Monday, February 13, 2017 - 5:49 PM by Chris Pike

WEST Perth has strengthened its football department with the appointment of former Perth fairest and best winner Chad Harding as the new football operations co-ordinator.

Harding will work closely with Ward Harris and Casey Haw to ensure that all the coaches and players at the Falcons are in the best hands possible.

Harding comes into the role with it being his first official involvement in football since his playing career.

That began in the amateurs with Scarborough where he won premierships as an 18 and 19-year-old before he joined Perth. He went on to play 86 games with the Demons and won the fairest and best award in 2003 on the back of playing in two state games before life took him to Melbourne.

He has been back in Perth several years now building his young family and focusing on his work with the Kingdomcity Church, but football has always been a great passion.

Harding showed that last year when he won the Bankwest Commentators Cup and that not only earned him a trip to the AFL Grand Final, but to spend some time with West Perth legend Dennis Cometti.

As fate would have it, several months later and he is on board with the Falcons for a role that he is excited about.

"I basically just liked the idea of getting back involved and with the role being part-time it allowed me to do my other job so that was perfect. Once I met the team of people at the club, everyone was so humble and nice so I thought it would be a nice place to work," Harding said.

"My role really is to assist the coaches in the best way possible to set up training and liaise with the trainers, and to be a great support for the players as well. I'll also help the strength and conditioning guys as a bit of a go to person.

"I'll sort of be everyone's assistant really. On game day it will be similar. I'll help set up the coaches' box and do anything I can for the players of all three grades during the day."

Harding enjoyed his time playing at Perth between 1999-2003 where he racked up 86 games, won a fairest and best and played for WA twice. But what he didn’t realise was how much went on behind the scenes to allow the players to perform and be looked after.

That's now something he is looking to be part of but to also help the players appreciate what they are part of even if it is his first official role in football.

"I made a bunch of great friends who I still stay in contact with but what I probably didn’t realise was how much happens behind the scenes when you are a player. Now taking this job on, I appreciate the workload that other people put in. I'll try and get that across to the players now in the right way," he said.

"I haven’t had any formal roles, but I won a couple of A-grade premierships at Scarborough so I go back there a fair bit and I've been to some Perth past player days.

"But after 2003, I actually lived in Melbourne for six years and played a bit of footy there but I haven’t had any formal employment or involvement apart from following the games closely. I thought this was a great opportunity to throw myself in."

With his work as pastor and with a young family made up of a wife and three kids, Harding feels he has plenty to offer the players as well if ever they need a supporting shoulder. But even more exciting for him is that his kids can't wait to get involved too.

"I've got a daughter who is eight and two sons who are six and two. The six-year-old plays in our zone for Edgewater-Woodvale, and he is dead keen to come to training. They are all very excited now that daddy works in football," Harding said.

"I'm 37 now and I know what it's like to play footy and I also know what it's like to have a young family. I've been married for 16 years so I sort of know what that's like. I feel like I can offer something to the younger guys and the older ones to just be there as a support.

"I won't go out of my way to be a mentor or anything but over time as we build relationships I'll be there for the players to help out in any way I can."

Harding grew up dreaming of one day playing with Claremont but he had just about given up on the WAFL after two A-grade premierships at Scarborough. But then Gary Armstrong got him to Lathlain Park and the rest was history.

"I grew up as a massive Claremont fan in the 80s and 90s, and used to go to all their grand finals and read all the Footy Budgets which I still have. I started playing in Subiaco juniors and got to 16s where I played every game, but they never called me again," he said.

"I went down to Scarborough amateurs as a 17-year-old and played in a couple of A-grade premierships. Gary Armstrong then got the job to Perth and he said he thought I could play in the WAFL.

"I ended up playing 86 of the 90 league games in my time there and state footy. That's how I got to Perth and I'll always be thankful to him for that."

As for life away from football, Harding remains committed to his work with Kingdomcity Church and he is thankful they have been supportive in him taking up the role at West Perth as well.

"I'm actually a pastor at Kingdomcity, which is a church with four locations in Perth as far south as Mandurah and all the way up to Butler. I help run the Butler campus on a Sunday where we do two services and we literally have hundreds of people come in and enjoy it," he said.

"They are people of all ages all the way from teenagers through to older people. Then throughout the week I help out with building projects and other things we are doing.

"Church has been gracious and sees this as a great opportunity for me, but it will make for busy weekends obviously with footy all day Saturday and church on Sunday.

"I've got a young family as well with three kids so the wife has been understanding and supportive, but there is some good down time for me to spend with my family.

"But people are people, and whether it's construction, church or the footy club, I just love being with people and trying to help them. At the same time I love footy so I thought combining the two was a great fit."

Harding also has a great natural commentary talent and that might be able to tie in with his work with West Perth as well if any WAFL broadcasters get in touch with him.

He showed his talent last year winning the Bankwest Commentators Cup and that provided him more than one once in a lifetime experience.

"Last year I had a go at the Bankwest Commentators Cup, run through the West Coast Eagles. I got into the final eight and once I was there, there was a new piece of footage you have to have a go at," Harding said.

"Luckily I knew all the players and I ended up winning the thing, and the prize was an all expenses paid trip for two to the AFL grand final. one of the other prizes was spending some time with Dennis Cometti and I was so privileged to sit with him for three hours.

"We talked about footy, commentary and life. It was an amazing experience and opportunity. At the end of it he told me that it had been great and we should do it again. He also told me West Perth was his favourite club in Australia so it's funny how things work out."