Barry Cable
Personal information
Full name Barry Thomas Cable
Date of birth (1943-09-22) 22 September 1943 (age 78)
Place of birth Narrogin, Western Australia
Original team(s) Narrogin Imperials (UGSFL)
Height 168 cm (5 ft 6 in)
Weight 70 kg (154 lb)
Position(s) Rover
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1962–69, 71–73 Perth 225 (325)
1970, 74–77 North Melbourne 115 (133)
1978–79 East Perth 043 0(50)
Total 383 (505)
Representative team honours
Years Team Games (Goals)
1964–78 Western Australia 20 (35)
1975 Victoria 1 (0)
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
1972–73 Perth 44 (19–25–0)
1978–80 East Perth 68 (39–29–0)
1981–84 North Melbourne 76 (40–36–0)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1979.
2 State and international statistics correct as of 1978.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 1984.
Career highlights





Sources: AFL Tables,

Barry Thomas Cable MBE (born 22 September 1943) is a former Australian rules footballer and coach. Considered one of the greatest rovers in the sport's history, he played over 400 games at senior level in the Western Australian Football League (WAFL) and the Victorian Football League (VFL), and later coached in both competitions.

Born in Narrogin, Western Australia, Cable made his debut with the Perth Football Club in the WANFL in 1962, and won the Sandover Medal as the fairest and best player in the competition in 1964. Cable was awarded the Tassie Medal as the best player at the 1966 Australian National Football Carnival, as well as selection in the All-Australian team. The same year, he played in the first of three consecutive premierships with Perth, winning the Simpson Medal as the best player in the grand final in each year, as well as a further Sandover Medal in 1968. Cable left Perth at the end of the 1969 season to play for the North Melbourne Football Club in the VFL, and won the club's best and fairest award, the Syd Barker Medal, before returning to Western Australia at the end of the season. Following another three years at Perth, in which he captain-coached the club in 1972 and 1973 and won his third Sandover Medal in the latter year, Cable returned to North Melbourne for the 1974 season. In another four years at the club, he played in two premiership sides, in 1975 and 1977, before again returning to Perth after accepting an offer to captain-coach East Perth. Cable retired from playing at the end of the 1979 season, having injured himself in a farming accident.

Cable returned to Victoria in 1981 to coach North Melbourne, a role which he held until 1984. He later worked as an assistant at the West Coast Eagles during their first years in the VFL. Having represented Western Australia in a total of 25 matches during his playing career, Cable also coached the team at the 1979 State of Origin Carnival, later being named coach of the All-Australian team. Cable holds "Legend" status in both the Australian Football Hall of Fame and the West Australian Football Hall of Fame, as well as membership in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. His tally of seven best and fairest awards at Perth is a club record, and his career total of 405 senior-level games is the most of any player born in Western Australia.

Early life

The youngest of eleven children, Cable was born in Narrogin, a country town in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia. His father, Edward, born in England, died when Cable was six and he was raised by his indigenous mother, Dorothy a member of the Noongar people of south-west Western Australia. Cable spent much of his childhood playing football – aged eleven, he was reprimanded by his school headmaster for devoting too much time to playing. Cable debuted for the senior side of his local club, the Narrogin Imperials in the Upper Great Southern Football League (UGSFL), at the age of fifteen. After spending two years as a butcher's apprentice, Cable moved to Perth to attempt to play in the Western Australian Football League (WAFL).[1]

Playing career

After being rejected by Western Australian football powerhouse East Fremantle for being "too small" – his playing height was listed as 168 cm, or five-and-a-half feet – Cable signed with Perth in 1962.[1] He began his career as a wingman, but late in 1963 was moved to his familiar position of rover. In his first full season there, 1964, Cable would win the first of three Sandover Medals, the highest individual honour in the WAFL. Cable was awarded the Tassie Medal as the best player at the 1966 Australian National Football Carnival, as well as selection in the All-Australian team. The same year, he played in the first of three consecutive premierships with Perth, winning the Simpson Medal as the best player in all three grand finals, as well as a further Sandover Medal in 1968.

