AFL Round 18 – Fremantle v Adelaide: Fate, and all that…..

The Saturday afternoon started well with my eldest son’s footy game – Freo City Dockers versus Kwinana at the local oval. The twelve year olds have been playing together since they were in U6 Auskick, and today marks a milestone in their footy development – the first time they’ve played on a full-size oval with adult rules. There’s a proper scoreboard with some missing numbers and dinky plastic purple dugouts and a little demarcated interchange area that confuses the hell out of the coaches and runners. It’s a day of sleet and wind although Perth’s sandy soil means there’s no mud to speak of. From the first bounce it becomes clear that Freo are using the open spaces better than their southern rivals and there’s little of the scrumming play that has always characterised the modified rules game with thirty players crammed onto a smaller field. Freo City start piling on the goals with some beautiful linking play and hard running. More satisfying for the coaches is the ‘accountable brand’ of footy the boys are playing, tackling hard and getting numbers round the ball when necessary and spreading fast when required. It occurred to a couple of the fathers watching the game how closely the local kids were following the game plan of their adult idols – locking the ball into the forward line with terrific defensive pressure and launching attacks off the half-backline. Beneficiaries of a different football culture than the team playing up the road – there’s nobody on the pitch ‘doing a Selwood’ and staging for a free with a thrown back head and exaggeratedly thespian flung arms (as I’d sadly seen some kids from across-town doing a few weeks earlier), and neither does our giant ruckman stand about flapping his wings staring at the umpy with wounded eyes until the umpy caves and gives him a free. It’s the ‘champion team rather than a team of champions’ ethos and it’s heads over the ball and running hard and the boys end up winning by close to a hundred points. In the clubroom after the game they get to sing the Freo team song for the first time – they’re no choirboys and they only know the first lines but they sing it loud – and we all hope it augurs well for the Freo-Crows game that follows soon after.

I don’t end up making it to the ground, along with ten thousand other members. It’s a tight squeeze with a dinner thing afterwards and so we’re all crowded into the lounge-room of my old fibro shack – which because of the uninsulated walls and the tight-press of three feral kids and one shouting adult has the amplifying qualities of a good Marshall boom-box anyway – the crowd noise in our front room is pretty spectacular. The members badges on their purple lanyards have been made into necklaces for two soft toys – a quoll and a Tassie devil – who are perched before the TV. Without Luke McPharlin in the backline it’s going to be a big ask from our defenders and without Hayden Ballantyne in the forward line there’s going to be less of that fierce defensive pressure that he brings week after week, and lacking Matthew Pavlich there’ll be little lead-up marking and goaling from the fifty, but right from the beginning of the game equally fierce Son Son Walters is making an impact. It’s a strong breeze to the city end and Adelaide capitalise with two early goals, but from then on the game pretty much follows the Ross Lyon script. Uber-tagger Ryan Crowley has gone to terrific youngster Richard Douglas, the first time he’s been tagged, and Crowley takes him right out of the game. The crows are using the ball better by hand and foot in the first ten minutes but after that Freo start to close them down – the start of a pattern that continues throughout the game. Adelaide are wasteful in front of goal from set-shots, but there’s otherwise good defensive pressure from the Dockers. There’s nothing pretty about the game except for the efforts of Nat Fyfe and Stephen Hill and Rory Sloane in the midfield – Sloane had carved Freo up the last time he played here and he’s looking equally likely this time. Later in the game substitute Cam Sutcliffe goes to him and quietens him a little, but with Dangerfield out and with Thompson in the forward line he’s running alone. In the second quarter Freo start to really consolidate their lead with Fyfe and Hill breaking through at will although there’s little pressure on the scoreboard. Resting Aaron Sandilands in the forward line isn’t working this week – the big fella isn’t holding his marks and he’s too slow to help out at ground level – there’s less forward pressure than usual. But it’s all about Nat Fyfe from here-on. Freo maintain roughly the same lead for the rest of the match, equalling a record on their way to a grinding victory with the lowest number of inside fifties in a winning team, and haven’t done well in clearances and tackles either. Still, their efficiency in front of goal and Fyfe’s four goals have been a factor, and the same can’t be said for Adelaide. Defender Zac Dawson manages to pull off an unlikely two marks from falcons in the one game – balls bouncing from head to hands – and there’s some big names to return for next week’s game with Carlton at Etihad.

It always felt like Freo had the smarts to win the game, without any great complacency setting in. Surrounded by screaming kids and soft toys and an emptied bottle of shiraz, towards the end of the game I returned to the image of Nat Fyfe as described to me by Sean Gorman, author of the excellent bio of the Krakouer brothers – Brotherboys. I don’t know if the story is true or not, and it doesn’t really matter – it’s a salutary lesson for my eldest, sitting beside me and watching Fyfe do the hard and graceful things that make footy such a great game to play and watch. He likes Fyfe because we see him often in our local IGA – buying Fruit Loops. Fyfe hails from the Lake Grace area in the Great Southern region of WA – a place of big skies and open spaces and vast wheat fields. The story goes that a Freo talent scout just happened to be driving through the one-horse town on his way to somewhere else when out of the corner of his eye he saw a young kid take a great hang over a mate out on the oval playing kick to kick. He parked up and watched for a while and was impressed enough to approach a teenage Nat Fyfe and invite him up to the city to try out for the team. Had the talent scout been looking the other way or had he driven with his head in his lap texting or changing the dial of his car-stereo, then Nat Fyfe might be driving his father’s truck instead of taking hangs and generally starring for the Freo midfield. But I don’t tell it like this – instead I tell it from Fyfe’s POV – had the kid been home playing x-box instead of leaping about in the icy wind on a Lake Grace oval with his friends then he might never have played for Freo. My son nods, but just when I think he’s getting the message, he asks instead if we can start buying Fruit Loops.

Fremantle 3.2  6.5  9.8  11.9  75

Adelaide    2.4  2.6  5.9  7.11  53



Fremantle – Nat Fyfe, Stephen Hill, Michael Johnson, Ryan Crowley, Michael Walters

Adelaide –     Rory Sloane, Bernie Vince, R Henderson, B Crouch, D Talia



Fremantle – Fyfe 4, Mayne 2, Walters 2, de Boer, Hill, Clarke

Adelaide – Lynch 2, Vine, Lyons, Henderson, McKernon, Thompson


Crowd 28, 765 at Patersons Stadium



  1. I wonder if Freo could get a sponsorship deal from Fruit Loops?

  2. David Zampatti says

    The Eagles will have dog food companies lining up after last Sunday.

  3. Thanks for the tip PeterB. I know the WC Evil had a “fruit loops” deal in 2005/06/07 but that might be over now. I’ll look into it.

    DWW I was gonna wimp out on Saturday night too but luckily a big wind came and blew my TV antenna into the garden so we had to go to the game. Not a drop a rain, Fyfe at his best, a couple of impossible extractions from Son Son and some Hilly run made it a very nice evening.

    Lake Grace has a fine footy heritage but a shocking scoreboard…

  4. Cheers Les, I kinda wish the same had happened to my aerial, although The Seaview has yet another new owner, and I might well have wandered down there for a Guinness…

  5. Dockertalk says

    That was a really good read. Thanks to safetyzone for passing that on to me.

  6. Sean Gorman says

    Sorry old chums in the Old Dart – streamed the game in between pints. Thanks for the plug Daveo.

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