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Friday, September 30, 2016 - 11:11 PM by Chris Pike
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RECRUITING from interstate can be somewhat of a lottery for WAFL clubs but West Perth struck gold with Rohan Kerr who has delivered a tremendous consistent four years as a highly-skilled, prolific ball winning star.

Kerr was drafted to Carlton from the Dandenong Stingrays in 2009 and spent three years at the Blues without breaking through for an AFL debut but when he was delisted it was a fresh start he was after.

But even he couldn’t imagine that upon moving to Western Australia and join West Perth that by the time a new job meant playing WAFL football would become impossible four years later that he would be calling Perth home for the foreseeable future.

Kerr has had to pull the plug on his state football career that began with his three years in the VFL while with Carlton and now four outstanding seasons with West Perth due to a role at the Alcoa aluminium plant in Kwinana that will make putting in the time required as a WAFL player impossible.

He will prove a tough player to replace for West Perth in 2017 given he has averaged 23 possessions over the course of his 82 games with the Falcons since the start of 2013.

It's not just the amount of possessions though. Kerr has been one of the best kicks in the WAFL over those 82 matches to go with being one of the hardest running and most damaging players in the competition.

That saw him star in West Perth's premiership win of 2013 when he kicked five goals in the Grand Final win over East Perth while finishing fourth in Breckler Medal voting in 2014 and being a likely high finisher again in 2016 following a strong injury-free season.

That consistently high performance over four years means that West Perth got tremendous reward out of recruiting Kerr in the first place with a premiership, two Grand Finals and three finals appearances in that time as well.

Kerr knew the pressure that came with being an interstate recruit coming off an AFL list when he arrived in 2013. As life now takes him away from playing in the WAFL, he is content with what he delivered for the Falcons over the four years.

"Coming over from Melbourne after being on an AFL list you kind of come with that reputation to perform so personally it's been a good four years," Kerr said.

"The back injury set me back a little bit last year but I moved past that and was able to play a full year this year and the back end of the season last year including the finals.

"Coming over here and winning a premiership in the first year definitely made me strive for more and we wanted that success again. As a playing group we were determined to do everything we could and with such a young group we were all pretty hungry for the same thing."

Kerr couldn’t have possibly asked for more from the West Perth Football Club over the past four years as he was adjusting to life in the real world for the first time after three years on an AFL list following high school.

That made it a tremendously difficult decision to decide he couldn’t continue in 2017 but the employment opportunity with Alcoa proved too good to turn down considering it could set up the rest of Kerr's life.

"It was a very tough decision despite what people may think. West Perth's been my family for the last four years after coming over here not knowing anybody," he said.

"We had some team success my first year over here and I've made some lifelong friends out of that and we've created some special bonds that people can't take away.

"That's something I will never forget for the rest of my life and I've been extremely grateful to the club and everyone involved from the supporters to players and staff.

"I can't thank them enough for everything they've done for me to give me the opportunity to come over and start a new life. I can't speak more highly of the football club."

The fact that Kerr's work is in Kwinana for Alcoa with shifts that either run from 7am to 7pm, or 7pm to 7am while living in South Yunderup meant that training and playing with West Perth just wouldn’t be possible.

"Unfortunately given work commitments I wouldn’t be able to put in the time and effort that would need to be put in to keep going on at the WAFL level," he said.

"It's unfortunate but I need to start thinking about 10 years down the track and about my family and future, and where I'm going to head in life rather than chipping away at one and two-year contracts.

"Everyone I've spoken to at work they've been there for 20 or 30 years, and apparently once you get your foot in the door you don’t leave. I think I'm stuck there now until at least I start to grow some grey hairs."

Now that his four-year journey with West Perth is over, Kerr couldn’t be more thankful with all involved including the then football manager and chief executive.

"Jamie Ball and Gerry O'Dea were the ones who kick started my move and got me over here. The transition has been amazing," Kerr said.

"I had a bit of a hiccup with my dad passing not long after I first moved over and the club was fantastic through that.

"They got me on the first flight back to Melbourne and gave me as much time as I needed. I think we are definitely leaving on good terms and I can't thank the club enough for everything."

It's the culture and character of everyone involved in the West Perth Football Club that stood out to Kerr as soon as he arrived four years ago. That's why he has no doubt the Falcons will continue to be a force despite the disappointing finals exit with losses to South Fremantle and Peel Thunder.

