The Western Reds had internationals and a dual Dally M Medallist – plus rogues, drug offenders, a bank robbery conspirator and men marked by tragedy. TIM ELBRA tells their stories.
They lasted just three seasons, finishing 11th, 16th and eighth; the latter result in a 10-team Super League competition.
They were the Western Reds. Or Perth Reds, as they were known in 1997, the year that they folded.
The Reds’ final game was 25 years ago today: August 23, 1997, a 36-16 Super League loss to Canberra at the WACA. There was no place for them in the reunified competition of 1998, the first NRL season.
The 54 players who represented the Reds were eclectic, to say the least. There were champions, rogues, failed prodigies and journeymen. Dual internationals and performance-enhancing drug offenders, plus a player charged over a tragic death and another who later pleaded guilty as a conspirator in bank robberies.
Here are their brief histories.
David Boyd (157 first grade games, 35 for Reds 1995-96)
A rugged forward who spent most of his career in the second row, Boyd debuted at Canterbury in 1986 and played in that year’s grand final loss to Parramatta. He was a foundation Newcastle Knights player and spent two years at Halifax Panthers before joining the Reds for their inaugural season, by then sporting a classic Reliance headgear. He scored a try in the Reds’ first ARL match, a 28-16 win over St George.
Shaun Devine (66 first grade games, 23 for Reds 1995-97)
A fullback and five-eighth, Devine joined the Reds from the Western Australia Rugby League competition, where he was playing with Rockingham Coastal Sharks after four seasons with the Western Suburbs Magpies. A member of the inaugural team, Devine was told that his contract would not be renewed by the Reds for 1998 but the club folded anyway.
Jeff Doyle (136 first grade games, 37 for Reds 1995-97)
Mostly a centre but with remarkable versatility that saw him play all over the field, Doyle was another foundation Knights player who went west via two seasons at North Sydney, where he was alongside inaugural Reds coach Peter Mulholland (formerly in charge of the Bears’ reserve grade side). Doyle’s younger brother, Rod, signed with another now-defunct 1995 expansion club, the South Queensland Crushers.
Greg Fleming (71 first grade games, 55 for Reds 1995-97)
A backline utility, Fleming was a Newcastle product who was playing at Perth club Canning when he was picked up by the Reds. He had reportedly agreed to a new three-year deal with the Reds late in 1997, only for the club to fold. He instead went to Canterbury for one season, where he was the housemate of fellow ex-Red Scott Wilson, before heading to the London Broncos.
Dale Fritz (154 first grade games, 58 for Reds 1995-97)
Not to be confused with mulleted prop Darren Fritz, Dale Fritz was a versatile player usually deployed at five-eighth/lock and joined the Reds from Illawarra, before playing his final Australian season (1998) with North Queensland. He became a strength and conditioning guru within both rugby league and boxing, working with Shannan Taylor.
Matt Fuller (104 first grade games, 59 for Reds 1995-97)
A versatile forward, Fuller had already briefly played with the Bulldogs, Dragons and Rabbitohs before being signed for the Reds from UK Super League team Wakefield Trinity. While playing hooker during the Super League season of 1997, Fuller was touted as a possible NSW selection for the Tri Series, yet was pipped by Craig Gower and Luke Priddis. He went back to Wakefield after the Reds then ended his career with Western Suburbs in 1999, before becoming a health and fitness guru.
Mark Geyer (181 first grade games, 33 for Reds 1995-97)
Penrith Panthers premiership-winner, NSW State of Origin villain, Kangaroos representative: ‘MG’ instantly leaps out among the Western Reds’ past players. Having copped a 10-week suspension for testing positive to a recreational drug in 1992 and shattered by the car crash death of teammate Ben Alexander, Geyer left Penrith for Balmain in 1993; yet branded the stint “shit” and played for the Umina Bunnies on the NSW Central Coast in 1994, against his manager’s wishes. His firebrand ways hadn’t changed when he made his elite-level return with the Reds, meaning his career in Perth was regularly punctuated by injuries and suspensions, mixed with some vintage hard-nosed form.
