Saturday October 10, 1964, Subiaco Oval, Perth, and the Claremont Tigers are down eight points in the last minutes of the WAFL Grand Final against East Fremantle.
Claremont is desperate to end its 24-year premiership drought. Six-year-old Ed listens to the radio coverage of the game commentated by former WAFL player Frank Sparrow, not knowing the broadcast would make a lifelong impression.
Minutes before the final siren the Tigers boot two goals, delivering them the premiership flag by just four points.
Young Ed was entranced, and ever since this game he has lived and breathed for the Claremont Tigers.
The Hon Ed Dermer was born in Subiaco, and has lived his life in the suburbs of Perth. From 1996 to 2013 he served as a Labor Member of the Western Australian Legislative Council, representing the North Metropolitan Region.
While he found politics to be rewarding work, the WAFL is where Ed relaxes and feels at home, especially with his 22-year-old son Cameron by his side.
“My club is my second home,” says Ed.
It’s not hard to spot the well-known Claremont enthusiasts down at the games each week, usually with Ed’s father in law and Cameron’s grandfather Manfred Viezenz, decked out in their yellow and blue Tigers gear, with their renowned fluffy tiger hats.
After each Claremont win, Ed and Cameron don the tiger hats to celebrate victory.
To lament a loss, the hats are placed on their shoulders.
Ed, Cameron and Manfred set up along the sidelines for the three matches, supporting and lifting up the spirits of the Colts, Reserves and League boys each weekend. The trio’s heartfelt cheers can be heard from all around the oval, even in the most challenging times.
The passion they bring to the game week in and out is truly infectious, and as a supporter who attends many games myself, I believe they represent the essence of the club.
Cameron, who lives with autism, has followed his fathers love for The Tigers and being a fan is now a major part of his life, which he thoroughly enjoys.
“[The WAFL] makes autism a smaller part of his life,” Ed says.
Claremont supporters have created a strong community, which is Ed’s favourite aspect of the club.
“You come close to different people who attend,” Ed says.
“A WAFL club is very much a club, not a business.”
Diagnosed with melanoma in 2008, and again in 2013 and 2016, Ed missed out on just one round this year – due to surgery.
But he caught the radio coverage from hospital. Originally found externally on his neck, the melanoma grew back internally on his lymph nodes, affecting his left vocal cord.
He says that is it “not an issue” and that he is waiting to see if his vocal cords regain full function.
A story which Ed remembers fondly occurred at a Swan Districts vs Claremont game at Bassendean Oval. A well-known Swan’s supporter went up to him and asked why he wasn’t cheering as usual. Ed told him about the melanoma coming back and affecting his vocal cords.
“He felt sorry for me,” Ed says.
Claremont booted a goal and the Swan’s man stood up, in a stand full of die hard Swans supporters and started cheering for Claremont in place of Dermer. The close knit community within the WAFL is what Ed finds so special.
Ed is well known for his original, witty and hilarious cheers at the games, and with his vocal cords now out of play, they have been put aside for the time being. Although this means he is not vocal at the games, his support is stronger than ever, and the players and supporters know that.
“Ed Dermer is the epitome of loyalty to the Claremont Football Club,” says Claremont midfielder Ryan Lim.
“He is at every game; rain, hail or shine, to cheer us to a win, or commiserate a loss.
“As a player it’s inspirational to still see him at every game, given his current circumstances.”
Ed admits that he gets even more attached to the Claremont players over time.
When I ask who his favourite players were, he says they are all wonderful.
During the off-season the Dermers head to the WACA. They enjoy the Sheffield Shield rather than Test, one-day or 20-20 cricket as it is much like the WAFL environment.
“It’s a quieter day out … smaller crowds, much like the WAFL which Cameron enjoys.” Ed says.
Ed has been so passionate about the WAFL that on a few occasions he included references to the WAFL and in particular Claremont in his Parliamentary speeches.
In his Legislative Council valedictory speech, he said: “ If I had my way, I would also abolish Saturday afternoon trading and encourage people to go to WAFL matches, but that is me.”