• Bill with his Grand-daughter and book. (Kearyn Cox)Source: Kearyn Cox
An AFL legend, former West Perth player Bill Dempsey is adding more accolades to his already star-studded sporting legacy.
Kearyn Cox

27 May 2022 - 4:49 PM  UPDATED 27 May 2022 - 4:49 PM

The boy from Birdum moved through the sporting ranks to become an AFL great, and is named as the honorary player for the 2022 Sir Doug Nicholls Round.

Bill Dempsey was taken from his mother by authorities at the age of three after his father and younger sister passed away from meningitis.

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With connections to Jingili, Warramunga, Ngalakan and Arrente, he grew up alongside other members of the stolen generations at the Rhetta Dixon Home in Darwin.

“I went in there when I was three going on four and I just didn’t know what the hell I was doing here,” he said.

“And then I realised you know I am not the only one.

“There’s heaps of other kids that are the same as me. So, we all joined forces we became one big family."

As a young ruckman, he helped the Darwin Buffaloes win three premierships, before moving to Perth as a 17-year-old with his mate Jim Anderson.

Dempsey debuted for West Perth in 1960 and went on to win three grand finals over 16 years - playing 343 games at the club.

His favourite on-field memory was the 1969 grand final where he played with one of the greats of the game and fellow hall of fame member Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer.

In that grand final the deadly duo lead the way for the Cardinals.

Polly was the coach and captain with Bill as his vice-captain. It was the first time an Aboriginal coach and captains had won the WAFL grand final.

The game was extra special for Bill because it was the first time his mother watched him play football. 

Bill lifted the premiership trophy and won best on the ground that day, but his medals and trophies are long gone.

His mother held the collection in Darwin. But when Cyclone Tracy struck in 1974 it was lost in the disaster.

In 1976 Dempsey was awarded Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his contribution to sport.

At 80, he continues to support West Perth as patron of the Aboriginal women’s Djindas program.

“With the girls, we are giving them an opportunity to be part of West Perth but as an Aboriginal team. I am chuffed to be part of that," he said.

“They said something of me is in there. That in itself is quite an honour.”

An AFL veteran, Bill is the 2022 Sir Doug Nicholls honorary player and will be inducted into the AFL hall of fame later this year.

An honour he feels "very proud" of.

“I not only felt happy for myself but felt proud for my family and our people as a whole," he said.

"What an honour to represent them - money can’t buy that.”

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