MG copped six games for throwing a water bottle at a touch judge in 1996, when he was captain. He was outed for seven matches for eye-gouging Adelaide Rams player Chris Quinn (plus three for a high tackle on Luke Williamson in the same game) in 1997, bursting into tears when found guilty and yelling, “This is f—king bullshit”. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to headbutting a man who was throwing ice cubes at his head in a Perth nightclub. In the Reds’ final-ever game, Geyer made his first start in nearly three months, having been stuck on the bench. Geyer returned to Penrith for three seasons to end his career and is now a high-profile radio personality, as fearless with a microphone as he was on the footy field.
Brett Goldspink (60 first grade games, 26 for Reds 1995-96)
A rugged forward who packed into the Reds’ inaugural front-row, Goldspink spent time with Illawarra and South Sydney before heading to Perth. He copped some injuries during his two seasons and was with Oldham Bears in the UK Super League for the fateful 1997 season, before rounding out his career with stints at Wigan and Halifax.
James Grant (74 first grade games, nine with Reds 1995)
A former rugby union international who played five Tests and toured with the Wallabies in 1988, Grant was a zippy winger who scored a try for Balmain in the legendary 1989 Grand Final (a heartbreaking extra-time loss for the Tigers to Canberra). He spent time at Hull FC before joining the Reds, where he featured in the inaugural side but couldn’t cement a spot. Grant became a Country Rugby League development officer for a time after his playing days.
Tim Horan (49 first grade games, 29 for Reds 1995-97)
No, not that Tim Horan. This fella was a backline utility who played 17 games across three seasons for South Sydney before linking with the Reds, notching 19 matches and five tries in the club’s inaugural season. He was with the Reds when they folded and moved to Illawarra for 1998, meaning he was also caught up in the merger with St George; though he wasn’t part of the new club.
Rodney Howe (156 first grade games, 40 for Reds 1995-97)
A Newcastle junior who went to the Reds via Widnes in the UK, Howe was rated so highly in Perth that he was signed until the end of 1999. The powerhouse prop played for NSW and Australia (Super League) during the Reds’ final season and represented again in following seasons while with Melbourne. Yet Howe’s career was forever tainted with controversy when he copped a 22-match ban after testing positive to steroids, which he claimed to have taken while rehabbing a leg injury. A positive test came to light soon after his massive performance in State of Origin II, 1998, and it became a common refrain that he wasn’t quite the same player after his ban. Yet Howe returned strongly the following season, resuming his rep career and winning a premiership with the Storm.
Brad Mackay (217 first grade games, 21 for Reds 1995)
A low-key rugby league great, Mackay was a St George mainstay and NSW/Australia regular before joining the Reds. “[Coach] Brian [Smith] had signed an extension on his contract and so I felt like I needed a change or I’d go down the drain as a player,” he later told Rugby League Week. Capable in a raft of positions, Mackay was the new club’s inaugural captain and played lock in the Reds’ first game. He split with the Reds after they defected to Super League, joining ARL-aligned Illawarra for 1996 before ending up a Dragon again when the Steelers and St George merged. Mackay’s final NRL game was the 1999 Grand Final loss to Melbourne and he later became a fireman.
Michael Potter (201 first grade games, 21 with Reds 1995-96)
Already a dual premiership-winner and Dally M Medallist by the time he headed west, Potter became the club’s inaugural fullback despite supposedly retiring after back-to back grand final losses with St George in 1992-93. Another somewhat unheralded great, he was a standard-setter for the newcomers. In the final training session before the Reds’ inaugural match at the WACA, he dived full length to catch a ball on a rock-hard cricket pitch used in a Sheffield Shield game days earlier. A shocked teammate asked why and Potter responded, “I am going to do it on Sunday, you idiot”. Yet Potter’s career was winding down in Perth and he spent time in reserve grade before retiring. He later coached Wests Tigers, and now Canterbury as caretaker.
Matthew Rodwell (178 first grade games, 57 with Reds 1995-97)
A clever halfback who was 1992’s Rookie of the Year and 1993’s Cleo Bachelor of the Year, Rodwell started his career with Newcastle. He was missing from first grade for all of 1994 before going to Perth and starting at No.7 in the inaugural Reds team. He was a regular in the side up until the Reds folded, when he headed to St George, where he fell behind young star Trent Barrett after the Dragons-Steelers merger. Stints with Penrith and Warrington ended his career, and he later served as Rugby League Players’ Association chief executive.
