1956/57, taking 28 wickets at 34.96 including a best of 6/97 against a powerful Victorian team in 1955/56. Although the football and domestic cricket seasons were compatible at that time, it was cricket that ultimately terminated Preen’s football career.
Moving to Melbourne in early 1957 to accept an opportunity with the powerful Melbourne Football Club, Preen unfortunately found himself the pawn in a bitter clearance dispute with first East Fremantle, and then the WANFL refusing to grant a clearance on philosophical grounds. He returned to East Fremantle to play out the season on the basis of receiving a more favorable response to a future clearance application and his nine games in 1957 included the first semi-final, the preliminary final and the victorious grand final games.
After further excellent seasons at East Fremantle in 1958 and 1959 and at the age of just 24, Preen was again denied a clearance to the Melbourne Football Club and with his enthusiasm for football severely dampened, he accepted an opportunity to play professional cricket in the Central Lancashire League in England’s northern summer of 1960.
Such was his success that he stayed for six years playing in both Lancashire and Scotland thus terminating a short, but brilliant, football career. Selection on a half-forward flank in East Fremantle’s Team of the Century in 1997 was testimony to his impact in his seven seasons and reinforced his standing as one of the best all-round footballers at a hugely traditional football club.