Cable's first coach at Perth was former Carlton premiership captain Ern Henfry, who alerted the Blues about the talented young rover. So in 1964, Carlton invited Cable to Melbourne and signed him on a "Form Four", which meant that for the next two seasons he was tied to Carlton if he were to play in Victoria. But Cable had no desire to move interstate, despite the repeated urging from Carlton.[1] During the following three seasons, Perth president Cliff Houghton forbade Cable from negotiating with VFL clubs, and when on 6 July 1969 this ban was lifted and Cable spoke with Hawthorn[2] he did not decide to move. It was not until North Melbourne secretary Ron Joseph flew over to Perth and met with Cable personally in 1969 that Cable decided to play in Victoria. In August of that year, Cable signed a form four with the North Melbourne Football Club, enabling him to transfer to the Victorian Football League (VFL). The secretary of North Melbourne, Ron Joseph, said Cable was "genuinely interested in playing League football", and wanted to "prove himself in Victorian football".[3] At the time Cable made his initial move to Victoria, North Melbourne were a struggling team, still a few years away from becoming one of the powerhouses of the decade. 1970 was a miserable year for the Kangaroos as they finished last on the ladder, but Cable justified the hype over his reputation by winning the Syd Barker Medal and finishing fourth in the Brownlow Medal vote count. However, North Melbourne were unable to meet a clause in his contract, which required them to pay Perth $71,000 to retain Cable's services.[1] This was a large sum, especially in the days when being a VFL footballer was not a full-time profession as it would become in later decades. As a result, Cable returned to Western Australia.

Back at Perth, Cable captain-coached the club in 1972 and 1973 and won his third Sandover Medal in the latter year. During his absence, North Melbourne had managed to sign former Carlton premiership coach Ron Barassi and took advantage of the short-lived Ten-Year Rule to land the signatures of VFL stars Doug Wade, John Rantall and Barry Davis. With Keith Greig and David Dench starting to emerge as champions, Cable decided to return to North Melbourne for the 1974 VFL season. North Melbourne made it to their first Grand Final since 1950, but lost to Richmond. Finally, in 1975, the Kangaroos broke through by defeating Hawthorn to claim their first VFL premiership. At the conclusion of the 1975 season, Cable considered returning to Perth to play, after the death of his father-in-law. North Melbourne had agreed to release him from his contract, but he decided to remain with the club for at least one more season.[4] He again returned to Perth after accepting an offer to captain-coach East Perth. He would return to Perth after 1977.

In the 1978 WAFL grand final, East Perth defeated Cable's old club, Perth, by two points, winning their first premiership since 1972. Cable, who was "at his best in the heavy conditions", was playing in his sixth consecutive grand final, having played in five at North Melbourne.[5][6]

Having represented Western Australia in a total of 25 matches during his playing career, Cable also coached the team at the 1979 State of Origin Carnival, later being named coach of the All-Australian team.

Coaching career

Cable had significantly less success in the VFL as a non-playing coach than as a player, although he did get North Melbourne into the finals in two of his three full seasons in charge during the early 1980s. In 1983 he coached the team to be minor premiers, but North Melbourne lost both final matches to an early exit. After crashing to second-last in 1984 and only avoiding the wooden spoon on percentage, Cable announced his resignation as coach, declaring his long-term future lay in Western Australia.[7]

From 1987 to 1989 Cable served as assistant coach with AFL club West Coast Eagles.

Life after football and honours

Cable had two sons with his wife, Helen: Barry Jr and Shane Cable, both of whom played in the WAFL for Perth and Subiaco. Shane also played a single game for the West Coast Eagles in 1989.[8]

Cable was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in December 1978 for "services to Australian rules football",[9]

While playing for East Perth, Cable decided to take up farming as a hobby and purchased a rural property in Orange Grove, on the outskirts of Perth. On 25 October 1979, he was involved in a near-fatal accident on his property when he attempted to start a Massey Ferguson tractor, but lost control of the vehicle, getting his right leg caught under the rear wheel, stripping one side to the bone.[10] Cable was saved when the tractor came off the leg, continued on its path and drove up the wall, cutting off its petrol supply. Cable then had to summon all his inner strength to remain conscious while yelling for help. Fortunately, a neighbour heard his yelling and after rushing to the scene, Cable directed his horrified rescuer to call his wife and the ambulance.[11]