Chris Ryan (84 first grade games, 58 with Reds 1995-97)
A goalkicking centre/winger who began his career with Manly, Ryan was on the bench for the Reds’ first match before going on to become a record setter for the club. He notched 136 points in the inaugural season, which was never bettered, and also set Reds records for most tries (21) and points (210). Ryan spent two seasons with the London Broncos after the Reds went bust, taking his career well beyond 100 elite-level games.
Peter Shiels (120 first grade games, 48 for Reds 1995-97)
A rugged second-rower, ‘Stretch’ Shiels played a handful of games for Penrith and Western Suburbs before joining the Reds and starting alongside brother-in-law Mark Geyer in the inaugural side (both Shiels and Geyer married sisters of Panthers teammate Greg Alexander). Shiels flirted with the sack in 1996 when he stormed off the field, hit the showers and was unable to return as a replacement during a loss to Parramatta, frustrated at his lack of game time. He was sent off during a 1997 World Club Challenge match for kicking Castleford’s Lee Harland, having been told pre-match by coach Dean Lance to show more aggression. His career kicked on at Newcastle then St Helens after the Reds folded and he is now a real estate agent.
Jason Eade (36 first grade games, 24 for Reds)
A centre who started out in first grade with Western Suburbs, Eade managed three tries for the Reds before following coach Peter Mulholland to Paris Saint Germain. Remarkably, he scored two tries against the Reds for the French club in a 24-0 World Club Challenge win in Paris during 1997.
Jamie Olejnik (40 first grade games, seven for Reds 1995)
An Australian Schoolboys representative once tipped for big things, Olejnik was a centre who played with Penrith and Manly before joining the Reds for a season. Olejnik had serious ability yet was sacked by four clubs in five years, spending brief periods at the Hunter Mariners and Paris Saint Germain after his time in Perth. He walked out on the Mariners after one month, which included a bizarre incident in which he took off with a teammate’s car, then vanished somewhere in western Sydney with a girlfriend he met in Perth. Described as “wayward but a super, super talent” by late rugby league Immortal Bob Fulton, Olejnik ended his career with Manly, wondering what might have been. “I give myself uppercuts most days,” he told News Corp in 2002.
Chris Dever (24 first grade games, all for Reds 1995-97)
A Cessnock product, Dever was at Newcastle before heading west to get his crack at first grade. A solid centre, he played 15 games and scored his lone first grade try in 1996. Dever was with the Reds until their demise and having become a premiership coach in the WA league, ended up coaching the WA Reds when they entered NSW’s Jim Beam Cup competition in 2008.
Peter Trevitt (Eight first grade games, two for Reds 1995-97)
A forward who played first grade occasionally for Western Suburbs and Penrith before heading to Perth, Trevitt played one game for the Reds in both 1995 and 1997. His final appearance, the lone game in 1997, was notable for the wrong reasons. Playing off the bench, Trevitt was sent off during a loss to Canberra for a tackle on Raiders hooker Luke Priddis having already been penalised and reported for shots on Peter Van Dalen.
Scott Donnelly (One first grade game, for Reds 1995)
A lower-grade forward who also spent time with North Sydney, Donnelly made his lone first grade appearance for the Reds before playing bush footy. He also notched an international appearance for the Philippines much later in his career (2014).
Wayne Evans (71 first grade games, 14 for Reds 1995-97)
A 1993 Australian Schoolboys representative out of the famed St Gregory’s College, Evans was a talented lock whose signing by the Reds was met with some excitement. Yet he was not a regular fixture in the team, before moving to Melbourne Storm when the Reds folded. Evans was with the Storm for their 1999 premiership season but wasn’t in the frame to play during their run to the title due to a back injury; though he scored a try in the following year’s World Club Challenge win over St Helens. He also spent time with another now-defunct club, the Northern Eagles, and ended his career with London Broncos.
James Goulding (30 first grade games, one for Reds 1995)
A Kiwi forward who began his career in Auckland, Goulding first joined Newcastle in Australia before moving west for the Reds’ inaugural season. Goulding played five Tests between 1985-89, showing his class, but played just a single game for the Reds. He was in the middle of a bizarre episode in July 1995 when the Reds announced that they had ripped up the contracts of 34 players, due to parlous finances, only to announce soon afterwards that they had been retained.
