DESPITE opportunities knocking from the city, Swan Hill-born and raised AFL Central Murray operations manager David Alderuccio has a strong connection to country footy and a commitment to ensuring its future.
Known as a lovable larrikin, David completed his schooling at MacKillop College where he developed a keen interest in sport.
After high school studies he deferred his university offer and spent a year in Melbourne completing a traineeship through the AFL working with Kelly Sports.
David then took up his place with Swinburne University, achieving a diploma in Sport and Recreation Marketing and Management.
Football has always been at the forefront of David’s life.
He spent time with St Mary’s, Mallee Eagles and Swan Hill football clubs as a junior.
The half-forward flanker was playing with De La Salle in an amateur competition in Melbourne when Woorinen recruited him and enticed him back home.
“I spent the third year of my studies at Swinburne commuting home to play football,” he recalled.
Despite his love of sport, David found opportunities for a career were lacking in Swan Hill.
He was offered the manager’s job at Swan Hill swimming pool where he did a season before changing direction completely and working with Reece Plumbing as a counter hand.
David worked his way through the ranks to become Reece’s Swan Hill manager, a role he held for four years, followed by three years with Dahlsens Building Centre.
Throughout this decade, David faced one of his biggest personal life challenges.
He had experienced chronic depression from a young age. “At my worst I was hospitalised in Bendigo where I received treatment and support,” he said.
“I will always have this in my life, I understand that it is something that I will always have to manage.
“But I cannot express just how helpful it was to be a member of a club as I went through that difficult time.
“In what is traditionally known as a blokey, male-dominated sport, it was the club members who surrounded me, embraced me and reminded me I was not going through this alone.”
From the abyss of his own battles grew a passion both for the importance of sporting clubs and for breaking the stigma surrounding mental health.
“I love sport, whether it be football or netball but I also like to take the opportunity to help people whenever I can and so the role of operations manager allows me to do that,” he said.
“Clubs are often the social hubs of our community and taking on the role with AFLCM has meant I can play a proactive part in supporting clubs to continue to grow into the future.”
David attests many of local football’s challenges to three key areas.
He said compliance and governance is placing pressure on club’s already fatigued volunteers.
New requirements such as volunteers requiring a Working With Children’s Check means the additional work to co-ordinate this is absorbed by club volunteers.
The fact that roles within local clubs were all unpaid positions and declining numbers in junior football have been pinpointed as other key impacts.
“My biggest role is to assist clubs and volunteers to get the most out of their clubs,” he said.
“We are looking at ways we can reduce the load on volunteers to reduce burnout.
“In future we would hope to see some paid positions that would alleviate some of the work being done by volunteers.
“We are also looking at trends in football memberships to identify if the declination is just a patch or an ongoing downward trend.”
For David, life is offering him a healthy dose of opportunity and happiness.
Last year he worked with Geelong Football Club where he learned what a huge part the media has to play in sport.
This year he took a role as part of the Central Murray Live football broadcast, providing the boundary rider comments.
“I enjoy the boundary role because I enjoy interviewing people and asking questions and it’s a great way to be involved at ground level,” he said.
“I love the way football is diversifying with women’s football and now netball playing an even greater part in club’s culture, it’s an exciting time to be involved.”
But for David, the most rewarding part about his job is the fact he can help people.
“I’ve always been a person who likes to get in and lend a hand in any way I can,” he said.
“Whether it’s supporting whole clubs or the individuals among them, I hope that my experiences in life may assist someone else in some way.
“And I cannot stress enough the benefit of belonging to a club or community, particularly during tough times in life.”
While he acknowledges the challenges and changes country football faces he is also optimistic about the future.
“The reality is, football will always be a huge part of country life and the road ahead is positive in terms of the quality of football and the players emerging,” he said.
While footy season keeps him on his toes with fast-paced hard hitting action, it is on the lawn bowls green that David spends the offseason these days.
To read more stories on amazing locals, grab a copy of Wednesday's The Guardian for the regular Our Region feature.