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In round five of the 1984 season, twenty five year old West Perth wingman Rod Alderton suffered a serious knee injury that effectively ended a burgeoning league career, after beginning the season in blistering form.

It was a sad blow to a talented and popular player at the Cardinals. A member of the State squad on two occasions, he was set to step into the top bracket of the game.

Transferred from a high marking forward to a wingman in 1982 by coach Dennis Cometti, Alderton had dominated the position in 1983, and it was puzzling to many how he'd missed State selection that year. Even considering the wealth of wingmen available to the WA selectors at the time, such as the Narkle brothers, Darrell Panizza, Alan Daniels, and Alan Johnson, his form and the value of his high marking talents were surprisingly not utilised by the State selectors.

From Merredin, Alderton had his heart set on playing with Perth as a youngster, with Barry Cable his hero, an ambition that was always going to be difficult playing in West Perth's zone, and a visit from the Cardinals Kevin Bradley delivered him to Leederville Oval.

Playing at centre half forward and full forward in Merredin's senior team at the age of sixteen, he came under the tutorship of two great local coaches in Eric Arthur and former Claremont and State player Jimmy Thomas. “It was Arthur who gave me the guidance and encouragement to develop my game, and the persuasion of Jimmy convinced me to give league football a go,” Alderton recalls.

The addition of Percy Johnson as a mentor on  his arrival at West Perth was the icing on the cake.

“Percy was a great coach, who took a special interest in younger players,” he said.

A  springheel jack, Alderton was a great aerialist, with good pace, and a long, accurate kick. After playing half the 1977 season with West Perth colts and the remainder in the reserves, he played the first of his one hundred and twenty six league games against Claremont in round three of 1978, in a forward pocket. “I was playing on Graham Moss and David Rawlinson, who were changing in the ruck,” he said. Moved to centre half forward for the following game, Alderton became a permanent member of the West Perth forward line.

In1978, West Perth were considered by many as likely premiers, but injuries at a crucial time of the season dealt a blow to their chances, and they were knocked out of the finals by Subiaco in the first semi final. 

In an inspired move by coach Cometti, the just under six foot Alderton was transformed into a centreline player in 1982.  In what was to be the forerunner of the era of  taller wingmen, Alderton took to the new role like a duck to water, and finished runner up to perennial winner Les Fong in West Perth fairest and best voting that year.

His injury put him into rehab for the rest of the 1984 season, and eventually led to his retirement from league football.

Testing the knee after two years out of the game, Alderton played with Kelmscott in 1986. “It was pretty ordinary, but I stuck with it,” he recalled. After another year at the South Suburban club, he took on the playing coach position at Amateur club Wembley. “Wembley were very strong,” he said. “I enjoyed my time there, with some great players and a terrific club.”

Wembley made it to the preliminary final in both Rod's years as coach.

These days Rod Alderton is Executive Director of Government Procurement at the Treasury. He enjoys playing golf at Wembley a couple of times a week, as well as plenty of time on the beach. He and wife Jenni have two girls and a boy.

Rod rated Claremont wingman Darrell Panizza as the hardest wingman he played on, while giving Simon Outhwaite, from South Fremantle, the compliment as the toughest defender to get over. While naming Les Fong, Peter Menaglio, Ross Prunster and Brian Adamson as best he'd played with, Alderton paid respects to some other stars of his day: “Stephen Michael was the best I saw, with Graham Moss, the Krakoeurs, and Rioli outstanding.”  

He also paid tribute to Cometti. “Dennis was a very good coach. A stirring orator, motivator, and a coach who went outside the box, he sometimes did get carried away. One day at Claremont he was in his best form in an attempt at lifting the adrenalin of the players, and said, in a dramatic tone: “Time stands still for no one.” In an animated gesture, he then threw his gold watch against the wall. On that occasion he got it wrong. The watch did stop.”

If is a big word in football. But many who saw the form Rod Alderton was in at the time he was forced to depart the league scene are adamant that if allowed to add to the hundred and twenty six games he played at West Perth he would have been one of the stars of the WANFL. He is well remembered by all West Perth fans lucky enough to have seen him play.  





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