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Premiership coach Curley happiest for playing groupFriday, October 9, 2020 - 9:49 PM - by Chris Pike

TRUE to his word before Sunday's WAFL Grand Final, what South Fremantle coach Todd Curley takes greatest satisfaction from becoming a premiership coach is giving his players the chance to now celebrate, but he deserves to be proud of what he's accomplished too.

The group of people to have played more than 100 AFL matches, almost 150 games in the WAFL, play in two premierships and now be a senior coach for almost another 200 games and having spent several seasons as an AFL assistant coach is a remarkably short one.

But the fact that Curley has packed so much into the last 30 years during his involvement in football is a remarkable thing and to now become a premiership coach to go with the two flags he won as a player at West Perth will go down as one of his crowning achievements.

Especially because of the pain and heartache he has been part of during his coaching career, and even back to his playing days, any success is something to be treasured.


While Curley did play in winning premierships at West Perth in 1995 and 2003, there were losses in 1993 and 2002 as well and then at the Western Bulldogs his bad luck in preliminary finals begun with the heartbreaking defeats to Adelaide in 1997 and 1998.

Then at West Perth as a coach, 2008 could very well have been his year had it not been for a barnstorming Swan Districts preliminary fightback before he joined the Dockers and his tenure there included a semi-final loss to Geelong at the MCG.

Then back in the WAFL at South Fremantle, the Bulldogs suffered three devastating preliminary final losses in-a-row before ending that hoodoo but losing heavily in the Grand Final in 2019 to Subiaco.

All of that isn’t meant to bring up bad memories for Curley. What it's meant to do is to highlight just why a premiership triumph like he has now guided South Fremantle to in 2020 should be cherished and celebrated.

While there would be some pride in there deep down for his own accomplishments, Curley knew what it was like to celebrate a premiership player and now what he is most happy about is giving this South Fremantle playing group that same experience.

"I'm just so happy for the players more than anything. I've been able to experience it as a player so I know how special it is and we've got some boys here who have been with me for the whole six years," Curley said. 

"But they have shown amazing resilience and not everything has worked out perfectly for us while we've been here, but they keep fronting up, digging in and trying to do the right thing. I'm just so happy for them. 

"It was a pretty good game and both teams had periods where they looked like they were in control of the game, and it was a tricky breeze to kick into and we both probably missed some opportunities. 

"But once it gets to that last 15 minutes there's not much you can do, you just hope that the things you've trained for and prepared for work out. I'm just over the moon for them."

One great positive from Curley having experienced winning premierships as a player previously was that he knew what moments straight after the game he could help the South Fremantle group create that they'll remember for a lifetime.

That's why he made sure they closed out the rest of the world long enough for just the playing group and coaching staff to enjoy one beer together.

"It's funny, Blayne Wilson just told me now he realises why we are doing this and I told him that he'll forget most of everything that happens afterwards, but that one beer for that few minutes with just the players and coaches is what you'll remember for the rest of your life," Curley said.

"That's a special time. There are times when after that we get dragged apart and there are other people around, but that time we had one beer just as a playing group and the coaches that you'll always remember. 

"We would love everyone to be able to play, but only 22 of them could and that's the chance to celebrate what we achieved together."

Curley's lifetime in football might still have plenty of life left in it given in real terms he is still a relatively young man, but his achievements are mounting into something that could see him become a genuine WA Football Hall of Fame inductee down the track.

It's an impressive CV he has now put together. He played 148 games all up at West Perth either side of his time in the AFL where he would go on to play in two premierships and four Grand Final, be captain of the Falcons.

He had a first crack in the AFL playing at Collingwood for three matches but it was at the Western Bulldogs in 115 games that he really made his mark becoming a regular and important part of a back-line in a team that went ever so close to a Grand Final berth in the late 1990s.

Curley then moved straight into coaching after retiring as West Perth captain at the end of 2015, and his three seasons in charge at the Falcons included two finals appearances and reaching a preliminary before he joined the Dockers as an assistant coach under Mark Harvey.

After a bit of a break from football really for the first time in his life, Curley then returned to the WAFL as senior coach at South Fremantle in 2015 and firstly got the Bulldogs back into the finals for the first time since 2011.

There was then the three losing preliminary finals, losing Grand Final and now the 2020 premiership triumph so throw all that together, and it's a remarkably football journey that Curley has been on.

"Steve Wasley is here with me today and he was at West Perth with me in 2006 as well so there are people I've shared this journey with for a long time," Curley said. 

"It is reward for everything you do and for your family in regards to the time it takes away from being with them. But to be honest, it really is more about the players. 

"I know how much I love the blokes I played in premierships with and how much I love spending time with those guys so now these blokes get to share it. 

"We go to reunions now and this year was the 25th anniversary of the 1995 premiership and John Dimmer came along as our coach, and we love having him there. Hopefully in 25 years these blokes will love having me along as well but it's a credit to all the off-field staff, board and admin. 

"We've had some tough losses along the way, but as a footy club we've shown enormous resilience to keep buttering up and going again. We've just kept getting back on the horse to keep working hard and I'm especially happy for the players."

On stage straight after the game having received the John Todd Medal as premiership coach, Curley dedicated the win to his mother and that's another sign of the family that he has had come along with him on this football journey.

It obviously started with his parents and then included younger brother Adam who he shared in the West Perth premiership of 2003 with. And since it's gone on to include his wife Paula and their children.

Curley has no problem admitting often family is put second to football, but he also knows he couldn’t do what he's doing without their support.

"They ride the highs and lows with you as much as you do. You come home grumpy and tired a lot, and you spend a lot of time away from them because of the footy club," he said.

"I actually just spoke with Adam on the phone and he watched the game in Sydney, and mum and dad have been along this journey from whenever I started as a kid. 

"They know how much you are invested in it, but so are the players and that's why it's a great place to be. That's why I keep coming back because it's a great place and I love being here. It's going to be a good week now."

Nothing about 2020 has been normal for anybody either in any walk of life and the WAFL competition certainly wasn’t immune to it.

The season only ended up beginning mid-July with just a nine-round season with each team playing one another once, but the fact a season was able to be played and thrive ultimately was a great credit to all involved.

Then for a Grand Final day to pull a crowd of 10,179 at Fremantle Community Bank Oval and create a remarkable atmosphere, and a carnival like event virtually out of nothing provided for a spectacle everyone will remember fondly.

Curley was proud to have seen all that pull together and couldn’t be happier to be part of a club like South Fremantle, but what he will always remember first and foremost is the job he saw on his playing group as they knew they had won a premiership.

"To be honest I think having the game here was probably bigger for the community and the City of Fremantle. It's been a tough year for everyone so I think that's probably the biggest boost out of it," Curley said.

"But for us as the footy department, coaches and players, we don’t really care where we play because we feel with our supporter base that it would be a South Freo house whether it was here, Leederville or anywhere else. 

"Certainly it's fantastic at your home ground and it's probably a one off which will never happen again, but for our footy club to have 2138 financial members in a season where a lot of those people had signed without any guarantee of any games, it's just outstanding. 

"I'm really happy for the volunteers, supporters, admin staff, assistant coaches, players that weren’t here today but have been for the last five or six years, everyone has played their part. I'm just happiest for the players because I know what's ahead of them and that's a lot of celebrating."