OUTGOING West Perth president Brett Raponi admits he likely would have remained in the role had vice-president Scott Bellam not expressed interest.
But with the Falcons in a strong position, particularly with the multimillion-dollar construction of its clubrooms, Raponi saw Bellam’s enthusiasm as an opportunity to concentrate on life outside of Arena Joondalup.
A well-known radio announcer recently claimed Raponi was “ousted” from the role, but the premiership president asserted this was not the case. “I’ve been president for eight years and on the board for 12,” he said.
“I just felt the time was right to get a better work-life balance.
“I didn’t think I would be able to commit 100 per cent next year and I knew I could probably get away with not doing that but that’s not the best thing for the club or for me.
“I’m not bitter or angry or twisted about things. There’s a lot of hours put in on this sort of role in work time and personal time and it started to just wear.”
While the 2013 premiership was a euphoric high, Raponi recalled the effort that went into securing the funding at Arena Joondalup as his finest moment.
He attended about 95 appointments in 13 months to build momentum for what would lead to an $8 million redevelopment.
“That’s going to underwrite the football club for the next 50 years in Joondalup,” he said. “It’s fantastic for the northern suburbs as much as anyone.”
When he became president in 2009, he considered West Perth to have a “woe is me” attitude, with officials complaining the community did not resonate with it.
Now the club sets the benchmark for community engagement in the WAFL, particularly through the appeal of its international round to the district’s burgeoning population of residents with foreign heritage.
Raponi expected Bellam to be a “very good president”, saying he had a close working relationship with him. And while he hoped to attend the majority of West Perth games next season, he was conscious of leaving some “clear air” for Bellam to make his own mark.
“But I’ll still contribute if the club needs some help along the way,” he said. “Social functions, I would attend those, I’ve got a lot of friends there.”
Raponi’s tenure was not without its hurdles.
He most recently put the WA Football Commission offside with comments he made about Peel’s finals success and its connection to the Thunder’s AFL alignment with Fremantle.
In 2012, the Falcons were sanctioned over behaviour from club officials in the aftermath of a heated WA Day draw with East Perth. The next year, West Perth was found to have breached the salary cap.
And perhaps most well documented, was the season-long protest Raponi led against Channel 7 and the WAFC’s demand to have the Channel 9 logo removed from West Perth’s jumpers during game telecasts last year.
But his passion for the WAFL and his successful push to grow the profile of West Perth and Australian football in a district with an abundance of international residents certainly has the football community holding him in high regard.
His tenure officially ends next Wednesday when the club holds it annual general meeting.