You might’ve noticed what happened to Fremantle on Saturday night. However it is likely you saw nothing at all.
The Dockers are the AFL’s invisible team. Invisible club. Brought into the competition in 1995 not to ‘grow the game’ or ‘expand the reach’ but to dilute the power of the other WA team because some, like Kevin Sheedy, thought the Eagles would become some kind of super-power. “Juggernaut,” he said.
And so Freo was ushered into the big league. Concessions? There were few. Financial injections? No, the new club paid for the privilege of joining in.
One day late in 1994 I went to Dockers HQ to interview coach Gerard Neesham. The club had a staff of three. It grew quickly. Soon there was a recruiting manager who had never been out of WA. Did they get everything right as they built a list? Well, no. Did they do ok in their first season. Well, yes. Did they get a bit of extra help from the AFL. Well, no – nobody at head office noticed them.
Events late on Saturday were just another example of what happens when you’re invisible.
Remember Sirengate. That day down in Tassie when the umpires didn’t hear the siren. Ignored the pleas of players and pushed on pushed on pushed on until St Kilda had levelled the scores. Fremantle needed to bring in the lawyers to win that game they had already won
Remember the day at Subiaco Oval when a passage of Freo play was interrupted unusually. By the umpire marking the ball. Gotta laugh, don’t you?
And you almost certainly don’t remember the worst of them all. A game at Docklands between Fremantle and Essendon. Matthew Carr missed a shot at goal but was infringed as he took the kick. The umpire blew the whistle and took control. Full of authority he marched straight to the Essendon player who had given away the free kick and said: “The ball has gone through for a behind. Do you want to take another kick or keep the point?” The Essendon player thanked the umpire for his concern and opted to keep the point Carr had scored. The ball was then kicked back into play and the game continued. Unusual? Yeah, but it happens when you’re invisible.
Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir was full of dignity after the game on Saturday night. Fans were indignant. Or numb. We’ve seen it all before.
How does it feel?
“You’re invisible now. You’ve no got secrets to conceal.” (Bob Dylan)