WEST Perth had been beaten in the second semi-final in 1999 by the Fremantle Dockers-aligned South Fremantle.
They bounced back with a big preliminary final win over Subiaco, but coach John Dimmer’s Falcons were given no chance in the grand final against the Bulldogs.
The pundits would be proved wrong, with the Kim Rigoll-captained West Perth beating their more fancied opponents to win the ’99 flag 14.13 (97) to 11.6 (72). In the 20th anniversary year of the premiership, Dimmer rates it his best of four WAFL flags as coach.
“Victory on grand final day was a culmination of all things we had been working on throughout the year,” he said.
“We had a relatively young team. We’d lost the ’98 grand final to East Fremantle, so that was a bit of motivation for a number of the players. Some of the boys who missed out in the ’98 grand final were selected to ’99 and they thought that was their big chance to win a premiership.
“And South Fremantle had been the dominant team all year. We weren’t given any chance by pretty much anybody.
“All the media scribes picked South Fremantle. And it was going to be a comfortable victory for South and we wouldn’t be able to match them. That was a little bit extra motivation as well.”
“And they played very well in a grand final to win it. So it was just a fantastic effort by the boys.”
Dimmer said he had “brought a fair bit of experience” to the 1999 season.
“We’d won it in 1995. I’d coached the (West Coast) amateurs in ’94 to the premiership and I’d been at Claremont for a while (with Gerard Neesham),” he said.
“Being an educator helps with coaching because you have all that teaching background, with specialisation in physical education. And the fact that the players were motivated, young and wanted to have success helps.”
Has coaching changed and were you at the forefront of that change to a more communicative approach?
“I know when I first went to West Perth, people couldn’t believe that I spoke calmly and didn’t get overexcited or overagitated. So that possibly was a big change for a lot of people and maybe the players as well.
“But I’ve always thought that’s the best way to get the message across and the players have got to have an internal motivation. Intrinsic motivation, as they call it. You call on the players and what they have inside rather than in my opinion ranting and raving and carrying on and screaming and yelling.
“So that’s the way I’ve always tended to coach.”
You knew when to tell a player off?
“Yes, there were times when you had to.
“And there were times when you had to say things to the whole team.
“But I would much prefer to approach it with a positive rather than a negative. If they needed a negative, then that’s what happened.
“If you could then couch some positives on top of that negative, I always thought that was a better way to go as well.
“So the player could always see that they were doing some things right and it wasn’t all negative. Because if you end up all negative, negative players can get down on themselves.
“And they then start to fear playing because they’re scared to make a mistake. And you want players to have a go at things and if they make a mistake while they’re having a go, as long as they’re following team rules then you say ‘fair enough, you made a mistake but hey, let’s keep going’.”
What about skill; did you have an emphasis on developing player skills?
“Yes, that’s got to be a key part of coaching any sporting team.
“It has to be skills under pressure. There’s not much point just continually kicking the ball around or handpassing the ball with nobody chasing them or trying to tackle. So you have to practise as if you are playing a game.”
How do you do that (match simulation) at training?
“You set up little training drills. Three on four. Or two on three. And you give the three the ball and the few little key factors that they have to work on to try to beat the two. You can either score a goal with a kicking drill or handball in a handball game.
“And you always have an umpire to umpire it. So if the players aren’t doing the right tackles, they’re penalised.”
Who was your favourite coach or who did you learn the most about coaching and football from? Your dad?
“Dad had absolutely no influence on me at all (with regard to Australian football),” Dimmer said.
“I was actually born in England and he was born in England (Dimmer was 11 when he came to Australia from Yorkshire) and he had no idea about Australian football and I just learnt how to play the game when I got to school.
“They said to me ‘right you’ve got the choice, in summer you can play cricket and in winter you can play Australian football’.
“I’d been raised on soccer and rugby league.
“So I thought ‘ok I better learn how to play this game’.
“I learnt from mates at school and teachers… and slowly got into it.
“From a coaching point of view, Ross Smith was pretty good during the 1973 season when we won the premiership at Subiaco.
“But you learn stuff from all coaches and you tailor it to suit your style and your personality and what you believe in on the footy ground.
“So you take some things from some coaches but you don’t take other things from the same coaches.
“And you come up with your own blend on how to do things.”
Do you still love the game?
“Yes, it’s a great game. It’s one of the best spectator sports in the world,” Dimmer said.
“It’s one of the great sports for players to be involved in as well. There is always action and so many different aspects to it.
“It’s a game suitable for blokes who are 6 foot 7, 6ft 8 and little blokes who are 5ft 6 or 5ft 7.
“It’s very hard to sit back and play one particular style. You have to have players who have a little bit of flair and be able to play with that flair at times.
You were guest of a West Perth luncheon recently. Did you enjoy going back?
“It was good. In their new clubrooms. There was a heck of a lot of people I hadn’t seen for a while. So yeah it was a great afternoon.”
DIMMER’S COACHING RECORD
Claremont (reserves) two flags
West Coast Amateurs 1994
West Perth 1995, 1999
South Fremantle 2005, 2009
Fremantle Dockers assistant coach 2000
Director of coaching
West Perth 2002-2003 when Darren Harris coached team to 2003 flag