2023 Queensland Football Hall of Fame – Clint Alleway

It’s one of the great football trivia questions. Which Queenslander captained the superstar Hawthorn quartet of Luke Hodge, Lance Franklin, Sam Mitchell and Jarryd Roughead?

If that’s too hard, who was the Queensland footballer who played under Michael Voss, Dean Bailey and Wayne Johnston before he was 21? Or the Queensland footballer whose sister played for the Matildas from 2010-21, including the 2020 Olympics played in 2021?

If you’re still struggling for clues, the same Queensland footballer was drafted by two AFL clubs without playing a game but was a squad member of a premiership AFL side. He played something like 500 games of senior football across three states, won the Ken Farmer Medal as the SANFL’s Leading Goal-Kicker at 34, and is married to a global aquacultural scientist.

All this – and remarkable levels of resilience and honesty – make up the fascinating football journey of Melbourne-born Queenslander, one-time Redland and Alexandra Hills junior turned Mt Gravatt senior player and now ex-Glenelg and North Adelaide star and long-time South Australian resident Clint Alleway.

The oldest of five children to Grant and Colleen Alleway, all born in Melbourne, he moved to Queensland aged nine with siblings Russell, Carolyn, Rob and Laura. It was a sporting family. His New Zealand father was a water polo player, his paternal grandfather was a tennis player, and his maternal grandfather ran in the Stawell Gift so it was no surprise that Clint and Russell would play a lot of football while Laura went on to be a Matildas star.

After the move north in 1990, Alleway started in the Under-11s at Redland. He represented Queensland in Under-12s and played at Under-13-14-15 with the Alex Hills Bombers. He played with the South-East Bushrangers from 1995-97, and in 1998, ready for senior football, he joined Mt Gravatt. There, his first senior coach was Dean Bailey, ex-Essendon player, Essendon, Port Adelaide and Adelaide assistant-coach, and 2008-11 Melbourne AFL coach, who died of cancer in March 2014.

Ironically, many years later Alleway would play at Glenelg in the SANFL with Bailey’s son Darcy, and even further on he would be Darcy Bailey’s coach at Victor Harbour. A replica of his own time playing under Dean Bailey at the start of his career. The pair remain good friends today.

After beginning the 1998 season under Bailey at Mt Gravatt, he finished it with the Lions Cubs under Michael Voss, who had taken over as coach after a badly broken leg ended his AFL season. He played under Bailey again at Mt Gravatt in 1999, when he was surprisingly overlooked in his draft year after starring in the State Under-18 side.

It was a tough blow. The Herald Sun had ranked him among their top 30 prospects in a mock draft. He was considered “a really athletic tall”, posting the fifth-fastest time in the 20m sprint at 190cm at the draft camp, and a standout in the vertical jump, but admits he probably didn’t help his cause when he slept through the beep test.

It was a draft class that was eventually headed by pick #1 Josh Fraser (Collingwood), #2 Paul Hasleby (Fremantle), #3 Aaron Fiora (Richmond), #4 Matthew Pavlich (Fremantle), #5 Leigh Brown (Fremantle), #6 Damien Cupido (Brisbane), #7 Danny Roach (Richmond), #8 Joel Corey (Geelong), #9 Caydn Beetham (St.Kilda) and Luke McPharlin (Hawthorn).

But he was the only one of the top 30 not drafted as fellow Queenslanders Mitch Hahn went to the Bulldogs at #37 and Shane Morrison joined the Lions at #44 (father/son) in the national draft before Ben Doherty, Jason Anthonisz, Nathan Clarke, Jeff Cooper, Steve Kenna and Hayden Kluver were picked up by Brisbane in the rookie draft.

In 2000 he knocked back an SANFL offer from the Port Adelaide Magpies to stay with the Vultures and play under Wayne ‘the Dominator’ Johnston, who he says helped him significantly after his draft disappointment – personally and through his football academy.

Moving on from the disappointment of 1999, he was taken by the Lions with pick #23 in the 2000 rookie draft. So in the club’s first premiership season of 2001, allocated jumper #29, he found himself between #28 Ben Robbins and #30 Robert Copeland in the Gabba locker room.

After putting his hand through a fish tank before Round 1 he had a good spell in the reserves, but as the Lions got on what was to be a 16-game winning streak that went all the way to the grand final it became ‘mission impossible’ for a young draftee. A tibia stress fracture saw him miss the last four games, including a Reserves premiership win under Craig Brittain, but with his family was part of the Lions’ contingent at the MCG on a day Queensland football will never forget.

In 2002 he headed to Box Hill in the VFL after David Parkin had helped get him into University in Melbourne at the 11th hour. After a good start he was floored mid-season by a bout of glandular fever but did enough in a late purple patch to get picked up by North Melbourne with pick #42 in the 2002 rookie draft.

It was a disaster. He led the VFL goal-kicking after four rounds, having kicked 16 from centre half forward, but was dropped in Round 5 when Sav Rocca returned from injury. “I remember before a trip to Tassie I was crying in Dani Laidley’s office,” he said. It didn’t help, too, when a teammate turned housemate left mid-season owing him money – a heavy hit on a then rookie salary of $6,500.

At 22, at the end of 2003, he trained at Carlton hoping to get another rookie chance. He’d kicked six goals on an aging Glen Manton during the season to catch the eye of coach Denis Pagan and earn an invitation to pre-Christmas training. Sadly, after the Blues were hit with a string of draft penalties for salary cap breaches they focussed on younger players at the draft.

