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It’s not often that South Fremantle Football Club give their cross town rivals at Moss Street thanks for anything, but in the case of Brad Bootsma they have every reason to be thankful to the Blue and Whites. “I was actually asked to try out at East Fremantle in the season of 1993 as the coach at Cockburn, Rod Zupanovich, was playing at East Fremantle at the time,” Brad recalled.  “Unfortunately things didn’t work out and I was told I was not required.”  “Ken Judge was the coach at East Fremantle and I went on to have a good association with him later at CBC cricket club and still joke about it with him now that he told me I was no good and couldn’t play. I’m sure the story is getting better as the years go by. I finished the year out at Cockburn and ended up high in the awards but can’t remember how the season went.” The rejection didn’t faze the young Bootsma, who was more intent on making a career on the cricket field. Football in those days was to Brad a means of keeping fit for cricket season, as was hockey, squash, and go kart racing. A more than promising member of Fremantle Cricket Club, Bootsma attracted the attention of South Fremantle in 1994.       “I still wasn’t sure about football, as I wanted to make something of cricket, however I went down and tried out, making my league debut on the 23rd July 1994 in a Derby at the age of twenty two,” Brad recalled. “I don’t really have too many recollections to be honest as I’m not like a Tom Bottrell or David Gault who could tell you the ins and outs of all their games. I do know that I started on a half back flank playing on Steve Lally, got the first kick of the game from the first bounce, picked it up off half back and just kicked it as far as I could away from my area.”  Playing at centre half back with the reserves, Bootsma initially divided his football between South and Cockburn.   “I still remember back in my first year when I was only playing reserves and not getting a look in, I would actually play for South’s on the Saturday and then go and play for Cockburn on the Sunday under a false name with my mates. It seemed to be more fun playing there and less serious. However this changed pretty quickly when I made the league side and never played reserves again. I wonder now what would have happened if South’s found out I was playing two games a weekend and where my career would have ended up, but they were good times.” The return of John Todd to the club was an eyeopener for Bootsma. “ I do remember John Todd’s first ever training session when he came back to Souths in 1995,” he related. “It was a hot night at the Leeuwin Barracks and the start of pre season. Toddy called us all in and did the formal stuff, then told us what we would be doing tonight. We were doing one hundred 100m sprints in one minute. So to put it in perspective we had to run 100m in twenty seconds and run back 100m in forty seconds to go again on the minute so in effect we did two hundred 100m runs.”  “Every 25 efforts we would also do sit ups and push ups. I’m sure John did this to weed out all the weak minded players that thought they could make the cut, some came and went before you got to know them. After these sprints we went to the pool for some pool work, we all jumped in and had to tread water for what seemed like ages and most of us were cramping. We had this one bloke who decided to climb out of the pool because he was cramping. Toddy had no sympathy and told the bloke to get back in the pool to which this bloke told Toddy he couldn’t because of cramp, which we were all suffering from anyway and I can tell you John Todd is not a bloke you argue with or backchat.”  “John gave him another chance and he didn’t get back in so Toddy in his own words told him  “grab your bag and %^$# off, and while you’re doing that, here are two clearances  I’ve signed, just  in case you lose one”.  “I’m not sure who the player was but he never returned and I think from that day forward we all knew that this bloke wasn’t going to take any shit and we had to do it his way or not be there.”  “That was one of the hardest pre seasons I’ve ever done, but it was all worth it.” Bootsma soon became a leading player at the Bulldogs. He made his debut in the black and gold of Western Australia in 1995 as a wingman in a twenty seven point win over Queensland in Brisbane. It was to be the first of five interstate appearances in a variety of positions, culminating in the game at Fremantle oval against South Australia in 2003, when he was among the best players as captain.       It was in 1997 that the appointment of teammate Phil Cronan as coach of Swan Districts almost saw Bootsma transfer to the Black and Whites.  “Todd wouldn’t allow me to go and now on reflection  I’m glad he stopped me as I would have missed out on a premiership with a lot of my close mates,” Brad said. Bootsma figured prominently in the Bulldogs 1997 premiership win over, ironically, East Fremantle, kicking a vital goal in the final quarter when hampered by a foot injury. The following season he won the first of two WJ  Hughes medals in succession as fairest and best for South Fremantle.    