AFL Round 17 – Fremantle v GWS: Dockers sink Giants

Fremantle versus GWS
2:40pm, Sunday 13 July
Subiaco Oval

David Zampatti

Twenty years ago, the good people of Western Australia were absorbing the just unveiled spectacle of the new club in the AFL, to be based in the old port of Fremantle.

There was its exotic quattrocolor livery and its stevedoring nickname. Then there was its quixotic inaugural coach and a meagre handful of repatriated champs, leading a rag-tag bunch of WAFL players and AFL journeymen, evidence of the far less edifying financial and recruiting constraints attending its birth that would shackle the club for its first decade.

I wonder how many of the people climbed aboard in those first days – many of whom were jumping off the great, shiny flagship, with its brace of flags flying – would have had second thoughts if they knew what was in store.

But enough of that. Read Matt Price’s Way to Go: Sadness, Euphoria and the Fremantle Dockers and our very own Les Everett’s Fremantle Dockers: An Illustrated History if you want to bask (or wallow) in all of that stuff.

In the here and now, it was a glorious Perth winter Sunday afternoon, a relaxed, untroubled, crowd, and, on this much too infrequent occasion, a chance for three generations of my lot to take in the footy together.

Freo are in an odd situation. Courtesy of its lopsided draw, it’s two-thirds through a run of nine consecutive games against bottom-half teams. It’s like a submarine running silent and deep, waiting to surface, all its damned torpedoes armed, in August.

It’s not an especially pretty, or exciting, exercise, but you can only sink who they send you. (Maybe, when the draw was set, games against Richmond, West Coast and Carlton were figured to be tougher by the nostalgic or star-struck than they turned out to be.)

This Sunday it’s Greater Western Sydney. I bet Leon Cameron would like to play Freo a dozen times next season, because it’s an education for them, and one you can see doing his young blokes good. Don’t look at the scoreboard, ignore the times that practiced Freo plays left them wrong-footed and exposed, and there was a lot to like about GWS. They went into every contest they could get to whole-heartedly, they strung some neat passages together (one, late in the second quarter that ended with a Whitfield goal, another in the third term that led to Tomlinson’s goal, were among the rare times a team has taken on Fremantle’s “wall” head on this season and found a way through).

Greene was one of the best on ground, Cameron may be a bit off his 2013 heroics, but he will be special, Ward is a terrific 24-year-old veteran. It’ll take time, but if they hold their nerve, and their players, the Giants will be right. We should know.

Freo did enough (more than enough, as it turns out; the win and percentage gets them to second a little ahead of schedule). Their elite players were just a little disengaged early, but Freo’s supporting cast is now deep and strong, and Suban, Mzungu, Neale, Sutcliffe and Spurr made sure nothing untoward occurred. Once Fyfe resumed his usual prolific unbeatability, and Sandilands and Clarke trampled over the tiring Mumford, there was nothing left but to sit back and enjoy the show.

Which, as we all knew it would, came courtesy of Hayden Ballantyne and Anthony Morabito.

Ballantyne is a little lump of sodium dropped on water. Now as much a threat with or without the ball as Cyril Rioli, Ballantyne shares a flaw with the Hawthorn champ; a highly-strung tendon. In Rioli’s case, it’s unimaginatively located in the back of the leg, and prone to straining; in Ballantyne’s, it’s idiosyncratically housed in the brain, and given to snapping.

So, as if on cue, Ballantyne kicked five goals that showed the rich variety of his talents, harried and hassled opponents like a nervous breakdown on legs, and booked himself an extra week’s bye with an innocuous (and therefore supremely stupid), short-arm jab to Tomas Bugg.

Anthony Morabito’s home crowd waited for his return after 85 games lost to knee injuries like a mother waiting on the front porch for her boy to return from the front. When he emerged in the third quarter and waited on the boundary to be interchanged on, we had a chance to have a good look at the object of our attention.

He’s an extraordinary specimen (the player he most resembles, in size and shape, is another Anthony, Koutoufides). I don’t know whether his body has been deliberately sculpted during his long rehabilitations, or is simply the result of hours in the pool while his knee mended, but he’s got the slim extended torso and width across the upper chest and shoulders of a sprint swimmer rather than a footballer.

When he took the field, and as he gathered his 15 possessions in the last third of the game (admittedly against a largely spent opposition), he was truly imposing – big, fast, sure handed and long kicking.

Of course there are massive ifs and buts – if his knee holds up; but we haven’t seen him in the heat of a real battle against fierce opponents – but if you think Anthony Morabito is just a feel-good story, you may be in for a rude shock.


Fremantle        4.1   9.5   14.5   21.10   (136)

Greater Western Sydney       1.3   4.5   7.6   9.6   (60)


Fremantle: Ballantyne 5, Pavlich, Suban 3, D Pearce, Fyfe 2, Sandilands, Mayne, Neale, Spurr, Barlow, Clarke

Greater Western Sydney:Whitfield 3, Tomlinson, Cameron 2, Ward, Greene



Fremantle: Fyfe, Ballantyne, Mzungu, Mundy, Clarke, Suban

Greater Western Sydney: Greene, Ward, Cameron, Mumford, Whitfield

Umpires: Ryan, Dalgleish, Fleer

Official crowd: 33,597


Our Votes: 3 Fyfe (Frem), 2 Ballantyne (Frem), 1 Greene (GWS)


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. If I’d been out for as long as Mora my mum woulda given me a good smack when I got home. But didn’t he look good…

  2. Sean Gorman says

    Some beautiful imagery there DZ. I also look at our ‘injured’ list and it looks pretty good considering. If Greene can pull his head in he could be anything. I was quite impressed.

    Mora’s return was sublime. Saints for dessert. What wine could you recommend or are you also on dry july?


  3. David Zampatti says

    Certainly not Dawson’s Retreat. Unfortunately Hill of Grace might be hard to get until after the bye. A nip of Ballantine’s would be nice, but it’s been confiscated.

  4. SS Kursk? Lost with all hands.

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