When a scrawny, snowy haired kid from Kalgoorlie was
drafted from Subiaco by West Coast in 1989, the football world didn’t raise an
Kemp was taken at 117 along with Tony Begovich and Brad
Gwilliam as top up players for the West Coast Eagles.
But Kemp, whose game was shaped by playing at 16 years of
age against men on the hard tracks in the Goldfields where pleasantries are
rare, put everybody on notice the following year when he made his debut against
Collingwood before playing in 23 games and finishing fifth in the club champion
He started his career in 1990 as an unknown skinny
centreman with a flowing blond mane wearing No. 33, and 12 years later, wearing
No. 2 and with considerably less hair, it ended in applause from aficionados of
the game from Perth to Melbourne and all points in between.
Kemp, who goes by the name of Tommy because of his
insistence to put tomato sauce on almost anything he eats, became a bona fide
superstar, winning the club fairest and best in 1992, clinching the Norm Smith
Medal in the Eagles’ 1994 premiership and co-captaining the club in 2001 with
Remarkably consistent and resilient, Kemp averaged 21
games a season and was runner-up three times in the club champion award, and on
another four occasions he finished in the top 10.
Amazingly, while Kemp was lauded by critics and
opposition players alike, the umpires didn’t rate him as highly as others,
awarding him only 53 votes in his career.
But that mattered little to his coach Mick Malthouse and
his team-mates who were forever glowing in their praise of Kemp’s ability to
work through congestion in the midfield when opposition players were hell bent
on knocking his block off.
The hostilities would come from every which way, but by
hand or either foot, Kemp often found a way out, providing silver service to
full-forward legend Peter Sumich or other grateful forwards.
The physical battering, though, caught up with him – the
shirtfront from Adelaide’s Mark Riciutto on Kemp is often replayed during the
‘big hits’ of the 90s highlights package – and the gallant midfielder and crowd
favourite bowed out of the game midway through 2001 following his battles with
Watch the Dean Kemp tribute here.