Grassroots - The Secret Life of Sport & Recreation


They are one of the best-kept secrets of the sport and recreation industry. You don’t often read about them or see them on TV, but volunteers are the unseen champions and most valuable players that make sport and recreation possible every day across our community.

In the book Grassroots: The Secret Life of Sport and Recreation, you’ll meet more than 40 Western Australians who reveal why they continue to be involved in sport and recreation and what keeps them coming back every game, every week and every season.

Conceived and created by Western Australia’s Department of Sport and Recreation, this book advocates for the power of sport to enrich and change lives. It shows no matter your age, ability or background, everyone can contribute to our sporting system. Through inspiring stories and photos it invites you to become part of the sport and recreation family – and be active while doing it.




When we talk about things which are uniquely Western Australian, sport usually comes to mind. We love our sport.

We know that many Western Australians are involved in sport and recreation of some type, but there are still many more we want to encourage to be regularly active.

A healthy sport and recreation culture has many benefits. Physical health is the most obvious and the more active people are the less pressure they place on hospitals and healthcare.

Participating in organised sport and recreation can protect against mental illness and promote positive mental health. I think it’s fair to say most people just feel better when they’ve had a daily dose of activity.

Sport and recreation doesn’t discriminate. It’s a powerful force to help divert young people from crime and anti-social behaviour, welcome new people into a community and include all ages, backgrounds and abilities. Joining a club is a wonderful way to stay connected to your community and meet new people.

Coming from the country I am acutely aware of the role that sport and activity play in the health of regional communities. Sport brings people together and gives everyone a chance to catch up in a relaxed, informal environment.

As a former sportsman and coach I understand and appreciate how valuable volunteers are and the role they play in helping make sport happen. In our smaller communities and clubs everyone does double duty and I thank all the people around the State who give their time and energy to sport and recreation.

We want to encourage everybody that wants to be active, from the elite right down to the weekend walkers; whether you play netball, fence or bubble along a snorkel trail.

Volunteers are absolutely vital in making sure those opportunities in sport and recreation are available to Western Australians. Our proud sporting culture would not be the same without our volunteers – and I’m pleased to dedicate Grassroots to their hard work and service.


Mick Murray MLA

Minister for Sport and Recreation, Volunteers and Seniors & Ageing



Welcome to Grassroots: The secret life of sport and recreation. I’d like to introduce you to some sport and recreation superheroes.

They might be your neighbour, the kid who stacks the supermarket shelves, your doctor or your daughter’s teacher. They’re also a little bit hard to recognise because they’re everyday people who give huge amounts of time and energy to the activities they’re passionate about.

Even more amazing is that most of these people have day jobs too. While some of them are lucky enough to be paid to work in sport and recreation, the rest of them earn their living doing work as wide and varied as the sports they love.

Paid or unpaid, what these people have in common is that they give their time and energy because they adore sport, love their club, want to coach their kids and believe in a culture of volunteering and giving back. Their reasons are as many as are their numbers.

Equally vast are the hours and years of service. While young adults just starting their journey are often the energy of a club or association, our venerated veterans are its heart and lifeblood. They’ve given decades upon decades of service, offering many new members a wise, guiding hand.

Volunteering can often just sneak up on you. A dad at a club says he’ll do something for his son’s team to help out. A month later he’s giving his time for something else. A decade later the guy is still showing up because he loves the feeling it gives him to give back, he’s made friends and he loves his club.

Western Australia has an incredibly robust sporting system and committed fraternity of participants and supporters. We’re also lucky to have a natural environment which encourages us to take to the tracks, the trails, the ocean and the air in our pursuit of passions. Then there are the fields, the courts, pitches, greens, fairways and rinks, which also encourage people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to simply have a go.

Some of the people in this book have amazing and aspirational stories – and personalities as big as basketball courts – while others quietly go about their work, making sure that the business of sport is getting sorted and we can show up to training or a game and just play.

Without the dedicated people who work in sport and recreation, it just wouldn’t happen.

I hope you take inspiration and enjoyment from these stories and realise the depth and breadth of what our industry contributes to the community. Furthermore, if our heroes convince you that giving your time to a local club is an honourable and worthy endeavour, then we’ve done our job.


Ron Alexander

Director General

Department of Sport and Recreation


Vilai Kelemete

Culture and Community Liaison with NRL WA

When Vilai Kelemete – otherwise known as V – retired as a professional rugby league player, he never dreamed that years later he would be again sharing his passion for the sport.

When he started his role as the Culture and Community Liaison with NRL WA and West Coast Pirates Player Welfare Officer, Vilai’s job was to assist the NRL to engage the Polynesian rugby league community and be a link between them.

After spending 15 years concentrating on his family, the role was a new opportunity to once again be involved in the sport he loved. Once he started, he quickly realised that when you cut through everything, his role had one purpose: helping others.

“I want to provide pathways for all the youth in our game here in Perth, concentrating on the holistic side of rugby league by making better players on the field but more importantly becoming better people off the field,” said Vilai. “We’re doing that through mentoring by former elite players, coaching by the State’s top coaches, strength and conditioning, healthy living, positive mental health and wellbeing.

“I love to see a young individual be provided the opportunities to live their dream, but they must understand that hard work will always beat talent that doesn’t work hard and through this they develop the skill sets to start living their dream.

“The holy grail for me is when that individual lives out their dream and becomes a role model for the next generation of players coming through, like was done for me.”

Rugby league has given Vilai a wonderful career in more ways than he imagined, many friends, awesome mentors and has contributed to the man he is today.

The question of why and what motivates him is simple: he loves the game.

“It has given me opportunities to develop and assist where I can and for as long as I can.”


For more information on the book please click here