After a mis-spent youth attempting triathlon, mountain biking, and surf swimming, Alister was convinced to row by a few uni mates who dragged him in with the tempting phrase, "you're big, you're dopey, and you like early mornings. Have we got a sport for you!". After a few years of having fun, including a semi-final appearance at Henley, he decided to trial for the Australian National team in both sweep and sculling boats.
In spite of ending up as one of the quicker scullers and pair rowers in the country, he was never quite able to manage the knack of seat racing or injury prevention and had to be content with a few on-water and ergo National Championships, and stints at the Australian Institute of Sport and Victorian Institute of Sport.
Finishing the trialling process with a final-round elimination from the 2008 Olympic team, he moved to England in 2009, winning the Britannia Challenge Cup for Tideway Scullers in 2010, and making the final and breaking a course record in the Quadruple Sculls in 2011. On returning to Australia, work and university overtook him, but he still managed to find time to set a new (sliders-aided) 2k PB of 5:55, and represent Melbourne University at the Australian Universities Boat Race and at Henley.