Former WA football commissioner and amateur league champion Neale Fong returned to his old club West Perth as guest speaker on Saturday.
The brother of Falcons legend Les Fong told the president’s lunch ahead of the international round clash with Subiaco that he had made his league debut 30 years previously at Leederville Oval against the same club.
“It’s great to be here,” he said. “I have great affinity at Joondalup; in all my years growing up, our family friends the Croots used to own a farm that looked down on Lake Joondalup and, of course, Joondalup being the Nyungar word for the lake that glistens…
“Congratulations to the West Perth Football Club for bringing together so many different parts of our community for this international day.”
Staying with the West Perth-Subiaco theme, Dr Fong referred to two grand final victories over Subi – in 1995 and 2003 – after the Falcons had moved to Joondalup and while Darren Harris was captain and coach respectively.
He used Harris to segue into West Perth’s international round by saying “what you may not know is that Harris was actually born in Papua New Guinea”.
“Out of the 1600-odd players who have played league football for West Perth – 1200 of which the historians know where they were born – only 15 were born in the UK,” he said, conscious of the UK heritage of a high proportion of the northern suburbs’ residents.
“It’s quite a small number of British players and there’s just a smattering of others born elsewhere, such as Harris.
“So there’s a great challenge ahead of us to continue to build on the number of people from the UK (playing the game)… and to encourage our game to be popular and taken up by Australians of wider multicultural heritage.”
He said the diversity of the football community included women and continuing to “grow our bonds with indigenous people”. He also spoke of football forming important partnerships, including with mental health.
“I chair the Ministerial Council on Suicide Prevention and the partnership football has had with the suicide strategy in Western Australia has been very effective,” he said.
“This is an issue we need to do more and more and more about.
“We all know that about one person per day in Western Australia is still taking their lives.”