Bootsma had developed into one of the WAFL’s leading players, with his height and pace enabling him to fill most positions on the ground, with impeccable disposal, and despite being in the late twenties, was regarded by critics as being a good draft chance with the fledgling Fremantle Dockers.   “After the 1999 season I flew over to South Australia to have talks with Central Districts in the SANFL and was committed to go there if I didn’t get drafted,” he recalled. “I was training with Fremantle in the hope I would be picked up but nothing was a certainty at the age of twenty seven and got to the point where I went to Fremantle and asked whether they would draft me otherwise I was going to Adelaide to play.  Two days later I was told that I would be drafted. A dream I had been hunting ever since I played my first league game had finally came true.” Still in good form, Brad Bootsma shocked the South Fremantle club and it’s supporters by announcing his retirement prior to the 2005 season after a hundred and sixty one league games for the club.  “I retired due to my picture framing business, which was going backwards, and I needed to find a steady job that would give me stability for my family, so when a position came up as a development officer for the Great Southern, I decided to apply and got offered the job,” he explained.  “This all took place at the commencement of the 2005 season, about two weeks before the season started so I had done all the pre season at Souths and now would be moving to Albany for a career change.”  “I played the first game of the WAFL season that year as a farewell game which we won against East Perth and that was my 162nd and last league appearance. I remained as the development officer in Albany for one and a half years playing with North Albany Football Club, and we went on to have one of the most successful periods in the clubs history.” North Albany won four premierships in a row, during which Bootsma coached two, lost the fifth, and made the finals the next two years.  Brad coached for five years for two premierships, one premiership loss, one preliminary final loss and a first semi final loss. Bootsma also won two Allan Barnett medals, awarded to the man of the match in the Grand Final in the Great Southern Football League, in 2006 and 2008. These days he is back in Perth and has accepted a role as an Assistant at Peel Thunder Football Club this year. “I am really looking forward to the challenge,” he said. Currently a Prison Officer for the Department of Corrective Services, Brad cycles three hundred kilometres a week (when in full training) and also plays first grade cricket for the Armadale Cricket Club.. Married to Mandy, Brad has five children from two marriages with age groups spanning almost nineteen years(Josh (19), Jayden (16), Courtney (10), Abbie (3) and Lachlan (1),but he reckons they keep him young. Eldest Josh is definitely following in his father’s footsteps, having been drafted by Carlton at pick twenty one, and has settled into Melbourne life really well. Josh is also a good cricketer. Jayden plays football and cricket, Courtney plays netball and the youngest two are yet to ply their trade just yet.  Bootsma’s nomination as hardest opponent was Collingwood’s Nathan Buckley.   “He was such a hard working player and had it all. Could mark, run, win his own ball and win a game off his own boot for his team and was just very hard to stop.”  “In the WAFL I would have to say that Peter Julian from West Perth would have been my hardest opponent. PJ was such a good stopper and you knew when you were playing on him that you were in for a tough game. If you could get a kick on him you were going ok but he was also a player who could actually hurt you the other way if you didn’t man up on him. I had some really good tussles with PJ and you really do earn a respect for your opposition which I had for him.” “Two players that I played alongside and would be in my top two players picked in any of my teams would be Matt Clucas and John Porter. Matt was just a hard in and under player with exceptional skills. We really gelled as teammates on the field and are close friends to this day.”  “John Porter was just a superior defender who was rarely beaten by his opponent. John is one bloke that would have been a quality fullback in the AFL. To single out a couple isn’t really fair because at times I’m sure every player I’ve played alongside has contributed to me being a better player and person, that’s what team sport is about.” His thoughts on the game today? “The biggest change I have seen in the game would have to be the speed of it. The game is just getting faster and faster and although it’s exciting, I feel it could come at a cost for the longevity of player’s careers. The capacity to run both ways regardless if you are the full forward or full back or a midfielder is astounding, the days of just playing in your position are gone with all the current flooding and zoning tactics.” Brad Bootsma was one of South Fremantle’s favourite sons in the decade spanning the late nineties and early twenties, and a respected player by all supporters of all WAFL supporters, for his ability and approach to the game. He can be proud of a fine career.                

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