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Graham Moss – on life, footy and ageing.

Graham Moss is a legend. And not just to the thousands who used to watch him dominate the footy field across the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but an official “Legend” as decreed by the WAFL.

It’s tough to argue – his trophy cabinet boasts 4 Claremont Best and Fairest awards, a 1981 WAFL premiership, 3 Essendon Best and Fairest awards, AFL hall of fame membership, and the 1976 Brownlow. And that’s just on the footy field. He’s also been the CEO of VenuesWest and Tourism Council WA, General Manager of the West Coast Eagles, CEO of Claremont Football Club – and thrown in a few things regular folk only dream about, like the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Most importantly, to top it all off, he’s a great and very humble guy.

So where could one start when discussing life, footy and ageing with someone of Graham Moss’s standing? Probably with the question I’ve always wanted to ask a sports legend: Is your home filled with your own memorabilia? “Haha, no it’s not. There’s a small room with some jumpers and things like that but my wife isn’t too keen on having things scattered all over the place. The Brownlow was in there somewhere, I think in a drawer for a couple of years, but it’s now on display at the new Perth Stadium in the Victory Room.”

When we get chatting about life the conversation inevitably steers towards football, but Graham is clear it wasn’t the be-all and endall of his younger years, despite being a footy-mad kid. “When I was growing up in Claremont the winter was all about footy and the summer was all about sailing. I did have a few footy heroes back in those days, guys like John McIntosh and Les Mumme, and I remember catching the 6am train to Claremont station to watch some of them in the ’64 grand final – I arrived before the gates opened and sat in the stands saving a seat for Mum. Claremont got up that day too, which was great. I was lucky enough to get a call up to play with Claremont in ’69 but you couldn’t have even called us semi-professional in those days. We were training three times a week but it was on the side while you pursued your career. So at the same time, in ’72, I completed a degree in Civil Engineering from what’s now Curtin Uni and that’s what got me transferred over east with the Department of Civil Aviation where I played with Essendon. It was my engineering that brought me back to Claremont too.”

Of course he’s skipped over the part where Essendon were desperate to lure him over east after seeing his early skill, and the fact that the next few years saw him win the Club’s Best and Fairest three times, the ’76 Brownlow as Captain and be declared one of their greatest ever ruckmen. Anyway, back to life. “When I came back to Claremont, I played as Captain/Coach but it all became too much so I gave the engineering away, focused on coaching and did a bit of real estate on the side. I stuck with my boating too, which I’ve always loved. We did the Sydney to Hobart in 1995 which was amazing. We got hammered a bit down the east coast of Tasmania but got there in just over three days.”

I wonder what it is that makes people like Graham achieve such feats when the majority of us are happy to sit at home and simply watch them on tele? “Well you need ambition, drive and confidence but it probably comes down to competitiveness. I’m a pretty competitive person, particularly when you’re in a team. Could I play a simple game of cards without needing to beat you? (Pause) I’d probably get competitive!”

After his footy career ended in ’83, with a one-game cameo in ’85, the achievements didn’t, with a string of high profile CEO roles in prominent WA organisations following. “For me, when I finished footy I moved onto others things – in fact I only came to a few games here and there until I became involved heavily with Claremont again in the last few years. I found other ways to occupy my life and have been lucky enough to have a great and varied career.” 

Even as he says this it’s impossible not to get drawn back into a footy conversation with one of the game’s greats. He laments the fact the big match-ups and spectacular marks have been lost in favour of quicker, more skilful play, that ruckmen don’t have as much influence as they used to and that umpires and coaches promote negative play instead of free-flowing footy. He also skilfully evades my attempts to make him answer questions about how ’76 Graham Moss would go against today’s modern players on both skill and physicality. “We’re different players. Players these days are physically stronger, quicker, more skilled because it’s their full-time job. Now you see freaky things, which is a sign of the professionalism. In terms of physicality? (Pause) I could match some of today’s ruckmen…”

He’s equally evasive when asked if, at age 67, retirement is next on the cards. “I’m not sure full retirement is for me. I’m the kind of person who needs something tough to do and I actually find it hard to handle if I don’t, plus I’ve got a few more years at Claremont first. Do I have a bucket list? Not really, probably just staying healthy so I can keep enjoying my grandkids. I’m down at the gym most mornings making sure I’m on top of that.”

As I shake the hand of the 1.96m Legend Graham Moss after our chat I wonder how many younger people at the gym this legend could still run rings around.

Quick fire footy questions.

Toughest opponent?

Ron Boucher in WA and Don Scott over east.

Best opponent?

Len Thompson from Collingwood or Stephen Michael from South Freo.

What was better, the ’76 Brownlow or ’81 WAFL premiership?

‘81, easily. It’s a team game.

Favourite player?

Polly Farmer.

Thoughts on modern players tatts?

Not to my taste!

Comments on this look?

Graham Moss Claremont Football Club Why we had so much hair back then I don’t know!

Read more from the Autumn edition of Thrive magazine here.