Tahi Reihana (Six first grade games, all for Reds 1995-96)
Playing for South Perth Lions in 1994, Reihana scored a Reds contract but mostly proved to be a strong lower grader, winning the reserve grade players’ player in his two seasons at the club. He managed a first grade try in the inaugural season and also boasts three 2000 Rugby League World Cup appearances for New Zealand Maori, off the back of a Player of the Year season with Brisbane Souths in the Queensland Cup.
Brendon Tuuta (43 first grade games, nine for Reds 1995)
A fiery New Zealand Test forward, Tuuta was well known to Australian fans for kneeing Kangaroos opponent Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin during a 1989 Test. He was playing for Western Suburbs at that stage then had a five-year stint at the UK’s Featherstone Rovers before joining the Reds. He was branded ‘The Baby-Faced Assassin’ by Aussie media, given his aggressive tendencies and fresh face, but had limited impact at the Reds despite still being a Kiwi international. He headed back to England after just one season, having signed in Perth as a guest player.
Craig Innes (60 first grade games, 10 for Reds 1995)
A dual international who played 17 Tests for the All Blacks, including at the 1991 Rugby World Cup, Innes was a strong outside back who played 135 games for Leeds Rhinos before joining the Reds amid legal threats from the UK club. Innes showed his class in Perth and the Reds wanted to keep him, yet he’d signed a loyalty agreement with the ARL and joined Manly in 1996 as the Super League war took off; earning a £200,000 sign-on fee plus the same in annual salary as a targeted UK-affiliated player. He won a premiership with the Sea Eagles that season and played in the 1997 grand final loss, plus a Rest of the World Test that year which was officially sanctioned; thus earning him dual international status. He finished his career in rugby and later became a player agent.
Barrie-Jon Mather (24 first grade games, all for Reds 1995-97)
A dual international for England, Mather was a tall centre or occasional second-rower whose move to the Australian competition was embroiled in a legal battle with Wigan; though he still won Great Britain Test caps while playing in Perth. His 1995 season was a 10-match guest stint, due to the ongoing legalities, before he played just 14 games across the next two seasons. He returned to the UK with Castleford after the Reds went bust but loved the Australian lifestyle, coming back Down Under in 2014 to become the NSW Rugby League’s general manager of football (before being made redundant in 2020).
Jon Grieve (49 first grade games, 30 for Reds 1995-97)
A forward who began his first grade career with Manly, Grieve went to UK club Widnes when the Sea Eagles signed big-name props Mark Carroll and David Gillespie for 1994. He then joined the Reds for their inaugural season, in which he scored three tries. Grieve was a no-nonsense player who made Queensland’s extended squad for the Super League Tri Series in 1997, though that proved to be the last season of his career at the top level.
Corin Ridding (19 first grade games, nine with Reds 1995, 1997)
A strapping front-rower, Ridding was embroiled in scandal at the Reds when he admitted to using anabolic steroid stanozolol during their inaugural season, while rehabbing a hamstring injury. Having played just three first grade games at the time, he copped a 22-match ban that was later reduced to 16. “It was obviously the silliest mistake I’ve ever made,” he told News Corp, having been sacked by the Reds. He played 10 games for South Sydney in 1996 before returning to the Reds for their foray into Super League, yet 1997 was the last season for both parties.
Daio Powell (One first grade game, for Reds 1995)
A Welsh international winger/centre, Powell played for Bradford Northern and Wakefield Trinity in the UK before coming to Perth. His stint with the Reds was marked by tragedy: Powell was charged with manslaughter after a man he punched in the face outside a Perth nightclub in July 1995 died, having struck the back of his head on the footpath. “I just want to say I’m sorry,” Powell said in August 1996 after being found not guilty, with the death deemed an accident by a jury. The victim was a father of two who weighed 67kg, compared to the 95kg Powell.
Damien Chapman (31 first grade games, 19 for Reds 1996-97)
The son of former St George players John Chapman, Damien Chapman was a lightly-used centre/halfback at the Dragons for four seasons before heading west, having signed as a Super League player. Chapman had already had two shoulder reconstructions by the time he joined the Reds and problems persisted. He also played at hooker in Perth and he had a season with the London Broncos after the Reds folded.
