HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Tom Tomy GRLJUSICH
|Date of Birth||13th August 1940|
Player 1960 – 1976 (South Fremantle 1960-64, 68-76, Central Districts 1965-67)
Games 316 (South Fremantle 258, Central Districts 49, WA 3, SA 6)
Goals 205 (South Fremantle 126, Central Districts 77, WA 2)
Honours: South Fremantle Premiership Player 1970; Club Fairest and Best 1968, 1972 (South Fremantle), 1966 (Central Districts); Club leading goal kicker 1972 (South Fremantle) 1967 (Central Districts); South Fremantle games record holder 1976 – 2003; South Fremantle Life Member 1974
For a man who did not play a game of Australian Rules football until the age of 18, the achievements of Tom Grljusich make extraordinary reading. A South Fremantle club record 258 games (at the time of his retirement), 307 league appearances in total, 9 time state representative, 3 time club fairest and best winner, WAFL premiership player, Fremantle Team of Legends and Central Districts Best Ever Team all testify to a phenomenal career in the game. Immense physical strength, outstanding high marking prowess and highly developed hand ball skills were the attributes that enabled Tom Grljusich to amass these achievements and dominate key forward and defensive positions for 17 senior seasons.
Duje Tomy Grljusich was born in Kalgoorlie in 1940 to Croation parents Mate and Pera Grljusich, his father at that time working as an underground miner. The family moved to Fremantle when Tom was three and then out to Spearwood four years later when Mate saw an opportunity to make a good living, albeit a hardworking one, in market gardening. George, Tom and Don, the strapping eldest 3 sons of the family, were required to contribute to the enterprise and the heavy demands of the market garden restricted Toms sporting involvement to some lunch time kick to kick at school.
At 18, Tom was finally permitted to join Cockburn Ex Scholars, coached by South Fremantle stalwart, Bill Woodgate. Determined to make the most of his immediate aptitude for the game, Grljusich became a fanatical and highly disciplined trainer and was rewarded with the Cockburn fairest and best trophy in his first season. A tantalising offer from South Fremantle was readily accepted and Tom became a Bulldog, debuting in round one 1960 as a ruckman, with brother George at centre half back.
At six foot one and fourteen stone, and with body strength honed by his years in the market garden, Tom was an immediate success playing 20 of a possible 21 games in his first season. His determination and competitiveness stood out, along with his marking prowess and his strength in the packs. These attributes suggested that he would also be well suited to defence and when George quit the game in favour of a broadcasting career in 1961, Tom slotted straight into the centre half back position. Here he thrived, being selected for his first representative game (a State second eighteen match against Essendon) and finishing runner up for the clubs Walker Medal with 36 votes.
Over the next 3 seasons, Grljusich performed consistently well in defence and after again being runner up for the Walker Medal in 1964, a handsome offer was received to play in South Australia. Central Districts were a new SANFL club who were looking to bolster their fortunes with interstate talent and despite parental and club opposition, Tom accepted. A delayed clearance and a residential qualification technicality caused by Toms return to Perth for 2 days to get married, delayed his SANFL debut until Round 10, 1965 against Port Adelaide. Centrals were delighted when Tom kicked five goals playing in the unfamiliar centre half forward position and such was his impact in the next 2 weeks that he was selected to represent the state against Victoria after only 3 games. Toms next two seasons were also outstanding and were rewarded with state representation in both seasons and a win and a runner up in the club best and fairest award. Tom was named best player for his State in the Hobart carnival match against Victoria, when opposed to Footscray star Ted Whitten and kicked four of his side’s seven goals.
When Grljusich decided to return to South Fremantle in 1968, Centrals stalled and Tom missed five games while the two clubs sorted out a clearance. Now at centre half forward for South, Grljusich had a superb season, representing WA in 2 games and finishing third in the Sandover Medal voting behind Barry Cable and Bill Walker despite the late start to his season. He captured the Walker Medal (club fairest and best) for the first time and later repeated the feat in 1972. In the interim he enjoyed much coveted premiership success when South defeated Perth in the 1970 Grand Final. Back to his old defensive position for the premiership decider, Toms strength in the back line was an important factor in the wet conditions.
Tom Grljusich continued to give South great service in the seventies, his superb physical fitness facilitating great consistency. He seldom missed a game through injury but missed a block of 5 games in 1971 when sent on an overseas fact finding mission by his employer Rothmans. A knee injury in the 1975 preliminary final cost him the chance to play in the grand final after playing every previous game and a broken jaw sustained in a clash with East Perth’s Ron Webster in late May 1976 cost him 6 weeks and threatened to end his career 1 game short of the 250 game milestone for South. Toms resilience was again on display however when he came back to play the final 9 games thus enabling him to reach the 250 as well as the 300th senior appearance (including SANFL games) and the club record breaking 256th game for South Fremantle.
Despite good fitness and form Tom Grljusich announced his retirement from football at the end of the 1976 season, at the age of thirty six. It wasn’t an easy decision for he still enjoyed the game, but his tally of 258 games stood as a record for South Fremantle until Marty Atkins overtook it more than two decades later.
Continuing on as runner for the South Fremantle league side for several years after his retirement, Tom today maintains his involvement as a vice patron of the club. He still maintains a high level of fitness as well as a keen interest in both WAFL and AFL football.
Tom Grljusich is a favourite son of South Fremantle Football Club and an inaugural member of their Hall of Fame. He is also regarded as a great of the Central District Football Club and worthily takes his place as an inductee in the West Australian Football Hall of Fame.