A Player's Perspective: Rohan Kerr

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 10:25 AM by Katie de Haer

Rohan Kerr believes that the AFL needs to work harder to recruit mature age players from across the state leagues, arguing that there are a number of talented, ready-made players, who wouldn't look out of place if given an opportunity on the national stage.

Kerr said the recent examples of Tim Kelly (South Fremantle), Marlion Pickett (South Fremantle), Nathan Broad (Swan Districts) and former Northern Blues teammate Kane Lambert, who is now a dual-premiership player for Richmond, showed the quality and strength of the more seasoned players in State League competitions.

“Overall, the mature age recruits are definitely working – you just need to look at Tim Kelly, Marlion Pickett and Nathan Broad, who all went from the WAFL to the AFL. I played with Kane Lambert in the VFL and he didn’t get drafted until his 20s, and now he’s a two time premiership player. 

“I think the AFL needs to explore more mature age recruits in all leagues. We’ve got a few players in our team who I think could step straight in to an AFL system and not look out of place. 

“Mature age recruits do get overlooked a bit and I do think it’s worth exploring that option, whether that happens more or not, we’ll have to wait and see.” 

With debate still swirling around lifting the AFL draft age, the 28-year-old is speaking from experience, having spent three seasons on Carlton’s list from 2010-2012, after being drafted as an 18-year-old.

Kerr arrived at the Blues from the Dandenong Stingrays, taken at pick 59 in the 2009 National Draft, a feat made more remarkable given he missed half the season with an ankle injury.

“We had a handful of players make the AFL that year, we had a good team and made the grand final.

“Tom Scully went number one (in the National Draft), Ryan Bastinac went to North Melbourne, Dylan Roberton came to Fremantle, Levi Casboult to Carlton and Matt Shaw to Gold Coast. 

“Speaking to the Carlton recruiters a year later, they said that grand final probably got me drafted. 

“I hadn’t spoken to Carlton until probably four days before the draft, I was in Torquay with some friends at the time. They called my house phone and dad answered and mentioned I wasn’t there so they called me directly and met me in Torquay, about three hours outside of Melbourne. 

“I had a coffee with them on the Monday and I was drafted by the Thursday. It was all a bit of a rush and a bit of a thrill. I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into and it probably took me a year to find my feet and to understand the professionalism of AFL footy.”

Kerr spent three years at the Blues without breaking through for an AFL debut and was delisted at the end of 2012.

“I gave it a good crack and did what I was asked, but that first year I was definitely finding my feet. 

“If I had any advice for young kids going through the AFL system now, it’d be that it goes very quick and you’ve certainly got to put your best foot forward as soon as you walk through the door. Don’t leave any page unturned because you do get caught out. 

“If it’s you or someone else fighting for that last spot and you’ve maybe taken some shortcuts, they’re definitely going to take the other person. I found that out the hard way. The second and third year, I pulled my head in and gave it a good crack but I didn’t get off on the right foot. 

“It’s all a learning curve but I wouldn’t be in Perth (if it wasn’t for the way things turned out).”

A move to Western Australia proved to be the fresh start Kerr was after. He joined West Perth for the 2013 season, securing a premiership in his first year, starring in the grand final with five goals. 

Kerr spent four seasons with the Falcons and went on to play in back-to-back premierships with Pinjarra in the Peel League in 2017 and 2018. He returned to the WAFL competition in 2019, where he capped off a terrific first year at the Royals by finishing third in the FD Book Medal, earning WAFL Team of the Year selection and polling in the top-10 of the Sandover Medal count.

Since the WAFL season was postponed on March 16, Kerr has shed five kilos from his frame and says that, although the delay to the season has been frustrating, he is confident that the playing group will be ready to go once football resumes.

“We’ve had blokes training since a week after the WAFL grand final, to put on a bit of size and to get ready for this year – it was definitely a long summer,” Kerr said.

“With any football team or football player, you do a pre-season with the aim of playing round one, so to have that delay is a bit frustrating, but it's out of our control.

“We’re just trying to stay busy and do what we can to get ready for a return, whenever that may be.” 

Kerr puts his weight loss down to diet and increased running sessions. He’s been working alongside East Perth’s Strength and Conditioning Coach Wes Salisbury on a training program.

“I’ve been getting the kilometres in my legs and feeling good, not too tired or worn down. I’ve been working with Wes pretty closely around what I can and can’t do and he’s pretty happy with the loads and the times that I’m setting. 

“The extra running sessions have been good but I don’t want to be playing footy too light, because I could get pushed off the ball or open myself up to injury, so I think it’s about maintaining the weight that I’m at now, and maybe adding a few extra kilos of muscle, which I’ll work on with Wes to do that. 

“It’s a bit of a juggling act, but I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to maintain it.” 

Away from the club, Kerr works for Alcoa, an aluminium mining refinery in Pinjarra. With a shift-work roster, Kerr said it was sometimes challenging to balance playing in the WAFL and a full-time career, but he is determined to make it work.

“Our rosters are two days, two nights and then five days off. I’ve been doing it for three or so years now. I spoke to East Perth before I signed and I mentioned my roster and they were happy to take me on, which was good of them. 

“Some weeks during the season and off-season, I can’t train during the week because of work, some weeks I might get one session, some weeks I might get three. 

“(In season) if I work on a Friday night and we play on the Saturday, I’ll have two or three hours sleep and then rock up to a game, or I might have to work a Saturday night, which means as soon as the siren goes I’m basically straight in the car.

“I’m fully aware of what I got myself into, but I’m loving it. I love playing WAFL footy and I love the job where I’m at, so I wouldn’t change it, but it can be difficult at times, for sure.”

Kerr was due to play his 100th WAFL league match in round three this season, instead he celebrated at home, sharing a video on his Instagram page.

“I saw something similar on Instagram from Rory Atkins from Adelaide. So I thought I’d try to implement it and hopefully bring some laughter to people during this time,” he said.

“Whether it’s morale or laughter, I like to get the boys up and about as best as I can and annoy the shit out of some people. If I can provide some laughter to supporters or players around the league, I’m happy to do it.”