Darren Higgins (91 first grade games, 27 for Reds 1996-97)
Beginning his career on a high, as a Dragons reserve in their 1988 Panasonic Cup triumph, Higgins also played with Cronulla before signing with the Reds as the Super League war escalated. He was a versatile backline player who could also play second-row. He suffered a broken leg during his first season in Perth but featured regularly in the side, before spending a season with London Broncos in 1998 to move past 100 elite-level matches.
Robbie Kearns (282 first grade games, 37 for Reds 1996-97)
A Cronulla junior who spent four seasons with the Sharks before joining the Reds, Kearns enjoyed a tremendous career that included NSW and Australian representation. A strong front-rower, he first played for his state and country under the Super League guise in 1997, going to a new level for the Reds after fellow prop Rodney Howe was sidelined by a knee injury. Kearns became a fixture in unified Blues and Kangaroos teams after the NRL was formed, yet is partly remembered for being ruled out of the 1999 State of Origin series due to a broken collarbone, suffered when he was thrown off a horse during a new-age NSW bonding session. That year was rough; a thigh injury kept him out of Melbourne’s 1999 grand final-winning team, plus post-season Tests, but he won the World Cup with Australia the following year.
Julian O’Neill (228 first grade games, 26 with Reds 1996-97)
One of the most infamous rugby league characters of his era, O’Neill was a star Brisbane Broncos fullback who featured in their 1992-93 premierships and was once engaged to Australian swimmer Samantha Riley. Alcohol was not O’Neill’s friend and his first major scandal came when he urinated under a blackjack table at Jupiters Casino on the Gold Coast in 1995. He was sacked by the Broncos that year then sent home to Australia after a drink-driving charge during a stint with London Broncos. He was made captain of the Reds during 1996 but sacked after criticising coach Peter Mulholland in a newspaper column. It was suspected that he wanted to force his way out of the club to take a more lucrative deal with the South Queensland Crushers. While there was constant speculation that he wanted out during 1997, he represented the Super League Queensland and Australian teams that season, while also setting club records for most tries (four) and points (26) in a match, against the Bulldogs. Yet meanwhile, he was missing training sessions and copping fines semi-regularly. O’Neill had signed a five-year, $2 million deal with Perth just the previous August, though it was soon followed with another drink-driving charge.
The Reds finally sacked O’Neill in May 1997. “He’s just more trouble than he’s worth. How many chances can you give a bloke?” a Reds official told News Corp at the time. He went straight to South Sydney and during a 1999 pre-season trip to Dubbo, O’Neill had arguably Australian sport’s most famous bowel movement, with teammate Jeremy Schloss the victim. “I just shat in Schlossy’s shoe,” O’Neill told another teammate. Faeces were also smeared on their motel room’s walls. O’Neill was fined $10,000. There were stints with North Queensland, Wigan, Widnes, Wakefield and Leigh, and the controversies continued. While in Australia with Widnes in 2004, O’Neill allegedly tried to set fire to a 13-year-old boy wearing a dolphin mascot costume while on a Port Macquarie river cruise. Legend has it that he then stripped to his underwear, dived into the Hastings River, swam to shore and hitchhiked back to town.
Shane Barrett (Two first grade games, both for Reds 1996)
A Bulldogs lower grader before heading to Perth, Barrett was a winger who jagged one first grade try in his pair of appearances for the Reds. That’s one more elite-level try than most people.
Cameron Blair (183 first grade games, 14 for Reds 1996)
A tough second-row/lock, Blair was 1998’s Dally M Rookie of the Year and played for Penrith, Western Suburbs and Parramatta for a combined nine seasons before joining the Reds pre-Super League. Blair had actually signed with the Adelaide Rams, yet the new club was put on hold for 1996 as the court battle over the breakaway league raged, so he was a late arrival in Perth. He then joined the Rams for Super League’s lone season in 1997 before retiring, playing lock in Adelaide’s inaugural match (against North Queensland).
Solomon Kiri (12 first grade games, two for Reds 1996)
A prolific tryscorer in New Zealand, Kiri was a winger/centre who played for the Auckland Warriors Colts in the 1995 Lion Red Cup grand final (losing to North Harbour Sea Eagles) before joining the Reds. Like Blair, he was signed with the Adelaide Rams but took a detour for 1996, yet was lightly used. He went on to play the Rams’ inaugural match but the club’s debut season was also Kiri’s last in Australian rugby league.
