WAAFL president recalls messy days


WAAFL president John Davies recalls spending a lot of his time at clubs in Perth meeting people who are the backbone of the league, he said.
WAAFL president John Davies recalls spending a lot of his time at clubs in Perth meeting people who are the backbone of the league, he said.

Two decades later, the league boasts 68 clubs, more than 240 teams and a healthy bank balance in excess of $2 million.

Davies began his involvement in amateur football in 1964 as a foundation member of the North Beach Amateur Football Club, where he played 216 games.

“There was a gentleman named Herbert Grosvenor who encouraged me to run for the WAAFL board,” Davies said.

“I’m not sure what he saw in me to be honest but I got on that board in 1976 and then became vice-president in 1995.

“Within six months I was president because the previous one, Don Baker, decided to retire.

“It was just chance really, I guess it was the right time.”

Davies inherited a board comprised of “amateur players, unemployed people and truck drivers” and promptly set to work securing the league’s financial future.

“It was a totally different time back then,” he said.

“We had no professional legal or financial experts and there wasn’t a great emphasis on money management or supporting the clubs, some of which were really struggling.

“Clubs used to have to pay their fees in three instalments which we changed to four spread throughout the year.

“We also encouraged clubs to collect some of their fees during pre-season, because many players would knick off before the actual season started without paying anything.”

Ron Webster was appointed general manager in 2002 and his business savvy soon had more money, in the form of sponsorships, flowing into the league.

“Ron was a pure businessman with contacts in all sorts of sectors all over Perth,” Davies said.

“Before he came onboard we considered $500 a fantastic sponsorship but he was pushing for $100,000 a pop.”

Davies also oversaw the adoption of a comprehensive insurance scheme for all players, umpires, coaches and committee members and the transition to digital record keeping and administration.

“We wanted to make clubs easier to run so we introduced one-line player registration and provided every club with a free iPad to assist with administrative duties,” he said.

“We also brought in a defined promotion and relegation system which gave clubs a lot more certainty.

“Previous to that, it was done on an ad hoc basis, with clubs occasionally finishing on the bottom of the ladder and staying in A-Grade just because they said they wanted to – it was very messy.”

Established in 2009, Davies considers the burgeoning success of the eight-team Integrated Football program for players with intellectual disabilities among his proudest achievements.

Looking back on his 20 years at the top, he said he would miss the camaraderie of the position and had grown a life-long admiration for volunteers of any kind.

“I spent a lot of my time at clubs all over Perth, meeting the people who are the backbone of this league,” he said.

“I truly believe that without sporting clubs we’d have anarchy in our communities and so many of those clubs are run by long-time volunteers who will do just about anything to help them survive.”

Davies will spend his new-found free time travelling and finishing off a history of the WAAFL that he hopes to complete in time to coincide with the league’s 100th anniversary in 2021.