AFL Round 1 – Fremantle v Geelong: In hostile territory

by Evie Tozer


I’ve never seen Geelong play anywhere other than Victoria but I’ve heard they don’t do too well against the Dockers when they’re playing in Perth. Paired with my dad’s and my uncle Jack’s negative view on their chances at beating Fremantle, my expectations aren’t that great either. The Dockers have had six weeks more training than Geelong. The Cats have quite a few new young players. They haven’t got Varcoe or Vardy. It’s a home game for Fremantle. My uncle said, “It’d be a miracle if Geelong win on Saturday.”


We were running late after having pre-game drinks at the Subiaco Hotel. I was running with Jen, my sole blood related auntie on the Costello side, and her friend Sharon. We saw purple everywhere, but very little navy and white. The Dockers’ purple balloons pluming into the sky functioned to further my anxiety. Jen was appalled by the total disregard for the environment – “Where are all those bloody balloons gonna end up? In some lake somewhere. Idiots.” While we ran around the stadium, from gate 26 to 10, we heard the first siren and groaned at missing the first bounce. This was followed up by a roar from the crowd. A louder cheer came a few seconds later and we knew it had to be the Dockers’ first goal. There weren’t enough Cats fans to make that kind of noise. I hated the thought of Fremantle getting the first goal of the game but I had to expect the worst. I definitely didn’t feel confident, but I was trying to stay hopeful.

Once we were inside the grounds we decided to do a quick bathroom stop before settling into our seats. We were frantically trying to empty our bladders and wash our hands when another cheer echoed down to us from above – the bathrooms were like concrete dungeons, holding us in the dark where the light couldn’t reach – I didn’t pause as I dried my hands with some paper towel.

“Must be a mark, inside fifty,” I said to Jen without looking at her. The crowd roared a moment later, much louder than before, and we sadly acknowledged the high possibility of the second goal having gone to the Dockers. We hurried up the stairs and into the sunlight. My eyes went straight the scoreboard. As I had suspected, Fremantle had the first two.

When we’d shuffled along row T to our seats, which were located directly between the goal posts that the Cats were defending, we realised we were surrounded by Dockers fans. It’s not a nice feeling, feebly bobbing in a sea of purple. I tried to ignore my immediate vicinity and just huddled close to Jen. Another three goals and things were looking pretty bleak.

Jimmy Bartel watched the ball sail over him and through the goals – he just shook his head in dismay.

Enright couldn’t jump high enough to stop the Dockers getting a mark inside the goal square – another six points.

Then the Cats picked up. A quick pass to Tom ‘Tomahawk’ Hawkins gave us our first goal. Within the same minute Mitch Duncan gave us our second. Jen and I were sharing ear phones to listen to the commentary – a habit formed by my grandfather/her father – and the atmosphere was intense.

Tomahawk gets a mark inside fifty. Dockers fans boo as he aims for the goal posts at a forty-five degree angle. He makes it through beautifully and the crowd starts chanting: “GEE-LONG!” clap! clap! clap! We’re back. Freo are starting to look a bit rattled, and though they still lead by 12 points, my uncle Jack’s words echo in my head: “It’d be a miracle…”

Podsiadly gives away a free kick due to aggression. Chris Scott isn’t happy. Jen is disappointed – “It’s not the Geelong way,” she tuts. Chapman gives Freo a free kick in the corner pocket because he shoved a player on the boundary line. They get another goal so it is now 6-0-36 to 3-0-18. The Cats need to up the ante. Quarter time is due because the clock is at 31 minutes. Jen is begging for the siren.

Chappy goes down. Ballantyne’s hit him. Motlop gets a goal and the siren blares. “Thanks Hayden!” Jen yells happily. “We needed that!”


Podsiadly gets a goal straight away within the first minute and a half of the second quarter. The Cats are giving it to Ballantyne for that hit. I’m sitting behind the goal posts that the Cats are now kicking towards. Mackie got a free after he took a mark inside fifty and got taken down by number 41 for the Dockers. He makes for a beautiful goal and a miracle doesn’t seem needed anymore – just the pure guts and determination of the mighty Cats.

The lights come on over the oval. An ethereal sky hovers above the playing ground for these Gods. The score rests at 37 to Freo and 36 to the Cats. The umpire hands a free kick to the Dockers and they get another goal. The crowd doesn’t roar quite so loud this time – maybe because they know it’s a bullshit call from the ump.

Podsy gets the ball, passes to Stokesy, Stokesy to Guthrie and then back to Podsy for a magnificent goal! There is more play and then Selwood gets a shot at the goals. It flies; looks promising; hits the post at the last second and the Cats only get a point.

Hayden goes down, much to the glee of all the Cats fans. The score is 7-1-43 to 7-1-43, and we’re halfway through the second quarter. The Cats kick it around, slowly getting the ball near their goalposts. Jimmy positions himself perfectly, takes a mark and the crowd goes off. My throat hurts from screaming. He aims, does his little dance, and the ball misses completely. There is momentary disappointment before Motlop turns it around and kicks a spectacular goal. We’re now five points ahead, but that’s quickly altered as the Dockers get another goal. Stevie J gets a chance but only gives us a point. It’s now 50 all.

