Whilst many would argue legendary SANFL player and South Australian representative Rod Pope did not compete in the VFL, our Vietnam Football Historian (from the Vietnam War Days) Stan Middleton disputes this in this exclusive article featuring in this weekend’s ANZAC Friendship Match Football Record.
Rod actually played a number of games in the VFL in Vung Tau, Vietnam for 5 Company RAASC during the war, so as Stan argues this VFL (Vietnam Football League) was still the VFL! As Stan would say the standard of this VFL was as high as the Victorian VFL. Many VFL Players played in this competition. Wayne Closter (Geelong), Bill Thompson & Greg Perry (both Essendon) to name a few. Glenn James former VFL Umpire also played in this VFL. Rod almost joined Essendon in the VFL but a higher offer kept him in Adelaide.
When representing South Australia Rod would play on Alex Jesaulenko (who delivered last year’s Middleton Address) at least once. From all reports he performed very well on Jezza! At other times he was matched against Darrel Baldock, Des Tuddenham & other VFL Legends.
Thanks Stan for preparing this article for us!
By Stan Middleton
Official Historian for the Vietnam Football League 1967 to 1971
There have been many more spectacular footballers than Rod Pope, but few more dependable or consistent. His 314 game senior career began with West Adelaide in 1962, and ended with Norwood in 1979. While on the footy field he won two best and fairest awards with West Adelaide and one with Norwood. Solidly built, tenacious and assured, Pope played most of his career, including his 10 interstate games for South Australia, as a half back flanker.
After 209 games with West he moved to Norwood in 1974 out of a desire to play in a premiership team, and got his wish sooner than he might have dared hope when he was one of the best players afield in the Redlegs’ two-goal grand final defeat of Glenelg the following year. Pope’s all round contribution to the flag was significant, and he continued in fine form in 1976 when he won the club’s fairest and most brilliant award.
Rod was inducted into the South Australian National Football League’s Hall of Fame in 2004.
In Vietnam Rod served with 8 Petroleum, Platoon RAASC in Vung Tau & Nui Dat from late 1966 until August 1967. We are not sure how many games Rod participated in playing for 5 Company RAASC & other combined teams. However the digger who started footy in Vung Tau (John Heaney) remembers Rod humiliating him by standing on his shoulders to take a mark in one of the very early games! John reckons he was a pretty good footballer and had no idea at the time who this young upstart was! Later he was to learn that this young upstart was none other than Rodney Pope!
Rod has returned to Vietnam on a couple of occasions. He still lives in Adelaide with his wife Helen and is very involved in the South Australian TPI Association. He has close connections still at both West Adelaide & Norwood Football Clubs.
Rod you are a “Legend”!
Rodney (Rod) James POPE (Vietnam Veteran)
West Adelaide 209 games from 1963 to 1973
Norwood 95 games from 1974 to 1979
State representative for South Australia 10 games
Total Games 314 (Had he not served in Vietnam during his National Service this figure would have been substantially higher!)