THINK of Australia in 1947 and more specifically, think of the rudimentary telecommunications and media infrastructure of the time.

No TV. Not much in the way of radio. No national newspapers. What happened in a city might often stay in a city, especially one as far flung from the rest of the country as Perth.

Yet in 1947, The Sporting Globe, the Melbourne-based bi-weekly newspaper, nominated Merv McIntosh as the best player in the country.

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Hall of Fame: Merv McIntosh

Dominant Perth ruck Merv McIntosh elevated to Legend status of the Hall of Fame

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Words of his deeds as Perth's No.1 ruckman, less than two seasons after he returned from active service as an infantryman in New Guinea, made its way across the Nullarbor.

Standing at 198cm, he was a giant of West Australian football, literally and physically.

Perth's Merv McIntosh launches a long bomb: Picture: Supplied

Reports from the time would marvel at his strength and determination and his brilliant football brain. Unusually for such a big man, he boasted exquisite skills.

"He could short pass as daintily and turn as nimbly as any footballer of more reasonable proportions," one reporter wrote.

"He was a gentle giant. He was always described that way," said Kay Vallance, the oldest of his six children. Among them is former Australian netball coach Jill McIntosh.

"He had these really large hands. You'd see them around a ball and he would carry it like it was nothing.

"He was never involved in altercations with other players. He did what he did, and he was very fair."

Merv McIntosh showing his ruck craft for Perth. Picture: Supplied

McIntosh played three seasons for Perth, went off to war and then returned to play a further 10 years.

He won three Sandover Medals and a host of other awards that were prestigious in their time including Simpson and Tassie medals. He was an All-Australian selection in 1953 and won his club's best and fairest on seven occasions.

Many say he saved his best game for last.

Perth entered the 1955 WAFL Grand Final against East Fremantle looking for its first premiership since 1907, and all seemed lost when the Redlegs (now Demons) trailed by 34 points at half-time.

But they came storming back in the third term to trail by two points at the final change.

Kicking into a howling gale, they hit the front in the final term and then held on grimly. McIntosh took charge in the final five minutes, locking the ball in the dead pocket and repeatedly knocking it out of bounds to preserve a two-point lead.

"We got away with it," he told reporters after a performance in which he had 45 hitouts and 24 possessions.

It was one of the great final acts in football history, anytime, anywhere.

McIntosh ran a successful garage while playing football, so was never tempted to try his luck in Victoria.

The largest offer he ever received was to move to Tasmania, but not even prospect of making 20 pounds a game, plus suitable employment, tempted him.

McIntosh was an inaugural member of the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and is a Legend of the West Australian Football Hall of Fame.

He is the third West Australian-born champion to become a Legend in the Australian Football Hall of Fame, joining Graham 'Polly' Farmer and Barry Cable.

"It was just great to see that he had been finally acknowledged as playing a big part in football in Australia," Vallance said.

"There were people along the way who said he should be a Legend. Other players from the time said he should be.

"It is good to think that another West Australian has been elevated. Cable, Farmer and now dad and that really is such an honour."


Club: Perth
Born: November 25, 1922
Died: May 3, 2010
Recruited from: Maddington (WA)
Playing career: 1939-41 and 1946-55
Games: 217
Goals: 79
Player honours: Sandover Medal 1948, 1953, 1954; best and fairest 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1954; premiership 1955; West Australian representative (24 games); All-Australian (carnival) 1953; Tassie Medal 1953; Simpson Medal 1952, 1953, 1955; Perth Team of the Century; WA Hall of Fame (Legend).