Cable was rushed to the Royal Perth Hospital for emergency treatment. In his first few days, he amazed everyone with his courage, even holding a brief press conference at the hospital the day after the accident.[12] The first operation was a four-hour procedure in which doctors removed large amounts of foreign matter, including petrol, from the wound. Later, secondary infections set in, necessitating the use of heavy painkillers, with Cable said to be "hovering between life and death", and spending his time in a "twilight world of delirium, drugged sleep and excruciating pain".[12] After his condition had stabilised, a series of operations was conducted in which muscle from his right hip was grafted to replace his right calf muscle, with a vein from his lower left leg being made into an artery for his right leg.[13] At one stage, Cable was given the possibility of never walking freely again.[14] In all, Cable would spend four months on his back at the hospital for treatment on the right leg. Amazingly, he continued on as coach of East Perth for the 1980 season whilst undergoing extensive rehabilitation.[15]

He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in December 1986.[16] In 1996, he was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame, and, in June 2012, was upgraded to "Legend" status.[17] Cable was similarly included as a "Legend" in the West Australian Football Hall of Fame's inaugural induction in 2004. Cable established a non-profit organisation, the Community Development Foundation, in 1999, aimed at assisting schoolchildren from lower socio-economic areas.[18] A function room at Subiaco Oval, the Barry Cable Room, is named in Cable's honour.[19]

In 1997, Hendy Cowan, the Western Australian Minister for Commerce at the time, appointed Cable to the position of the newly formed Aboriginal Economic Development Council, designed to facilitate the "development of Government policy and programs to expand economic opportunities for Aboriginal people".[20] Cable has also been involved in a number of charity efforts involving cycling, especially long-distance cycling. In 1993, he rode a bicycle across the Nullarbor Plain to toss the coin at the 1993 AFL Grand Final,[21] and in April 1997, he led a ride from Mandurah to Bunbury to promote a road safety campaign.[22]

In July 2007, Cable was retrospectively awarded a Simpson Medal for his efforts in the inaugural State of Origin match in 1977, bringing his total number of Simpson Medals to a record five.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d "Barry Cable was deadly by hand or foot". Herald Sun. 14 June 2012.
  2. ^ Christian, Geoff; 'President Gives Waive on Cable'; The West Australian, 7 July 1969, p. 23
  3. ^ CABLE HERE NEXT YEAR?The Age. Published 12 August 1969. Retrieved from Google News, 14 June 2012.
  4. ^ Cable to play another season at NorthThe Age. Published 16 October 1975. Retrieved from Google News, 14 June 2012.
  5. ^ Cable a winner in sixth finalThe Age. Published 25 September 1978. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  6. ^ 1978 WANFL Grand Final: East Perth vs. Perth – Full Points Footy. Archived by the National Library of Australia's Pandora project. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  7. ^ "North Melbourne coach resigns". The Canberra Times. Vol. 59, no. 17, 889. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 20 September 1984. p. 26. Retrieved 26 June 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ West Australian Football League – Aboriginal Football: The Indigenous Game. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  9. ^ It's an Honour
  10. ^ "Surgery for Cable". The Age. 5 November 1979. p. 33.
  11. ^ Mangidis, Ricky (20 July 2016). "Barry Cable's near-death experience". North Melbourne Football Club.
  12. ^ a b "Cable facing uphill battle after accident". The Age. 2 November 1979. p. 3.
  13. ^ Barry on his feetThe Age. Published 9 January 1980. Retrieved from Google News, 14 June 2012.
  14. ^ Cable faces 8-hour 'rebuilding' operationThe Age. Published 8 November 1979. Retrieved from Google News, 14 June 2012.
  15. ^ Harrington, Anna (18 July 2016). "Barry Cable opens up on tractor accident on Fox Footy's Open Mike". Fox Sports.
  16. ^ Barry Cable – Hall of Fame. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  17. ^ Cable the Legend Archived 16 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine – Australian Football League. Published 13 June 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  18. ^ Football legend visits submarine – Navy news. Published 6 March 2000. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  19. ^ Patersons Stadium history Archived 13 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine – West Australian Football Commission. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  20. ^ Barry Cable to head advisory body on Aboriginal economic development – Ministerial Media Statement. Published 18 December 1997. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  21. ^ Matthew Ricketson (2004). The Best Australian Profiles. Black Inc. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-86395-293-4.
  22. ^ Barry Cabel [sic] to lead cyclists into Westar Rules match in Bunbury to promote road safety – Ministerial Media Statement. Published 11 April 1997. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
  23. ^ Barry Cable awarded fifth Simpson Medal – Australian Football League. Published 5 July 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2012.