Andrew Neave (24 first grade games, two with Reds 1996)
A Brisbane junior who began his senior career with Easts Tigers, Neave was a hooker whose first club in the national competition was Cronulla. He impressed with the Sharks but when they signed Nathan Brown from St George for 1996, he made the move west. Neave went head-to-head with Matt Fuller for the No.9 role but only got a pair of games. He ended up back at Easts in Brisbane.
David Lomax (34 first grade games, one for Reds 1996)
The younger brother of Canberra and New Zealand prop John Lomax, David Lomax played a pair of Tests for the Kiwis in 1993 and joined the Raiders for two seasons before joining the Reds. He notched just one game and made the bulk of his Australian first grade appearances with Newcastle, before a decent stint at Huddersfield-Sheffield, which preceded a move into coaching.
Paul Evans (32 first grade games, eight for Reds 1996)
A winger who earned appearances for Cronulla in 1992-93, Evans headed west for a fresh attempt to cement a first grade spot. He scored three tries from eight games for the Reds, yet that was it for his top-flight Australian career. He spent time at Paris Saint Germain and Dewsbury over the following two years.
Luke Goodwin (33 first grade matches, three for Reds 1996)
Son of Dragons great ‘Lord Ted’ Goodwin and elder brother to Bronx and Bryson, Luke Goodwin played with the Panthers and Bulldogs before joining the Reds on a Super League contract. A versatile back, he scored a lone try for the club in his one season before playing in the UK with Oldham Bears and London Broncos, then with Western Suburbs. Yet football paled into insignificance amid a series of extraordinary life events. Goodwin was one of three other Penrith players in the 1992 car crash that killed Ben Alexander. He was broke upon retiring from footy in 1999, despite a $900,000 Super League contract, thanks to a scam in the UK. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to stealing keys to a bank from his ex-wife’s handbag then passing them to armed robbers for use in two heists. Goodwin, whose devastating full story you can read here, is now a welfare officer for the Bulldogs. “I have lived horrible things which I did not have the tools to deal with. I have made it my mission to give the next generation of footballers the tools I never had,” he told News Corp last year.
Robin Thorne (83 first grade games, one with Reds 1996)
A Queensland-born winger, Thorne played with the Bulldogs and the Gold Coast Chargers before heading to Perth for the last hurrah in his career. A round nine match against Brisbane in 1996 was his only appearance for the Reds, though he scored 15 tries in his previous first grade stints. Thorne was another who was meant to be playing for the Rams in 1996, yet he never appeared for Adelaide.
Scott Wilson (109 first grade games, 23 for Reds 1996-97)
A prodigious talent right across the backline, Wilson had already played with South Sydney, North Sydney, Canterbury, Salford and Gold Coast before joining the Reds. His first grade debut for the Rabbitohs saw his team stripped of their two competition points for winning against Manly, as Wilson was deemed to have been used illegally as a replacement. He was sacked by Souths in 1990 after returning a positive test for cocaine, sparking scandal, then the same thing happened at Norths shortly after. Wilson was just 19 at the time and became deeply depressed, though the Bears re-signed him for next season. In 1994, he had an all-time stinker as Canterbury fullback in the grand final against Canberra, hooked by coach Chris Anderson midway through the first half after spilling several bombs and letting in two tries, en route to a 36-12 loss. Wilson proved his class in 1997, earning a NSW jumper in the Super League Tri-series, before ending his career with stints at the Cowboys, Bulldogs and Warrington. He scored 30 tries in Australian first grade.
Paul Bell (139 first grade games, 14 with Reds 1997)
Signed for the Super League season after stints at Cronulla and Western Suburbs, Bell was a centre who scored 29 tries across his first grade career, including four for the Reds. He moved on to be part of Melbourne inaugural side and was a regular in 1998, before gradually falling from favour in his last season and missing the Storm team that won the 1999 grand final. He headed to Leeds for 2000 but played only four games, and is now a commercial property agent.
