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Drew Morphett's Lathlain Links

Monday, August 28, 2017 - 10:38 AM by Peter Kennedy
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The prominent sporting broadcaster Drew Morphett, who died suddenly at his Victorian home in Pakenham last Friday (August 25) aged 69, had fond memories of Lathlain Park and Perth’s late captain and premiership coach, Ern Henfry.

Drew was born in Sydney and had no knowledge of “Aussie Rules” when he won a much sought after ABC sporting cadetship and was appointed to Perth in the late 1960s.

On arrival he was told by the head of sport, Jim Fitzmaurice, that he would be covering football every Saturday during the winter.

“I don’t know the first thing about ‘Aussie Rules’,” Drew replied. “Jim said I was to go to Lathlain Park the next Saturday and sit next to Ern Henfry who was doing the ‘around the grounds’ report of the league match there for 6WF.

“Jim said Ern knew more about footy than anyone else, and in between Ern’s updates on the state of the game, I should ask him to explain how the game worked.

“Ern was very patient. The game had only been going about 10 minutes and two big tall blokes started running in opposite directions. One was running down towards what was called the ‘goal square’, and the other was running up towards the middle.

“I said to Ern ‘what’s that bloke doing running towards the goals?’ Ern said ‘he’s taking a spell’. I said: ‘But the game’s only been going a few minutes. And what’s that other big bloke doing running towards the centre? Ern said: ‘He’s having a run on the ball’.

“A run on the ball? How can he do that? It’s not the right shape.”

He said Ern was very patient and took time to explain the finer points of the game. And Drew agreed he could not have had a better teacher.

Drew never stopped learning. Later, when broadcasting games with Jim Conway, the former East Fremantle star and Claremont premiership coach, who was nicknamed the “professor” because of his analytical approach, Drew picked up an expression he would use regularly over the years.

“I noticed Jim often described a short kick as a ‘half distance pass’,” Drew said. “I thought I’d use it too. I still do, but I think I’m the only one who does.”

When the club was preparing the successful case for Ern Henfry to be added to the AFL Hall of Fame, Drew readily agreed to write a testimonial on how important Ern’s assistance had been in developing his knowledge of the game, which was second to none. By then he was one of the nation’s top sports commentators.

Drew’s infectious enthusiasm for everything he broadcast meant he was a delight to listen to.

There was a standing invitation for Drew to attend one of the President’s Lunches before a home game at Lathlain, which he said he’d love to take up when next in Perth. Sadly that won’t now be possible.