HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Brian Leslie FRANCE
|Date of Birth||9th July 1939|
ERA: 1961 – 2006
GAMES: 166 – 157 West Perth; 9 WA
PREMIERSHIPS: West Perth 1960
HONOURS :Centre-half-back in West Perth’s Team of the Centure; Breckler Medalist (West Perth Fairest and Best) 1963; runner-up 1967 Sandover Medal.
There are many astute football critics in Western Australia – especially those of a West Perth flavour – who will claim Brian France as the best centre-half-back the game has seen….particularly in the quality years of the 1950-60’s.
Because he was a classic defensive player who often sacrificed his own game to completely blanket a dangerous rival forward, France doesn’t appear on too many honour boards, apart from West Perth’s Fairest and Best list, where he won the Breckler Medal in 1963 and 65 – a rather amazing feat given the dominance of centre man and nine-times winner Mel Whinnen in that period.
But, an example of France’s influence came in the 1966 Carnival in Tasmania, when he curbed the brilliant Darrell Baldock, keeping the key forward under wraps and giving Western Australia a leading edge against Victoria. However, an injury in the last quarter saw France limp off the ground; Baldock exploded into life and Victoria claimed victory.
The 1966 season ranks among France’s best even though he was runner-up to the dominant Bill Dempsey in the club Fairest and Best award. However, he was West Perth’s best-performer in the Sandover Medal, polling 18 votes to finish just behind roving greats Bill Walker (20 votes) and Barry Cable (19).
The next season saw him poll 18 Sandover Medal votes in the first 13 games to lead the count comfortably. But his career came to a premature end when he suffered a knee injury in round 14, with Bill Walker and John Parkinson gradually over-hauling him to share the Medal honours on 19 votes. Rival forwards regarded France as one of the toughest defenders in the game.
Extremely strong and fast, he had the capacity to nullify some of the greatest forwards the game has seen, with a combination of leading the play, outstanding marking and a close-checking style.
Newspaper critics of that era often hailed France as the best key-position defender in Australia and certainly some rated him alongside the great South Fremantle centre-half-back Frank (Scanno) Jenkins, an inaugural member of the Hall of Fame. His 1967 knee injury certainly brought a premature end to his career at the age of 27, with knee reconstructions an unknown treatment in those years.