Skip to content


Neale Fong grew up with the dream of playing for the West Perth Cardinals in the WAFL alongside his brother Les Fong but an Achilles tendon injury in 1979 put his dream on ice.

He left to focus on his medical studies and play for the Nollamara club in the Western Australian Amateur Football League (WAAFL), where he would win the CJ Jamieson Medal for the competition's best and fairest player in three consecutive seasons between 1981 and 1983.

Neale was raised in a working-class Chinese-Australian family descended from their grandfather Andrew Fong, who migrated from southern China to try his luck on the Kalgoorlie Goldfields before moving to Perth to set up Fong's Greengrocer in Northbridge, in the heart of Perth's Chinatown.

Neale Fong excelled in school and after qualifying and practising as a doctor, he was elevated to CEO of Australia's largest private hospital in Subiaco.

He began a career in football administration, first as a board member of the West Perth Cardinals, then working as the West Coast Eagles' chaplain and later with the Western Australian Football Commission, becoming Chairman in 2001.

Neale assumed the role at a low point for the state at all three tiers of the game: the AFL, WAFL and grassroots. The West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers were at the bottom of the AFL ladder, and grassroots participation had stagnated.

One of Neale's great legacies was the Westar Planning Committee Report, which became known as the 'Fong Report' due to Neale's strong leadership in addressing the problems facing local football, especially the WAFL.

"My contribution, I think, was to bring the whole football fraternity together, because it was very disunified," Neale says.

"Everyone, frankly, disliked and mistrusted each other ... there was no money, and footy was in real trouble with $30 million in debt, and an ageing stadium at Subiaco."

Neale's dual role was troubleshooter and builder, driving sustainability, growth and prosperity that befitted the status of the sport in Western Australia.

"I worked closely with the new CEO of the WA Football Commission, and we got football back on the map financially and turned it around over the next five years," he said.  

In 2010, after 11 years of service, Neale stepped down from the WAFC Commission and was duly awarded life membership. Beyond his leadership role in football, his leadership in the WA and national health industry has been extraordinary by any measure.

In 1985, Neale decided to do pre-season training with West Perth and his hard work earned him an unexpected call-up to play in the senior team.

Neale ended up playing 14 matches over the next two seasons and could never forget "the buzz of playing in front of 20,000(-strong) crowds with my brother Les."