Royals Revisited: Rod Wheatley

Friday, June 12, 2020 - 1:04 PM by Katie de Haer

Rod Wheatley joined a select group of WAFL players when he made his league debut in a final.

Wheatley’s first senior game was against East Fremantle, when East Perth lost the 1992 preliminary final by just four points.

Raised in Bridgetown, he played 169 league games for the Royals, retiring in 2003.

As one of only nine players to play in the hat trick of premierships between 2000-2002, he is an East Perth Hall of Fame member, was co-captain of the club between 2002-2003 and won the fairest and best in 2000 and 2001.

A talented cricketer in his formative years, Wheatley said his debut as an 18-year-old was unexpected.

“I’d been playing reserves all year. I actually went on a cricket tour of England for about five weeks in July and came back and played the finals in the reserves,” Wheatley told SportFM on Friday.

“Matty Clape was taken over as an emergency for the Eagles’ final in Melbourne and I got picked off the back of that to play in the pre-lim.

“I was very lucky. I definitely didn’t think I was going to play that year.”

Wheatley and East Perth would have to wait until 1996 for their next finals football opportunity. This time, they made the big dance, meeting Claremont who triumphed in the WAFL Grand Final by just two points.

“That was a great year, except for that last minute of that grand final,” Wheatley said.

“We were building with a couple of wins at the end of 1995. In 1996, we finished top two and had a lot of momentum going into the finals – we were riding a wave. It was a great year, a really great side.

“That grand final, unfortunately, we were just short. Claremont had a very good side that day.”

Tony Micale arrived at East Perth ahead of the 2000 WAFL Season, taking the Royals to three grand finals for three premierships.

“He was fantastic and I know a lot of players that played under him would say the same. He was very hard, very fair and brought the best out of everyone.

“In 1999, we came second last behind Peel. When Tony came on board, we had a good core group, with some older players, and he sort of rejuvenated us and gave that group a lot of belief.

“It turned the club around. We had the Eagles alignment, but I think the biggest recruit during that time was ‘Booby’.

Of the three premierships, Wheatley said the 2001 season and grand final win against South Fremantle stood out in his memory.

“I remember we got off to a bad start and we had to play catch-up all year.

“I remember we had to beat South Fremantle in the last game of the year to get the double chance in the top two.

“The way we won that grand final in 2001, I thought it was the best we played through that period.

“They were all equally special in their own right.”