THE 1969 GRAND Final. It's hard to know where to start. I've had some good times in my life's journey, but that day, and the week either side of it, are pretty hard to beat.

There were two weeks between the second semi and the grand final of course. There was no thought of slacking off or recovering in that first week; Pol kept training us hard and kept us on our toes. And somewhere in that first week Les Day came to see me. Les was a committee man and the club secretary. Him and me had always got on, despite my blues with the club hierarchy.

He said the club wanted to bring my mother down to see the grand final and asked what I thought about that idea. I was blown away. I hadn't put the idea to them or put the thought in their head. Not as far as I can recall, in any way. And more than anything else in my time at West Perth, it made me realise that I was appreciated there and I was valued. Anyway, Les rang her up, and invited her down.

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Convincing her to come was another thing though. It wasn't that she didn't want to, but she'd never been outside the Northern Territory except when she'd been evacuated to Victor Harbour with me in 1942, and she'd never been on an aeroplane and didn't like the thought of getting on one of those contraptions one little bit. She wanted to know why she couldn't catch the bus. She wanted to know where she was going to stay. One drama after another. But we got it sorted out.

I told her there wasn't enough time for the bus, it'd take a week, and the game'd be come and gone. I lined up some friends, Benny Lew Fatt and his wife Sandra, to organise her at that end, and get her onto the plane and sit with her. She was still a bit reluctant but they talked her into it. They promised to look after her and she stayed with them down here. She respected the fact that I had enough on my mind with the grand final coming up, and she was happy as Larry with Benny and Sandra. I saw her when she got in, made sure she was all set, and I did a couple of media things with her. But it was all business that week. We had a game to win.

Bill Dempsey and his mother Dorothy before the 1969 WAFL grand final. Picture: Westpix/Magabala Books

I can still remember to this day the speech that Pol gave to us at the Thursday night players' tea two days out from the game. Not the words, but the feeling that it created in me. There was no clenched fist stuff. He was never one for shouting, or never one for being emotional with us guys. He just laid it on the table. This is what we've got to do, this is how we're going to do it. We owe it to all our people, all our supporters, and you owe it to yourselves. Quietly. Very quietly. We were all quiet too, just sitting there, just listening to him, mesmerised. It was just the most fantastic speech of inspiration I ever heard. We were ready to run through brick walls. I remember being a bit worried that we still had to wait through Friday and Saturday and hoping we didn't use up all our energy.

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ON THE DAY I didn't need any more speeches or anything like that. I was pumped. I just wanted to get out there and get on with it. When we ran out on the ground I spotted Mum in the crowd. There was a big heap of Darwin people had come down, and she was sitting with all them behind the goal, with a West Perth band like a scarf. I knew that she was right. From there, it was down to business.

We were the physically stronger side and we were skilful. And we knew when to be physical and when to be skilful. We had them on the back foot from that second semi, and we pressed our advantage. That first quarter we just blasted them off the park.

Bill Dempsey at the front of a pack crashed by Polly Farmer in the 1968 WAFL second semi-final. Picture: Westpix/Magabala Books

Once we got Mal Brown spitting and spewing he was gone, because he wanted to go and nail blokes. And while he's nailing a bloke, his man's up the other end kicking a goal. 'Thanks Mal, you beauty,' we'd stir him up a bit more.

We had it wrapped up by half time. It was like a demolition, and the fact that it was East Perth made it even sweeter. It's a strange feeling being out there on the field in a grand final, still playing, still going as hard as you can, but knowing you've got it won.

I never relaxed until that final siren. I still find it hard to put into words what it really meant, winning that flag in '69. I think it was like a vindication. It made those ten years worthwhile. Not just all the games, and the thousands of hours on the training track, but also all the big decisions and commitments I'd made along the way to leave home and build myself a new life in Perth. And being the mature and responsible person that I am, when that siren blew all those feelings translated in my mind to the thought that I'm going to get pissed for a week.

But before I could get down to the serious business of celebrating the win, there was something else to cap it all off. I was voted the winner of the Simpson Medal as the best player on the ground in the grand final. It wasn't like these days where the medal winner gets called up on the podium before they present the premiership cup, but that didn't matter one little bit. What an honour!

There is no doubt about it, that 1969 grand final was the sweetest day of my football career. I've been lucky enough to win a few at West Perth and with the Buffaloes, but that flag is the one that means most to me. It was my first at the top level, and it was hard won, ten years in the making. On top of that I had the Simpson Medal. And on top of that, the best thing of all, my Mum was there to share the day with me.

The Boy From Birdum by Bill Dempsey with Steve Hawke is published by Magabala Books and is available at all good bookshops.