"They will still be up there for years to come without me. You can replace players but you can't replace the heart of the club," he said.

"The heads are in the right space at the club and everyone will keep working towards that goal. I think as a club we were pretty embarrassed about the way we went out this year and I think in years to come they will be up there to strive for some success."

The premiership in 2013 was a great highlight for Kerr and is something he will never forget, but it's more so the bond created with all involved at West Perth over four years that will leave the lasting memory with him.

"It's definitely the highlight of my career at West Perth. Obviously getting drafted on draft day was pretty special as well but the winning grand final probably trumped that," he said.

"We had such a young group and to share it with most of the boys who are still there means everyone has had a bit of a taste of what it's like. They are definitely experienced now and we know they can stand up in the big stage of finals.

"It was definitely the highlight of my career and of my four years, but you can't take away the friendships that you made and West Perth has been my family for four years. I'll definitely be around the club a fair bit and once they start playing I will miss it, but I'll still be around."

While the premiership would have been memorable in 2013 no matter how Kerr performed, the fact that he was one of the best afield with 19 possessions and five goals made it even more special.

It has made for some interesting talking between Simpson Medallist Mark Hutchings and Shane Nelson who had 36 possessions and 13 clearances ever since as well.

"It's always good to perform especially on the big stage. Nelly's probably still a bit dirty that he didn’t win the Simpson but I still claim I should have got it on the day," Kerr said.

"There's a bit of banter between me, Nelly and Hutchy when we see each other or catch up, but Hutchy is pretty quick to remind us he has it sitting at home. But to perform on a big stage is pretty special and you want to be remembered for performing when you need to.

"Everyone performed on the day and if it wasn’t Hutchy or me or Nelly, it could have been anyone else. Even Chooky Fowler got three votes somehow but Ray Bartholomew had a great game and so did Matt Guadagnin and Jay van Berlo in the middle."

Once Kerr got his job at Alcoa late in the 2016 season he knew that he wouldn’t be able to continue playing WAFL football but that didn’t mean it was an easy decision or that it wasn’t tough to tell those at the club from coach Bill Monaghan down to his teammates.

It also created for an emotional farewell when West Perth lost its first semi-final to eventual premiers Peel Thunder at HBF Arena.

"I probably knew halfway through the year and as soon as I knew I told Bill and the club. Bill was fantastic with it and he took his coaches hat off for a second and put his father's one on and was all for the move, and was encouraging that I had to do whatever I had to do for my family and set myself up for the future," Kerr said.

"It was definitely tough but I kept telling everyone I didn’t want to leave the club, but I thought the earlier I told them the more respect I was giving them to have the chance to recruit someone else and that I didn’t drop them a bombshell in November or when they offered a new contract.

"That last game was pretty hard. Obviously the supporters didn’t know too much but internally we knew what was going on and to share that moment with Trent (Manzone) who I started and finished with was a good moment.

"There were a few tears shed after the game but they were quickly moved on to happy thoughts and I was pretty quick to thank everyone and to remember all the good times."

Kerr won't rule out returning to West Perth one day down the track but while his work situation remains as it is it won't be possible, but living in Perth is something he sees himself continuing to do for the foreseeable future.

"I've finished on 82 games so to come back for a year or two and get my name on the locker to be part of the history at West Perth would be good, but we'll just have to see how it goes and how much work takes over," he said.

"I've made some lifelong friends and they are definitely not going to be forgotten anytime soon and then there is the weather here, and the fact that it's nice and relaxed compared to Melbourne.

"Especially living down here in South Yunderup it's a bit of a country life and a bit different to what I'm used to. I had never seen a kangaroo until I was 20 years old. I love Perth and I can't see myself moving back."

Given Kerr played TAC Cup football with the Dandenong Stingrays and was immediately drafted to Carlton where he played five NAB Cup matches and VFL football for three years prior to four seasons in the WAFL, it will be a new experience playing at Pinjarra for him in 2017.

"I actually haven’t played local footy since I was about 16 years old so it's going to be different and it will be a challenge, but I'm definitely looking forward to it," Kerr said.

"I will miss WAFL level and the crowds that come with it playing on the best grounds you can, but it is a challenge that I'm looking forward to."