Neale Fong had a strong amateur career and two years with West Perth before a distinguished career as the Chair of the Western Australia Football Commission.
Neale Fong grew up with the dream of playing for the West Perth Cardinals in the WAFL alongside his brother Les Fong but an Achilles tendon injury in 1979 put his dream on ice.
He left to focus on his medical studies and play for the Nollamara club in the Western Australian Amateur Football League (WAAFL), where he would win the CJ Jamieson Medal for the competition's best and fairest player in three consecutive seasons between 1981 and 1983.
Neale was raised in a working-class Chinese-Australian family descended from their grandfather Andrew Fong, who migrated from southern China to try his luck on the Kalgoorlie Goldfields before moving to Perth to set up Fong's Greengrocer in Northbridge, in the heart of Perth's Chinatown.
Neale Fong excelled in school and after qualifying and practising as a doctor, he was elevated to CEO of Australia's largest private hospital in Subiaco.
He began a career in football administration, first as a board member of the West Perth Cardinals, then working as the West Coast Eagles' chaplain and later with the Western Australian Football Commission, becoming Chairman in 2001.
Neale assumed the role at a low point for the state at all three tiers of the game: the AFL, WAFL and grassroots. The West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers were at the bottom of the AFL ladder, and grassroots participation had stagnated.
One of Neale's great legacies was the Westar Planning Committee Report, which became known as the 'Fong Report' due to Neale's strong leadership in addressing the problems facing local football, especially the WAFL.
"My contribution, I think, was to bring the whole football fraternity together, because it was very disunified," Neale says.
"Everyone, frankly, disliked and mistrusted each other ... there was no money, and footy was in real trouble with $30 million in debt and an ageing stadium at Subiaco."
Neale's dual role was troubleshooter and builder, driving sustainability, growth and prosperity that befitted the status of the sport in Western Australia.
"I worked closely with the new CEO of the WA Football Commission, and we got football back on the map financially and turned it around over the next five years," he said.
In 2010, after 11 years of service, Neale stepped down from the WAFC Commission and was duly awarded life membership. Beyond his leadership role in football, his leadership in the WA and national health industry has been extraordinary by any measure.
In 1985, Neale decided to do pre-season training with West Perth and his hard work earned him an unexpected call-up to play in the senior team.
Neale ended up playing 14 matches over the next two seasons and could never forget "the buzz of playing in front of 20,000(-strong) crowds with my brother Les."
Richard Pang played in the ACT before moving to WA. In 1999 he won the Perth Demon’s Best and Fairest and finished second in the Sandover Medal.
Richard Pang’s career footy highlight occurred playing for Subiaco against Peel during the 2000 WAFL season and it remains a vivid memory: ‘We were on fire and I found the ball a lot that day - I couldn’t have played better and got 48 possessions.’
His teammate Richard Ambrose also played the game of his life taking 20 marks at centre half forward and Pang remembers Ambrose joking with him after the game, saying: “Bloody hell Pangy, the day I take 20 marks, you go and get 48 possessions.”
Richard Pang was raised in Canberra and was a basketball player until the age of 15 when he joined the Eastlake Football Club.
He excelled and was selected in the ACT schools team that travelled to Darwin for the annual Secondary Schools Championships, where the underdog ACT team pulled off a famous upset victory against powerhouse Victoria
Richard’s father Henry Pang was born in Australia after his parents migrated from Canton in the 1930’s, and the family settled in Canberra where Henry was the first Australian-born child in his family.
Henry studied hard and graduated from university as an obstetrician and then began work as a General Practitioner.
‘My dad was from a traditional Chinese family, however, my grandparents encouraged him to be as Australian as possible.’ says Pang.
Richard played 5 years of senior football in Canberra including playing three times for the ACT representative team and culminating in winning the Alex Jesaulenko Medal for best player in Eastlake’s 1996 grand final victory.
He was invited to Melbourne to participate in the 1997 AFL Draft Combine, and although he was not drafted, he was invited to do pre-season training for Essendon.
Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy advised him he would need to leave the ACT to achieve higher honours in the game and Richard took his advice, signing with the Perth Demons.
He played strongly for Perth and his form attracted the attention of the state selectors who picked him to play in the West Australia State of Origin team to play South Australia in Adelaide.
Although Perth narrowly missed the finals in 1999, Richard thrived alongside future AFL stars including Darren Glass, Chance Bateman and Leon Davis.
Richard’s stunning run of form was acknowledged when he finished second in the Sandover Medal for the WAFL’s Best and Fairest Player and he also won the Butcher Medal for Perth’s Best and Fairest Player.
‘Pangy was the perfect teammate,’ Perth teammate and friend Richard Kelly says.
At the end of 1999, Richard signed with Subiaco and from that point he was plagued by injuries leading to the 2001 season where he missed most matches and subsequently retired.
After 13 knee operations, Richard retired and took up surfing, making regular trips to the Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia to indulge his new passion.
Les Fong, known as Captain Courageous, played 287 games for West Perth and represented Western Australia six times in State of Origin.
When Les Fong made his debut for West Perth in 1973, it had been 57 years since a Chinese heritage player had played in the Western Australian Football League. The first was distant relative Job Fong who played one game for South Fremantle in 1907 and he was followed by Frederick Mitchell (Nomchong) who played 49 games for South Fremantle between 1912 and 1916.
Les's father Alan played football for the Wembley Magpies and passed the love of the game to his four sons including Les at their housing commission house in Nollamara, north of the Perth CBD.
"Dad was a truck driver and Mum used to do a bit of cleaning," Les explains. "We certainly knew what it was like to be relatively poor."
Les was a football child prodigy and in 1971 at the age of 14, he was appointed vice captain of the Under-16 Western Australian State Schoolboys team that went undefeated in the National Secondary Schools Championships.
Les finished third in the J.L. Williams Medal for best and fairest and earned selection in the All-Australian Schoolboys team, instantly becoming a hot property for VFL recruiters. Richmond's offer was rejected by Les's mother, Daphne, who said: "He was too young to give it serious consideration."
Les became the youngest ever West Perth senior player at 16 years of age and was given the nickname 'Chopsticks' because of his Asian heritage.
He tasted premiership success at the age of 19 and he was one of the best on ground when West Perth won the 1975 WAFL premiership with a crushing win over South Fremantle in front of more than 51,000 fans.
"It was an incredible experience for a 19-year-old," says Les. "I never won or played in a grand final again."
Les did receive other honours, playing six times for Western Australia in State of Origin matches including a strong performance against Victoria in 1980 which convinced Collingwood to approach him with a serious offer.
Les chose to stay loyal to West Perth, having recently been made Captain at the age of 23, the Cardinals' youngest-ever captain.
From 1980-1986 Les captained West Perth, the longest captaincy term in West Perth history and earning him the nickname 'Captain Courageous'.
By the time Les retired from top-flight football in 1987, he'd played 284 games, kicked 331 goals and won a premiership, two club best and fairest awards and induction into the Halls of Fame of both his club and the league.
The entrance gates at West Perth's new home ground, Joondalup Oval, were named the Les Fong Gates in his honour, while the award for the best player in West Perth Under-16s team is called Les Fong's Futures Best and Fairest award.
Howard Collinge was a Chinese-Australian West Perth teammate of Les Fong in 1987 and says that Les was: "the Bruce Lee of Australian football: a cool Asian dude, tough and highly respected by all, and that gave me some strength."