Brett Green (45 first grade games, 18 for Reds 1997)
A rookie forward with the Broncos when the Super League war began to boil over, Green spent the breakaway season in Perth. He impressed with his work ethic while at the Reds, yet that was it for his career in Australian first grade.
Matthew Daylight (36 first grade games, 11 with Reds 1997)
A zippy outside back who represented Scotland at the 2000 Rugby League World Cup, Daylight was recruited from Darwin by Cronulla as a junior and left the Sharks to play the Super League season with Perth. He could find the tryline and moved on to the Adelaide Rams for 1998 before stints at Gateshead, Hull FC and a farewell run at Cronulla.
Eamonn Edgar (Five first grade appearances, all for Reds 1997)
A winger who notched his lone first grade try in the Super League season, Edgar turned 21 in that year with the Reds. He scored his try on debut in a win over Canterbury, putting first points on the board.
Cameron Lewis (Four first grade games, all with Reds 1997)
Another one-and-done player who made all his first grade appearances with Perth, Lewis was an Australian Schoolboys representative and is now a gym owner and trainer.
Tristan Brady-Smith (10 first grade matches, seven with Reds 1997)
Debuting midway through the Super League season, Brady-Smith was a fleet-footed centre who scored a couple of tries for Perth and then moved on to Melbourne. He got three more first grade appearances late in the Storm’s inaugural campaign and was one of six former Reds in the Melbourne squad.
Jarrad Millar (Seven first grade games, all for Reds 1997)
A centre who scored a pair of tries for the Reds, Millar didn’t get another chance in first grade footy.
Matt Geyer (268 first grade games, six for Reds 1997)
A first grade debut at the Reds, at 21 after slugging it out in reserve grade for some time, was a modest start to what became a tremendous career. Geyer scored 113 tries and 662 points in the NRL, all with Melbourne Storm, as a versatile, goalkicking backline player. He was a NSW State of Origin representative and won two grand finals, as a young five-eighth in 1999 (kicking the winning conversion after a penalty try against the Dragons) and as a bench utility in 2007; though the latter title was stripped due to Storm’s salary cap rorting. Geyer’s last game was rough: he played centre in a 40-0 grand final loss against Manly in 2008. The start of his career was low-key but special, as he was playing alongside his famous big brother, Mark. Geyer later became a successful junior coach in Queensland.
Fred Sapatu (One first grade game, for Reds 1997)
A strong second-rower, Sapatu debuted for the Reds in a loss to Canterbury and that was that, despite playing reasonably well.
John Wilshere (15 first grade games, four for Reds 1997)
A regular in the Papua New Guinea Test team, Wilshere was a skilful fullback/winger whose first grade debut came with the Reds. He scored a lone try for Perth before notching a single game with Melbourne in 1998, then spent time at Penrith before joining the Dragons in 2003. He was a prolific pointscorer for both Norths Devils and Easts Tigers in the Queensland Cup and earned stints in the UK Super League with Warrington, Leigh and Salford, taking his tally of elite-level appearances beyond 100.
Ricky Taylor (Two first grade games, for Reds 1997)
The last man to debut for the Reds, Taylor played the club’s final two matches, coming off the bench for a 30-22 defeat to the Warriors in Auckland, then a 36-16 loss against Canberra at the WACA. That marked both the start and end of his first grade career. He was supposedly offered a contract in England but opted to return to the Queensland Cup.
Inaugural Western Reds team, March 12, 1995: Michael Potter, James Grant, Chris Ryan, Tim Horan, Greg Fleming, Dale Fritz, Matthew Rodwell, Brett Goldspink, Matthew Fuller, Rodney Howe, Mark Geyer, Jeff Doyle, Brad Mackay (c). Bench: David Boyd, Shaun Devine, Peter Shiels. Coach: Peter Mulholland.
– Beat St George 28-16 at WACA, crowd 24,932.
Final Perth Reds team, August 23, 1997: Matt Geyer, Tristan Brady-Smith, Chris Ryan, Greg Fleming, John Wilshere, Damien Chapman, Matthew Rodwell, Robbie Kearns, Matthew Fuller, Brett Green, Mark Geyer, Wayne Evans, Dale Fritz. Bench: Jarrad Millar, Corin Ridding, Ricky Taylor. Coach: Dean Lance.
– Lost to Canberra 36-16 at WACA, crowd 12,307.