Happy 60th birthday to Rod Waddell.
Career : 1981 – 1982
Debut : Round 18, 1981 vs Geelong, aged 23 years, 70 days
Carlton Player No. 898
Games : 5
Goals : 2
Last Game : Round 8, 1982 vs Footscray, aged 24 years, 357 days
Guernsey No. 10
Height : 178 cm (5 ft. 10 in.)
Weight : 76 kg (12 stone, 0 lbs.)
DOB: 23 May, 1957
Rodney Steven Waddell was a talented, pacey, aboriginal footballer who forced his way into one of the strongest Carlton teams ever assembled when he made his debut for the Blues on the eve of the 1981 finals. Although he was a reluctant recruit at first – having already played Reserves football at Collingwood – Carlton claimed him under the VFL zoning rules in force at the time, and Rod eventually played five matches while the Navy Blues won back to back flags in 1981-82.
Waddell began his senior football career with Southern Districts in NSW, but it was his slashing performance as a ruck-rover for Lalor in the 1980 Diamond Valley Football League Grand Final, against Reservoir-Lakeside, that made VFL scouts take notice. Collingwood and Carlton soon became involved in a tug of war over his services, and the Magpies seemed to have come out on top when Waddell turned out for two Reserves games with them early in 1981. Carlton however, was convinced that the 23 year-old was residentially tied to us, and a VFL investigation quickly agreed. Collingwood were fined $500 for flaunting the zoning rules, and stripped of the four competition points they had earned with Waddell in their team. Rod was then welcomed to Princes Park, and presented with our number 10 guernsey.
After spending most of the remainder of 1981 with Carlton’s Reserves, Waddell was eventually called into the seniors in August, as one of six changes for the round 18 Match of the Day against Geelong at Princes Park. Stationed on a half-forward flank, he flashed in and out of the game, kicked a nice goal, and had a grandstand view as Carlton’s mercurial forward Peter Bosustow took Mark of the Year. Carlton won by 33 points, in a fitting tribute to champion defender Bruce Doull in his 250th game.
While elbowing his way up into the senior side was a creditable achievement by Waddell, the bigger task by far after that was to stay there. After all, Carlton had assembled a fleet of midfield runners that was the envy of every other club, and Rod faced intense competition for his place in the side each week from a galaxy of stars such as Ashman, Buckley, Sheldon, Harmes, Marcou, Keogh, Armstrong and Glascott. Although Rod didn’t lack self confidence, it was a daunting prospect indeed.
Waddell’s second match came on a Sunday afternoon at the MCG against South Melbourne in round 19, when he came off the bench to replace his captain Mike Fitzpatrick during the third quarter, and helped his side to 23-point win. His third was another unforgettable occasion; the second Semi Final against Geelong on the wide expanses of Waverley Park, in front of a crowd of 66,000. Waddell had a relatively easy day and warmed the bench for most of the game, as Carlton dominated the second half, and qualified for the Grand Final with an emphatic win by 40 points.
During the fortnight leading up to the Premiership-deciding clash between traditional rivals Carlton and Collingwood, the Blues’ concerns revolved around two players who were automatic inclusions if fit; full-back Geoff Southby, and rover Rod Ashman. Southby was never a real chance of playing because of a torn thigh muscle, and he was replaced on selection night by Scott Howell. Ashman, however – with ongoing concerns about a knee – only convinced the selectors he was right on the day before the match, and Waddell was the obvious choice to make way for him. On that fabled Saturday afternoon, Howell and Ashman both put in solid efforts in a spine-tingling contest that eventually fell to the resolute Blues by 20 points.
As Carlton set about defending that hard-fought flag in 1982, Waddell managed two more senior appearances by round 8, but then was informed by the match committee that his future lay down the Western Highway at Geelong. The Cats, knowing full well the depth of talented small men at Princes Park, had approached the Blues to secure the services of Waddell, and come up with an offer hard to refuse. Waddell too, realised that he would get far more opportunities at Sleepy Hollow, and was happy to make the move.
Rod added another 20 senior matches and 10 goals to his credit over the next three seasons, although the highlight of his time with the Cats was his dominant game in the 1982 Reserves Grand Final defeat of St Kilda. Playing as a ruck-rover, Waddell kicked six goals and was clearly Best on Ground.
After finishing at Geelong in 1984, he headed off to Darwin in the off-season and took part in another Grand Final when his team Nightcliff lost to St Mary’s in that season’s NTFL Grand Final. He then returned to Victoria, and rejoined the Lalor Bloods to finish off an interesting and varied career. He would later play at Ararat and Marong Football clubs.
Rod Waddell’s sister is the mother of Geelong premiership player Steven Motlop.