You can take the boy out of the Goldfields. You can put him in the AFL, have him win two flags and a Norm Smith Medal and then move him to the heart of WA’s wine-growing region.
But you never get the Goldfields sense of humour completely out of the boy.
Told that the gurus at Champion Data had rated his 23-disposal, two-goal effort in the 1994 grand final as the best of the four Norm Smith Medal-winning efforts in West Coast’s four flags, Dean Kemp had a bit of a giggle. “Aw geez, they do know what they are talking about, don’t they?”
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Asked what he remembers about the Eagles’ other Norm Smith Medal winner of the 1990s, Peter Matera, who kicked five goals off a wing in 1992, Kemp said: “I think he got a couple of kicks didn’t he? I know I fed a couple out to him.”
Kemp was always happy just to play and not talk too much about it. He would be just as happy now not to talk about it. He has never suffered from relevance deprivation.
But because we rang and asked him to talk about it, he gave it his best shot.
For the record, Kemp was at last year’s grand final and thought West Coast’s victory was a stunning achievement. And he remembers 1992 more fondly than 1994, even though that was not the grand final he won his Norm Smith Medal in.
“It had never been done and there were so many obstacles trying to get there,” he said.
“I just remember seeing the faces of the coaches and the support staff and how happy they were. How happy the players were for that matter — it was just incredible.”
As for 1994, Kemp said it was getting a good start that he remembered most clearly.
“Just getting your hands on the ball early and getting a few important touches — not stuffing too many things up and trying to get the ball going our way is what I remember,” he said.
“It was right up there with the best games I played because I think I was able to influence the outcome at certain times when we needed it.
“I was able to use a bit of skill to put players in better positions and have them finish it off.”
Kemp was part of a famous centreline (yes we called it a centreline back then, not a midfield) of Chris Mainwaring, himself and Matera.
It included a workhorse (Mainwaring), a Ferrari (Matera) and a Rolls-Royce (Kemp). The Ferrari and his deeds in 1992 stick in Kemp’s memory. He still regards him Matera as the best goal-kicking wingman of the modern era.
“He was (a bit unique),” he said. “He kicked a beautiful ball, but the thing was he was also a beautiful kick on the run.
“He didn’t miss too many goals. I think for that reason he was able to perform pretty well later in his career on a half-back flank and if you look at it now half-back flankers are the ones that drive the team — the main kickers and the directors of where the football goes and Roo was doing that a long time ago.
“I do remember when he kicked that goal on the run from out on the 50 (in 1992) and ran around with his fist pumping in the air and we were sailing.
“It was great to have him in there.”
Kemp said it was tough to compare flags from different eras because “the game has changed so much”.
But he feels the quality of personnel the Eagles had in the early 1990s would enable them to hold their own.
“We would certainly be competitive because we had brute strength, skill and speed — we had a little bit of everything,” he said.
“If Woosha wasn’t scaring everyone, we had Boris (Karl Langdon) out there running around with the opposition trying to kill him and we had skill out there as well to finish everything off.
“We had the pick of WA really. We had players wanting to come back and those that were there wanted to stay.
“So much depth and a really competitive bunch.”