ALIPATE – PART OF THE PORT ADELAIDE TRADITION………

He’s busy at his gym, F45, at Adelaide’s Henley Beach, when I track him down. It’s one of the various pursuits which have kept him on his toes since his footy career wound down last season.

He can’t believe that it passed so quickly…….from his first foray in the game, when he used to  bound around like a frisky, unbroken colt……. going on to break into League ranks as a mid-range draft choice………and becoming a proven, tight-checking backman and superb team-player – his side’s pillar in 167 erstwhile games.

Then, in the flick of an eye it was all over for Alipate Carlile…………

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There are any amount of fascinating tales which are woven into the rich tapestry of Australian football.

We’re all familiar with the story of a tiny South Korean orphan;  adopted by a visiting couple, Kev and Jo Bell, who reared him amidst a loving family in the West Australian town of Kojonup. The lad, Peter Bell, was to become a champion rover for Fremantle and North Melbourne and eventually be inducted into the AFL’s Hall of Fame.

As was Jimmy Stynes, a shy Irish boy who was coaxed across the globe and become acquainted with the intricacies of a strange new game. As a mere youngster with scant knowledge of the code, he wrestled with its rules and running patterns, but overcame them to such an extent that he won a Brownlow Medal and played a record 244 consecutive games for Melbourne.

And what of a prodigy like Michael Long. Growing up in the Tiwi Islands, where football is somewhat of an addiction – almost a religion – he became a role model for a legion of aboriginal fans during his stellar career at Essendon. And, like his uncle Maurice Rioli and nephew Cyril, was to wear a Norm Smith Medal around his neck on Grand Final day……………

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Alipate Carlile is another case in point.

He was born in Lautoka, Fiji, thirty years ago.  Asenaca, his mum, hails from Batiki, a tiny island of 12 square kilometres. She met Bill Carlile, a personable Wangaratta lad, soon after he had headed to Fiji for work, upon completion of his Uni course.

Although happily ensconced in the ‘Sugar City’, as Lautoka is dubbed – and with two kids in tow – they felt obliged to pack up and head to Australia when a military coup unsettled the nation.

It so happened that Bill’s mother also fell ill at the time and they decided to re-locate to his home town to lend support.

Which particularly tickled his dad, Joe, a wise old owl with a knack of telling a good yarn and dispensing sage advice on the vagaries of life. He relished the opportunity to watch the grandkids grow up close-by.

And, as they began to progress through the sporting ranks, Joe would succinctly assess their talent, as if casting an eye over his prize horse-flesh.

Usually a conversation would end with: “………..you know, I think the second bloke might go a fair way…..”.

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The five Carlile kids gravitated to the Wangaratta Rovers in a roundabout way.  ‘Pate’ had been throwing all his sporting efforts into soccer and basketball, but, aged 14, decided to join his brother Robbie at Junior League club, College.

And when Robbie played in the Hawks’ Thirds Premiership team of 2002, ‘Pate’ followed suit the following year by starring in their second straight flag.

Rovers people rubbed their hands together. They had inherited a sporting assembly-line, and fixed their eyes on blooming left-footer Anthony, talented netballer Kathleen and the lanky baby of the clan, Will, who were all coming through.

Alipate had, by now, been snapped up by the Murray Bushrangers, who slotted him into a key defensive role and liked his style. He was quick for his size and his physical strength allowed him to hold his ground in contests.

To the chagrin of the Hawks, they could only snavel him for  three senior games (during TAC byes) in his time at the ‘Bushies. They were resigned to the fact that the superbly proportioned, ‘answer to their defensive dreams’, probably wouldn’t wear the Brown and Gold guernsey again.

Particularly when he was named as Vic.Country’s best player in the National U.18 Carnival and excelled at the AFL Draft camp.

In November of 2005, ‘Pate’s’ world changed forever when Port Adelaide swooped on him as pick number 44 in the National Draft. And, in an additional cause for celebration in the Carlile household that week, Bill’s horse Warby Gold saluted at Wodonga, paying a handy $28 for the win………

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The rest is history.  After debuting with the Power the following year, he was in and out for a couple of seasons before a run of top form earned him a Rising Star ‘gong’ in 2008.

He soon established himself as one of the AFL’s premier defenders and, at 191cm and 98kg, proved an ‘immovable force’ against jostling spearheads. And then, being able to head off on a trademark clearing dash to set up an offensive thrust, made him a feature of Port sides for eight years or so.

The man they nicknamed ‘Bobby’ was to become somewhat of a cult figure at Port. His last coach, Ken Hinkley, summed him up as : “…… one of those characters who you love having around your footy club. He’s always got a smile on his face, but he works hard to get the best out of himself.

“He’s been a general and one of the smartest players I’ve been involved with, as far as seeing the game of football. He’s had the ability to play on the main men of the opposition, and he has helped his team-mates become better footballers.”

At 25, and at his peak, Alipate signed a four-year contract which was expected to tie him to Alberton Oval for his playing life. There was criticism in some quarters, about the length of the contract, but Port’s response was brief:  “Big, strong full backs like him don’t fall off trees……..”

A bad back injury halted ‘Pate’s’ progress in 2015 and restricted him to just 12 games. He then endured a nightmare 2016, which saw him cop a stress fracture in the hip, a broken wrist and finally, a posterior cruciate injury.

His season was over after Round 10 and so, he sensed, was his career.  After 167 games he called it a day.

“I couldn’t deal with it any more. I’d been a sloth chasing around cheetahs all my career. So I thought I’d better get out while I could…….”

Besides his initial investment in the gym at Henley Beach, ‘Pate’ is now involved in two others – at Norwood and City East.

He’s Port Adelaide’s Multi-cultural Manager and regularly travels to places such as Alice Springs, Elliott and Darwin, among others, in support of indigenous programs.

The Alipate Carlile Academy, a high-performance SANFL training squad which focuses on multi-cultural kids also keeps him on the ball.

Oh, and by the way, he manages to find some time to spend with his partner Jo and kids Essena and Alipate Jnr………

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That eagerly-anticipated Carlile assembly-line never eventuated at the Wangaratta Rovers’ Findlay Oval.

Between them the four boys amassed a total of 28 senior games, and Kathleen made 25 A-Grade Netball appearances before they all went their seperate ways..

Robbie won a B & F at Milawa and played with Euroa. He is now indulging his love of horses at Two Bays Farm, a boutique thoroughbred nursery on the Mornington Peninsula……

Anthony has stripped with Kaniva, Roxby Downs and is now with Port Districts in the Division  (1) Adelaide Amateurs competition, whilst Will, an Aboriginal Youth mentor, is currently with the Centrals  club in the Alice Springs’ Central Australian Football League.

And Kathleen, who also resides in Alice, has nursed in the town and is about to have her first child.

It would be fair to say that the Carlile clan have spread their wings……..