AFL Finals Week 3 – Fremantle v Sydney: Familiar faces

Fremantle vs Sydney
5.45pm, Saturday 22 September
Subiaco Oval

Couldn’t even decide what to wear. I haven’t invested (in either sense) in our current Carlton-coloured clobber, but thought it would be churlish to cock a snook at the club’s administration by lighting up like a Christmas tree with red, green, purple and white decorations on this occasion.

Ended up with what I used to wear to games, all black, trench coat, with the Dockers tartan tie the club released back in its eccentric days. Understated undertaker chic, I thought, a little lugubriously. Touch wood. Cross fingers.

First person I saw at the ground was Gerard Neesham. Some pleasantries. Ross McLean, the nice man who presided over the wreck of 2001. The club benefactor Sid Corser, looking old now. I guess we’re all at most games, the ancien régime, but it feels like we’ve crawled out of the woodwork for this one.

I recognised a nurse who sat next to me at a game back in the late nineties. “These men are getting hurt all the time”, she told me then, aghast at what she was watching.

Then there’s this seething crowd, searching for unfamiliar AFL-issued seats, purple and purposeful. I imagine Bruce McAvaney drooling “What a night they’re going to have” like they were Swanny or Buddy or Bucks .

The sun sets in a blaze of colour. The rain stays away. Freo comes out, massive and sleek as thoroughbreds. It’s Matt De Boer’s 100th, his commonplace milestone almost at odds with the significance of the game. (Although it was De Boer, with Ballantyne and Mayne, who started this ball rolling, for me, with a display of harassment and tenacity against Geelong in 2010 that made me dub them the Kamikaze Death Tackle Squad. They’ve been the steely core of the Dockers ever since.)

Suddenly I remember watching the Eagles run out for the first ever derby, in 1995. They looked like, well, we do now (except, do you remember, they used to oil up; a nasty practice). I thought then, “how the fuck are we going to beat these guys?”. I look at Sydney, tough, proud, a bit battered, not big enough. They can’t. Not even close.

The Dockers Death Chant, the long “Freeeoooooo”, starts up. Used to be only when a rare victory was assured. Now it’s before bounce-down, and I can’t argue with the timing.

The game goes pretty much as it has to. Sydney push hard, Jetta snapped an early one, but by halfway through the first quarter, Pavlich and Mayne and Walters are marking on open leads inside the 50. Two goals are an atrocious reward for the opportunities they’ve had, but Sydney are already on the ropes. This just has to get ugly.

Freo play the second quarter like the All Blacks; maul after rolling maul, pushing the Swans inexorably back into their defence. Freo’s smalls, Walters and Pearce and Neale, just charge back into the packs like hookers and fly halves, big bodies like Fyfe and Mundy and Mzungu smash through defenders. The Kamikaze Death Tackle Squad causes havoc. Sandilands rises like Olympus above the Serengeti. Men are getting hurt.

Goals started coming; Pav and Duffield (brilliantly) and Suban; Crowley, mocking his detractors as well as his opponent, Jack, kicks straight from outside 50; Fyfe turns O’Keefe in a James Hird flash to mark and goal. Johnson, McPharlin and Dawson, with their poker faces, chop off everything that tries to escape the trap.

We’d never seen anything like it, even if we’d seen it coming. How the fuck is anyone going to beat these guys?

Sydney fight their way into the third quarter like a cornered animal, but can’t last long enough. Freo, easing off now, start resting players and doing the necessary minimums as the game peters out in the last quarter.

The crowd is playful, exuberant. A Mexican Tsunami starts up but, despite its strength, dies abruptly. The crowd has found something much better to do: a chant that rises from nowhere; fast, deep, a throb, a sabre rattle; M-C-G, M-C-G, M-C-G, M-C-G…

Dawson marks, and the crowd happily cheers the three-club scapegoat. People start call and response chants I’ve never heard before. Everyone is full to the brim.

At the end, Lyon, Stone, Kirk make a beeline for Bolton. It’s nice, gets even nicer when the Freo players join his guard of honour, nicer still when the whole crowd rises to the spent champ, and then his whole battered team, as they leave the ground.

There’s been that thing about Sydney for Dockers supporters since they smacked into the Eagles in ’05 and ’06, and I don’t think we’ve lost it since. But it was more than that. I think we remember getting ridiculed for cheering the boys off after they lost to the Bombers in the ’03 finals, and wanted to bury that particular slander. There’s a lot ridicule needs burying.

Now on – by plane, bus, car and train, ballot and scalper – to the Mystery Dance on Saturday.

Anywhere, any time, anybody. M-C-G, M-C-G, M-C-G, M-C-G…


Fremantle          2.9   7.11   11.12   14.15   (99)

Sydney       2.1   2.2   5.5   11.8   (74)


Fremantle: Walters  3, Pavlich, Fyfe, Suban 2, Ballantyne, Neale, Barlow, Duffield, Crowley

Sydney: Rohan, Cunningham 2, McGlynn, Hannebery, Bolton, McVeigh, Jetta, Parker, Pyke


Fremantle: Fyfe, Sandilands, Crowley, Mayne, Pearce, Duffield

Sydney: McVeigh, Kennedy, Parker, Richards

Umpires: Stevic, Meredith, McInerney


Official crowd: 43,249

Our Votes: 3 Fyfe (Frem), 2 Sandilands (Frem), 1 the crowd (Frem)


About David Zampatti

David writes theatre and the popular arts for the West Australian. In past lives he hung out with some great bands, opened a pub in San Diego and did it tough with the Fremantle Dockers.


