In was 22 June, the Dockers were sitting nicely in the eight and about to take on the struggling Demons at the MCG. On ABC Grandstand expert commentators Adam Ramanauskas and Mark Maclure were working themselves into a frenzy about Freo.
“They’re lightning quick!”
“They’ll run the Dees into the ground.”
“Melbourne will be carved up on the outside.”
Years of supporting Fremantle makes you wary, realistic, weary. My bullshit detector was on full alert. Had these blokes really been watching the Dockers? Or had they just seen a couple of Son Son highlights and Brad Hill runs?
It was time for tips:
“Yeah Fremantle for me.”
It should have filled me with hope. Confidence even.
The game was crap. The Dockers led midway through the last quarter and lost by 14 points. It wasn’t the end of the world… that was coming.
Next assignment for Fremantle was a meeting at home with Carlton minus their best player Patrick Cripps. The Blues started ok but soon lost their second best player Charlie Curnow and it all got a bit too much. The Dockers kicked the first five goals of the game and you could only feel sorry for Carlton.
The Blues won the game. I watched from a hotel room in Darwin kind of pleased to be a long way from one of Fremantle’s most embarrassing days. But it wasn’t the end of the world…
Luckily I was a long long way from home and far from TV when the derby came around. The game was well over when I checked the score… Fremantle 2.19 (31). Earlier that day Fremantle’s aligned WAFL team Peel scored 3.10 (28) against the West Coast Eagles. The beauty of AFL clubs having their own team in the WAFL is that the whole squad can learn and execute the same system.
On 10 July I was at Winjingarra Bard Bard (Freshwater Cove) on the Kimberley coast a bit over 2500km north of Perth. I met a couple of the traditional owners and custodians of this land. “Who do you barrack for?” I asked.
“Bombers,” said one.
“Eagles,” said the other. “What about you?”
“Dockers.” We all laughed. “But I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Ah you’ll be ok. You just need a couple of good players.”
So it hadn’t taken long for the Dockers to again be a team to be pitied. But spending time in the glorious Kimberley does provide perspective.
On 13 July I watched from Broome as Fremantle battled Hawthorn 5,525km away in chilly Launceston. The Dockers conceded the first five goals then worked back into the game – or perhaps more accurately – Fyfed back into the game. Just when a rare Tassie victory seemed possible the Dockers invented a series of stuff-ups that handed goals and the match to their grateful opponents. I went for a walk along Cable Beach… the world looked pretty good.