Jack 'Squeaker' Cullen was a key defender in Norwood's 1894 premiership triumph and then went on to help West Perth win its first three flags.Born at North Adelaide on 27 December 1872, he was a champion swimmer and runner at Christian Brothers' College before embarking on his football career with Adelaide in 1893. He was his team's best player as Adelaide endured two thumping defeats at the hands of Norwood.
Snapped up by Norwood in 1894, he joined the future Test cricket captain Joe Darling in thwarting South Adelaide's attempt to win its third successive premiership. Their deeds were etched in the memory of a young observer who wrote in the WA Sportsman two decades later: "We 'wagged' it from College, and saw Cullen and Joe Darling . . . carried shoulder high from the field after Norwood had gained the Premiership by a goal. Cullen never played a better game than he did that nerve-wrecking day. He and Darling were on the half-back lines, and never were men more sorely pressed. They repelled all attacks again and again, and gave one of the finest exhibitions of defensive play we have ever seen."
That was Jack's last match for Norwood as he and a host of team-mates flocked to the Golden West. In 1895 he starred for the old Fremantle team which later became South Fremantle. In 1896 he served the old Imperials team which evolved into East Fremantle. From 1897 until he retired in 1902, he was a match-winner for West Perth with his brainy football, pace and scouting ability contributing significantly to premierships in 1897, 1899 and 1901.
A notable feature of his game was his high-pitched voice as he directed traffic, earning him the nickname 'Squeaker'. Not everyone was impressed. A savage critic in 1902 labelled him "a pest", adding: "' Squeak,' ' Squeak,' from the time he goes on to the field till he leaves, full of dirty points. cowardly when beaten, and to judge by his own story the worst treated man on the field, not excepting the umpire, such is Jack Cullen. However, the squeaker met a kind of earthquake on Saturday which set him thinking for the rest of the afternoon . . . 'The best man that ever left South Australia' , annoyed perhaps at being shouldered off a few minutes before, went at ('Minnie') Palmer with mouth open, eyes glaring, hair on end and arms revolving . . . Palmer, who has not played with Essendon and the Goldfields teams without learning points, too, laid the weighty South Australian low, there was a roar of laughter all round the ring."
When Os Bertram died tragically in Perth in 1896, Cullen was a pallbearer at the funeral along with his former Norwood team-mates Charlie Atkins, George Kirby and Tom Coombe. In 1915 he played under Billy Elsdon for The Rest of Australia against Victoria in a veterans' charity football match in Perth.
In 1900, Cullen went to the Boer War in the First WA Contingent.
A retired customs officer, Jack Cullen died in Perth on 30 March 1932, survived by his widow, son and daughter.
P Robins August 2017