  1. DZ – I check out your “From the Turnstiles” theatre and entertainment blog regularly. The whole thing seems to have defaulted to a ghastly purple colour.
    Internet Explorer bugs?

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good write up David and a very Good summary and analogy re the Rugby side off it
    The 2nd Quarter was the best defensive pressure any 1 has ever seen I reckon that is a Fact not. a opinion it is set up for a Great Grand Final Saturday Freo have had my
    Support this Finals series since they were shunted off to Kardinia Park

  3. OMG PB! It HAS gone all purple.

    Suck it up, brother.

    (Thanks for the plug)

  4. Nice work Mr Z. I’ve filled my backpack with house bricks for the walk to Melbourne.

  5. Highly enjoyed the read David, as I have all your recent reports. Love how you Freo folk are reveling in your hour in the sun. Best of luck on Saturday and may the haze fog up the G.

  6. Pamela Sherpa says

    Well done Freo and fans .Enjoy the ride.

  7. Rocket Nguyen says

    On ya Zampo!

    Hoping Freo can shut the Squhawkers up!

  8. Great piece Dave,

    I remember that first Derby. Standing on the hill with my mid 90’s grunge uniform of goatee and flanno topped with a beautiful purple beanie (just the logo and FREO knitted underneath – magnificently simple & the best merchandise item Freo has ever produced*) among a swarming sea of smug, sneering Eagles fans. As for the game itself, it was like seeing a bunch of gazelles (or meerkats in the case of Peter Miller) facing a stampede of rhinos. A rude awakening.

    Sat (or squeezed) on the 3rd tier on Saturday night and watched the 2nd quarter carnage unfold in directly below me I just thought, Christ, this is amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it on a footy field. I can’t wait for Saturday. Freeee-oh.

  9. “To the Mystery Dance on Saturday” indeed.

    Are you invoking the Elvis Costello song in that last sentence Mr DZ? In your reference the theme of that song could be read as a homoerotic paean to the cut and thrust of the sporting contest of the gods. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Channel 10 or Channel 9 or Channel 7 used to play the Outkast song, ‘I Love The Way You Move’ at quarter breaks going into ads with a similar (un)intentional reference, in that case to the relationship between the spectator’s ahem, admiration of the player.

    Or maybe, as a Freo supporter you agree with the chorus as it might more literaaly apply to their chances in the Big Dance. You, er, might want to scan the chorus one more time:

    “Why don’t you tell me about the mystery dance
    I want to know about the mystery dance
    Why don’t you show me
    ‘Cause I’ve tried and I’ve tried, and I’m still mystified
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied”

    The song finishes with the protagonist (the Dockers?) exclaiming over and over again:

    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied
    I can’t do it anymore and I’m not satisfied

    To the Mystery Dance indeed!

  10. Mmmm. I called it the Mystery Dance (and, yes, courtesy of Mr Costello) because I don’t have a single supportable clue how this game is going to go, and I defy anyone else to be any the wiser.
    Really wasn’t drawing anything from the song’s lyrics at all – if, as you point out, they don’t flatter us or our chances… whatever. Let’s face it, describing Sandilands as rising like Olympus above the Serengeti demonstrates my fairly slapdash use of pop song lyrics to colour the page.
    There are a couple, though, that work for me. You could pretty much play the whole of Positively 4th Street to the slagheap of ship-jumping West Coast supporters and WA media outlets that threaten to bury us like Aberfan; and When the Ship Comes In could be the Docker’s club song (especially as done by The Pogues) without changing a word.

    And like the Pharoah’s tribe
    They’ll be drownded in the tide
    And like Goliath
    They’ll be conquered

  11. chris bracher says

    David that was great.
    As a fanatical Bloods man I was chuffed with the classy Freo tribute to out warrior Bolts as he was carried off the field.
    My disdain for cocky Hawks supporters ( who started their celebrations just a tad early last year!) was pushing me to purple for this weekend. Your words describing the respect that the Dockers fraternity have for my club has me getting my purple face-paints to the ready!
    Nothing like a shared cause (supplement Hawks-bashing 2012 /13 for the beatifully described Eagle- bashing of 05/06) to build a sense of fraternity!
    Oft-forgotten fact of course that Mr.Neesham was also once one of our South Melbourne boys (albeit shoter-term than I wanted)

  12. Nice response Mr DZ. Hailing from WA I well understand your Positively 4th Street reference (and I laughed).

    If we are just going for song titles, and we are both coming at this week, albeit, with different hope for the final result then The Middle East’s ‘Land of the Bloody Unknown’ might suit, mixed together with (Perth’s own Dylan) Warner’s, ‘Nothing to Lose’.

    Cheers and may the best team (the mighty Hawks) win

  13. Dearest Purple Scum,
    No Positively 4th Street sentiments here. I suggest you consult The Triffids “Bury Me Deep in Love” about 5pm on Saturday:
    “And the little congregation gathers,
    Prays for guidance from above
    They sing, “Hear our meditation,
    Lead us not into temptation
    But give us some kind of explanation
    Bury us deep in love”

    You may lose me on the east face
    You may lose me on the west
    I may be covered over in the night
    Bury me deep in your love”
    Go you big golden birds.

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