A Letter From Bernie Conlen

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of a great of the West Adelaide Football Club, Doug Thomas.

Doug passed away peacefully last night at his Flagstaff Hill care facility. He was with his long-time partner Raelene who has stoically cared for Doug over a number of years.

I first met Doug in 1983 when he recruited me from Victoria. Like so many players recruited by Doug you were well cared for. He would always be sure you had accommodation, employment & for most a better life style. I’m sure the term “My door is always open” referred to Doug because it was always comforting to drop into his office for a chat.

He was the master of the quote, such as,” If I had to choose between the Russians or Port Adelaide. I’d take the Ruskies every time”.

He described his school days at Sturt Primary saying, “I spent so many years in the one class, by the time I left, my class mates were calling me sir.

I will always miss his classic greeting. “Let me shake the hand that shook the world”

Doug dedicated most of his life to our club & football in this state on & off the field.

His contribution to the West Adelaide Football club should never be forgotten.

Our thoughts are with Rae & Doug’s family & friends. The West Adelaide football club is a much better place due to his contribution.

Sadly, due to the current situation with the pandemic, we can’t have a farewell for Doug at this particular time. At the first opportunity a celebration of his life will be held at the West Adelaide football club. Any updates to this matter will be posted on our website.

Bernie Conlen


WAFC Past Players & Officials.


Vale Douglas W Thomas

13th September 1932 to 20th April 2020.

 Member of West Adelaide premiership team 1961

  • 5 games for South Australia
  • West Adelaide Coach 1963 – 1964
  • West Adelaide General Manager 1977 – 2006
  • SANFL Match and Permit Committee 1987 – 2006
  • SANFL League Director 1977, 1991 – 1993
  • Proxy League Director 1978 – 1990, 1994 – 2006
  • SANFL Umpires Board 1989 – 1993
  • SANFL State Selector / State of Origin Selector 1990 – 1995
  • West Adelaide Life Member
  • SANFL Player Life Member 1966
  • SANFL League Life Member 1997
  •   Inaugural Member of the West Adelaide Hall of Fame 2005
  • Elevated to WAFC Hall of Fame Legend 2016

Doug played 218 games and kicked 110 goals for West Adelaide between 1951 and 1957 and from 1961 to 1965, spending the interim time as captain-coach of Wimmera Football League side Dimboola, whom he steered to a rare premiership success in 1959. He made his name as a dour, close-checking full back, but later put some of the knowledge gained to paradoxically good use as a full forward.
Doug captain-coached Westies in 1963 and 1964 and was skipper under Don Taylor’s coaching in 1965. He played five times for South Australia, kicking six goals. After his retirement as a player he embarked on a lifelong administrative and managerial career with the club.