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Stephen Albert Michael Retired WAFL Football Player

Stephen Michael Famous Australian Rules Football Player

He was born and raised in Kojonup, Western Australia, and is still regarded as one of the greatest players to have played in the West Australian Football League. Like most Aussie Rules players, he started his career in his teens, earlier than most players usually do, and played as a ruckman.
Stephen Michael

Michael began playing for the South Fremantle Football Club who are also known as the Bulldogs and remained with them for the full span of his career and was their captain for the last two years of his career. Stephen never played in the Victorian Football League although he did get persuasive offers from different clubs. He just wanted to make a name for himself in the WAFL. He did set an example of loyalty and commitment to a club by staying at South Fremantle for his entire career.

He is a member of the Fremantle Football Hall of Legends and Australian Football Hall of Fame. In addition, Stephen won many other awards and medals for being the best player at his club and one of the best in the league. In addition, Stephen holds records for the most games played in the WAFL. He is also a part of the Australian Football Indigenous Team of the Century and South Fremantle Football Club’s Indigenous Team of the Century.

His opinion and contribution was valued by football fans as he was a regular guest at a sports panel show The Marngrook Footy Show, which the platform he used to continue his association with the sport he loved even after he stopped playing.

Playing Career

Stephen Michael played exclusively for the Bulldogs in the WAFL. The WAFL is an Aussie rules football league based in Perth in Western Australia. It is the second most popular league in Australia after the Australian Football League. The WAFL is generally considered to be a semi-professional league. Stephen started his career at the age of 19 as a ruck. He was clearly one of the best ruckmen in the game at the time and led the team to many successful games in his career.

Despite the league’s inferior status compared to the AFL, Stephen Michael managed to forge a successful career for himself. This is a testament to his ability and the skill that he was known all over the country for.

1979 WAFL Grand Final

Stephen Michael played three Grand Finals in his career. In the 1979 WAFL Grand Finals, the Bulldogs played against East Fremantle. Throughout the 1979 season, the leading team was Claremont. Both Grand finalists were defeated by Claremont in the home and away games. However, both teams immediately stepped up their performance in the finals and defeated every other club that came before them, including Claremont.

South Fremantle and East Fremantle faced each other in the Grand Final; and this was one of the greatest matches ever played. Both teams were equal and dominated each other throughout the game. However, towards the end, East Fremantle claimed victory by a margin of 33 points.

1980 WAFL Grand Final

Stephen Michael only played in one Premiership game in his career. The WAFL Grand Final in 1980 was played between South Fremantle and the Swan Districts Football Club. The Swans were a dominant team since the beginning of the season and took an early lead with 13 straight wins. The team was taken by surprise in the home and away games when the Bulldogs managed to defeat them on their home ground by a 19-point margin.

On the other hand, the Bulldogs were not having a good season that year because their centre half-back wasn’t cleared by the Supreme Court to move to South Fremantle. With Joe McKay missing, the team didn’t look like much in their home and away games. To top that off, the team’s coach Mal Brown resigned.

Although the coach withdrew his resignation, the team did lose the game that week. After the coach returned, the team’s performance took off and they won 12 games in a row. This landed them in the second place on the WAFL ladder, right behind Swan Districts.

In the Grand Final of the WAFL, the Bulldogs faced the Swans. This was a rematch from the home and away seasons. Keeping in mind the performance for the Swans the entire season, it seemed that they were going to turn out to be the winners. As expected, the Swans started out strong and scored two goals not too long into the game. The Bulldogs made a little effort and scored three goals before quarter time, grabbing the lead by 10 points.

The Bulldogs seemed to be a completely different team in the second quarter as they dominated the field from the start. The team kicked eight goals and only allowed one goal to the Swans. By half time, South Fremantle had the lead by a massive 54 points. As the season’s best, the Swans scored six goals in the last 10 minutes of the game, but that wasn’t enough to bridge the point gap that the Bulldogs had created.

The Swans lost by 58 points and the Bulldogs secured their 10th WAFL premiership. Michael scored two goals in the game. Unfortunately, the team was not able to secure any other Premiership after this until 1997. Being able to win only a single Premiership remains the only obvious blight on Stephen Michael’s otherwise spectacular career. Yet, his other achievements more than make up for this. They also show how great he was even though his club didn’t enjoy much success during his time at the club.

1981 WAFL Grand Final

The Bulldogs landed in the Grand Finals for the third consecutive year. They had secured their 10th Premiership win the year before and were confident of getting the flag for the 11th time. The Bulldogs were to face Claremont in the Grand Final, and the team had been strong the entire season. In the Grand Final, Claremont took over the field early and secured their fifth Premiership victory by defeating South Fremantle. The same season, also marked a new record for the Tigers as they scored 3,352 points in just 21 games.

This was also the last Grand Final that the Bulldogs would make it to until 1997. Although the team lost the Grand Final, Stephen Michael performed exceptionally and was made the captain for the Bulldogs in 1983. He remained the team captain till his retirement in 1985.

Stephen Michael still holds the record for the most league games played. He played 217 consecutive league games, which is quite an achievement considering the lower standards of player safety back in the day. The total games that he played were 243 and he scored 231 goals in his 10-year career. In recognition of his talents, he won many awards throughout his career.

Awards And Achievements

Stephen Michael represented Western Australia in 17 games and captained the state team three times. In addition, he won the Simpson Medal which is awarded to the best player in an interstate match. In the same year, he also won the Tassie Medal, which is also an award given to the best player at the end of each Interstate championship.

The Sandover Medal, which was named after Alfred Sandover, is an award given to the Best and Fairest player in the WAFL. Stephen Michael won this award twice in a row, for his performances in the 1980 and 1981 Grand Finals. He was also awarded the club’s Best and Fairest award five times in his career.

Firstly, he won the award three times in a row from 1977 to 1979 and then 1981 and 1983. When Michael was made captain of the Bulldogs in 1983, he was became the captain for the All-Australian team in the same year.

In consideration of his contribution towards football, Stephen Michael was inducted as a legend in the Fremantle Football Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2005, he was included in the Indigenous Team of the Century as a centre half forward. Later, in 2009, he was named as the ruck and captain of the South Fremantle Indigenous Team of the Century.

Personal Life

Stephen Michael has two daughters and five sons. One of his sons, Clem Michael, also played for the South Fremantle Club and was part of the premiership winning team of 1997. Unfortunately, his son’s career was unlike his as the latter had to retire early in his career due to an injured knee. Stephen’s son Clem only played for three years.

Regardless, Stephen Albert Michael will remain one of the best footballers the WAFL has known, be it due to his skills out on the field or his long dedication to his team.

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