In 2004-05 he played at Box Hill under three-time Hawthorn premiership star Andy Collins, who is back on the Hawks coaching staff under Sam Mitchell. What a difference. “He’s a superstar human being – I love the man,” he said. It showed in his football. He captained Box Hill in 2004-05 as Sam Mitchell, Luke Hodge, Lance Franklin and Jaryd Roughead joined the club.

At the end of 2004, as the retirement of key forwards Nick Holland and John Barker beckoned, then Hawthorn coach Peter Schwab had shown an interest in drafting him. But again the football gods were off-side – Schwab was sacked and replaced by Alastair Clarkson.

Set to play another season at Box Hill, Alleway became a hot SANFL target. After approaches from Norwood and Sturt he joined North Adelaide after a strong approach from coach Andrew Jarman.

“I wanted to find a football home. I wanted to play with the same blokes every week and have what I did, mean something to the group. I’d been a transient for so long and never felt I really belonged. Jarman helped me to fall in love with football again. I loved my time there,” he said.

He played 131 games at North from 2006-12, captaining the club in 2011, and was best afield for South Australia against Victoria when he kicked six goals from centre half forward playing on Jason Cloke. In 2012 he kicked eight in a qualifying final for North against Centrals – a club record in a final.

At the end of 2012  he retired and took off travelling with wife Heidi through South America and Europe for the entirety of 2013, even studying Spanish while on the road.

He left behind a story that still brings a chuckle among North Adelaide folk and goes back to his time in Melbourne, where he lived next door to a greyhound trainer who had a few race dogs in the backyard. It was enough to spark an interest and when he moved to Adelaide he and a few mates bought a dog for some fun. Living in an apartment over a drive-in bottle shop owned by the club (where six years earlier fellow Queensland Hall of Fame inductee Leigh Ryswyk had been held up at gunpoint), Alleway had to house the dog short-term while it recovered from ill-heath. She was a racing dog so, not unreasonably, he decided to race her.

“I gave her a bit of tender loving care and walked the streets with her and got a bit curious as her health perked up. So I took her to a trials session and she ran a personal-best. I thought ‘how hard can it be?’ So without a trainer’s licence I nominated her for a coursing event under another trainer’s name. She eventually won which kicked off the interest,” he said.

Later Alleway had an even better dog called ‘Busted Bird’, who had arrived from New South Wales with one win from 19 starts. It was three and half years old, so not exactly young by greyhound standards, but, living in Alleway’s 530sqm backyard, it won six of its first nine starts.

Alleway would often take ‘Busted Bird’ to training, and was even known, while he was pushing some weights in the gym, to put his dog on the treadmill. A few ‘extras’. After the club heavies had left he and some teammates would take him out onto the ground for some 200m strides down the wing.

“I’d take him out to Angle Park to get ready to race, head back to the club just in time for a team meeting with (coach) Josh Francou, have dinner and head back to the track to watch the dog run.”

In 2014, back in Adelaide, he got ‘itchy feet’. But ex-Adelaide AFL player Ken McGregor had taken over as Roosters coach and didn’t want him so he signed for three years at Glenelg. In 2015 he kicked 47 goals to win the Ken Farmer Medal as the SANFL’s leading goal-kicker. At 34 he was the oldest player in history to do so. One year later at the end of 2016 he hung them up for the last time.

A school teacher now for 18 years, he scaled back his work to do three days a week as a P.E. teacher while Heidi explored a career as global aquaculture scientist, which is a flash name for a marine biologist. On Mondays and Fridays he looked after children Chester (now 6) and Eadie (now 3).

But he wasn’t finished with football. In 2017 he began a three-year stint as playing coach at Victor Harbour in the Great Southern Football League. There he’s added 70 games to a career total which, although incomplete in patches, is getting up around 500. After all, he started at 17 in 1998 and is still kicking on.

In 2020 he was assistant-coach at Glenelg under Mark Stone, now on the coaching staff at the Lions. His return to the SANFL didn’t start well when in February his daughter was born with a big hole in her heart. She’s now perfectly fine but at season’s end he decided “it wasn’t for me”.

In 2021 he did a mini road trip around Australia, which included a stint back at Redland helping out senior coach Graham Henwood, and in 2022-23, back at Victor Harbour, he’s played on “a little training … ok, no training really” and is finals bound this year while teaching at Our Lady of Grace, a school of 200 students at Glengowrie, 12km south-west of the city.

Since 2015 he’s played on the edge having copped a total of 15 weeks’ suspension in senior football. Theoretically one more suspension means a life-time ban, not that it’s been that way for ex-Lions champion Darryl White, who got a life ban for a 16th week of suspension at 38 is still playing at 50.

White? Alleway even has a story about his ex-Lions’ teammate and triple premiership star. “I was a borderline nobody but when we bumped into each other at a game in 2021 he came straight up for a chat and he could name every Indigenous player I played with. He’s a star,” he said.

Now 42, Alleway is moving further out in Adelaide to buy a 37-acre property at the beachside suburb of Currency Creek, on the western shore of Lake Alexandrina, 6km from Goolwa. It’s got everything an Alleway-type could want – an oval, 500 fruit trees, three dams, a vegie patch and a water licence to pump and collect water for irrigation. Quite the eclectic market gardener, he grew 60 pumpkins in the backyard last year and smoked 50 trout and froze them. Good eating they were. He’s that sort of guy. A likeable story-teller as good as any, a very good player without reaching the elite level, and a wonderful servant of football.

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