Duncan takes a full stretch dive in the corner pocket – a beautiful retrieval. The players fumble between themselves for possession of the ball. Jen pulls out the binoculars, another habit formed by my grandfather. She asks, “Do you want to see Jimmy, the divine specimen?” I have to have a look. He is pretty perfect. He tries to kick a goal from 55 metres; Tomahawk tries to mark it but it falls short so we only get a point.

Jimmy’s limping. He bends down and almost stretches his calf out, but decides against it and walks on. Surely it’s just a cramp – it’s nearly halftime anyway so we’re not too worried. Taylor Hunt delivers a fabulous goal. Jen never doubted him apparently, due to his previous athleticism with discus. The siren blares just in time for the Cats’ handy five point lead.


It’s dusk. The sky is pink and orange, the lights are bright over the ground and we get to our seats with hot chips and beer just in time for the bounce. The Dockers take a shot at goal but it hits the post. They follow it up quickly with another shot and this time they don’t miss. They’re now 2 points ahead.

Jen comments that Guthrie is a deserved player to take on Ablett’s number – he’s a star tonight. Chappy kicks it to Selwood who passes to West, the new ruck man. He has a go but misses the goals. Cats get a point.

Enright hand passes to Tomahawk inside fifty. The stadium goes quiet. He’s lined up right in the middle of the goal posts. I know it’s an easy shot but he’s missed these before. And sure enough, he kicks it oddly once again and only gets us a point.

There’s a tussle and Mackie gets a free kick. He disappoints with another behind. Cats pass it to one another at Freo’s goal posts, we lose it though and then Scarlett makes the mistake of snapping Ballantyne in the jaw. It’s stupid, but even the Freo supporters know Ballantyne deserves it because he’s such a smart arse. Still, despite enjoying watching the little man go down, the Dockers get an easy goal because of it.

We move past it and Jimmy makes us proud by getting one back for us, but the Dockers are relentless and follow up with another goal. The score is 12-5-77 to 10-6-66.

Five minutes of play and Stokesy makes a great pass, sets it up for Stevie Johnson who rewards us with a beautiful goal. Christianson has just come on and has already shown his worth – at least four possessions in the last five minutes. Tomahawk gets another goal. Cats are now in front by 1 point.

Christiansen’s taken himself off. Must be hurt. Jen studies him with the binoculars – he’s sitting down on the bench looking at the ground. Harry Taylor keeps the ball away from the Dockers’ goal posts. Christiansen’s back on his feet after getting strapped up. Jen is put at ease. He’ll be fine.

After a misunderstanding with a ‘play on’, Enright accidentally takes down a Docker. Doesn’t matter because Stokesy takes possession and goes for goal. He only gets a point but their momentum doesn’t wain. The siren goes and we sit back with anxiety to prepare for the final quarter.


Fourth quarter starts and the Cats are kicking towards the goal I’m sitting behind. I hope my screams of encouragement can help them kick straight and strong. We need the first goal like is a grand final.

Chappy gets a shot but it goes out on the full. At least we got an opportunity within the first 30 seconds of the bounce. Jen purses her lips and says, “This is bloody tense.” She’s looking for Christiansen. Chappy takes another shot at goal, it begins to fall short, Bartel tries to mark it but gets pushed in the back. The umpires choose to ignore that one. Play continues and takes the ball back into the centre. The scores are level once again – 12-8-80 each. Podsy passes to Jimmy easily, who walks into the goal square and taps it through smoothly. I leap to my feet and scream for him but as I sit down the blood pumps in my head and I feel like I’m having a mini seizure. My fingers are at my temples and I ‘white out’ for a few seconds. I touch Jen’s arm and she looks at me distractedly. I blink to try to clear my vision and shake my head at her to let her know it’s nothing. She can’t really pay me much attention anyway because the game is so gripping. I make a mental note not to scream so hard next time.

The Dockers chase us up with another goal. Jen thinks it all depends on stamina now – whoever runs out of puff first. Cats get a point, but Kelly makes a feeble tackle. Jen thinks it’s a telling sign, but she can’t handle the thought of us losing. She repeats her brother’s thoughts – “we need a miracle.”

Stokesy puts his head over the ball but gets hit and goes down – seems to be hurt. Podsy gets possession, tries to get it to Kelly who misses it – another possible sign of fatigue. Tomahawk retrieves it and gives us the goal we so badly need. We’re now 2 points ahead. Stokesy’s fine, jumping around as the umpire’s decide what to do with the ball. The play continues and Pavlich gets a mark inside fifty – he gives Freo another goal. The clock’s at twenty minutes.

The Cats are fervent, trying desperately to keep the ball down their end. Podsy goes for goal but it rolls through and taps the post at the same time. It’s only a point. Freo get it back down their end but they too only get a point. Cats are down by four and there’s 24 minutes gone. I think we do need that miracle right about now.

Fremantle get another goal. It doesn’t look good for us.

Jimmy gets a mark inside fifty. He lines himself up. I’m standing between the posts, waving my scarf at him to show my support and he delivers a beautiful goal. The crowd is chanting for Geelong. Time is 29 minutes, 30 seconds. Cats need one goal to win by 2 points.

The ball goes to the centre. The Cats are furiously trying to get it back down their end…and then the siren goes.

I think of Jack and agree: we needed some kind of miracle to beat Fremantle today.


  1. Don’t worry. You’ll beat ’em in the finals.

Leave a Comment