Where are they now? Frank Dean

by Ron Head

The 1959 WANFL grand final, played between East Perth and Subiaco, was notable not only as the third of three premierships in four years for the Royals, but for the valiant attempt by the success-starved Maroons to buck the odds and beat the star studded East Perth side in what was to that time the best attended grand final ever in Western Australia.

Just scraping into the four, Subiaco went down by twenty three points.

For many Subiaco players, including defender Frank Dean, it was to be the closest they would get to a flag. Most of them wouldn’t play in a grand final again, let alone a premiership.

Dean was a star for the losing side that day, a Rock of Gibraltar in the backline. 

A powerful kick and strong competitor, Frank was at his peak in 1959, but injury was to restrict him to a hundred and twenty eight games over ten seasons.

Frank Dean was a product of the Subiaco juniors, playing under fifteens and sixteens as a forward, and later with Metropolitan Juniors. Vice Captain of the State Metropolitan juniors side, he also captained a representative Perth under sixteens side against Fremantle, led by John Todd. Joining Subiaco in 1955, he was selected for the thirteenth game of that season, against South Fremantle, on a half forward flank opposed to State player Ray Crawford. I got two kicks, he quipped. But one was a goal.

He recalls the first time he encountered Jack Sheedy.

I was on a half forward flank, and we were playing East Perth at Perth Oval. I looked up, and there was Jack making a beeline for me. He was an icon of the game, and as I nervously went to shake his hand he gave me a whack, nearly breaking my wrist. His greeting was: Ok, son, come near me and I’ll kill ya.

I managed a few kicks, then as the ball bounced my way I felt a thud on the back of my neck. Finishing the game, I ended up in hospital, where I stayed for three weeks.

Frank Dean was a magnificent long kick, and as an eighteen year old won a State long distance kicking championship.

The six foot and nine stone( 57 kg) Dean played as a ruck rover to ruckman Keith Dean, his brother, who played 142 league games, early in his career, before becoming full back for five years and then centre half back. My weight went out to fourteen stone (88 kg) in later years, so I slowed down a bit, he said.

A cartilage injury in 1956 saw Frank as a pioneer in the use of the American knee bandage, later made famous by John Todd. He continued to impress, polling nine votes for the 1957 Sandover Medal, six behind winner Polly Farmer. Selected in the State squad in 1958, it was a plethora of full backs in the team plus concerns about his knee that saw him left out of the final touring party.

A member of the Subiaco sides of 1961 and 1964 that were unsuccessful finals aspirants, Dean retired just prior to the 1966 season. I had done the pre season, but injured the other knee, he recalled. I remembered what I went through with the other one, so, at the age of twenty eight, I called it quits.

History was to repeat itself when son Warren embarked on his football career.

A talented half forward, Warren Dean was an eighty two game player with Subiaco, gained State selection three times with Western Australia, played in the Lions 1986 premiership side, and was recruited by Melbourne, where he made thirty two appearances before contracting an infection in a knee. He was later drafted by West Coast Eagles, but never played another AFL game.

Paul Dean played thirty two games at West Perth as a full back before retiring at the age of twenty two.

Frank regarded South Fremantle forward John Gerovich as hardest to beat. He was all over you, on top of your head, everywhere. On his day there wasn’t a lot you could do to stop him legally.

He also rated East Fremantle spearhead Len Anderson. Laurie Kettlewell was his best Subiaco player with a special mention for the talents of Austin Robertson.

A French Polisher by trade, Frank Dean spent most of his working life as a painter, but the brushes have now gone the way of the footy boots, and he and wife Moira are happy in retirement by the seaside. They are kept busy by their grandchildren, with Warren, Paul, and daughters Sharon and Suzanne frequent visitors.

Frank Dean was a solid defender for Subiaco in the late fifties and early sixties, as was brother Keith. Throw in Warren and the Subiaco Football Club have much to thank the Dean family for.  

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