AFL Semi Final – Fremantle v Port Adelaide: Abra-cadabra

My brother-in-law is teaching himself magic tricks. It’s impressive. All eyes were on the kids recently as he produced an undamaged sheet of A4 paper from his hand, having just torn a sheet (the same sheet!?!?) into tiny pieces. It was a miracle. Sometimes, it’s the things you don’t see that are the most important.


The first time I noticed Nat Fyfe was during a final in Adelaide a couple of years ago. That balance. The pick-ups on the run. Body and rhythm. The courage. Really pleased he was recognized this week just gone.

It’s semi final time and I’m keen to have a look. In fact, this will be my first look at Freo since Round 1 and my first look at Port for the year.

Nothafgus cunninghammii has some mates over for dinner; I slip across to the Lomond Hotel.


The game is underway when I arrive in the front bar. Clutches of people watching a high-mounted screen. Most tables are taken. Freo are dominating.

It occurs to me that I should have headed bayside for this most maritime of fixtures.

Whoops. Freo have gone out on the full.

My parma is delivered to the wall bar.

Band members enter with hard cases.

Nat Fyfe reads the crumb best and it’s 23-8.

Now Port spray it on the full. Drums are carried in. By an old boy. Wearing a blazer.

Port snaps one at the death. 30 seconds left. They can hurt.

A couple dining at a table on the stage wrap up quickly. They’re surrounded by musical equipment. It’s 8:17pm.


FRE 3.5.23

POR 2.2.14


Greybeard hauls out the removable curtains. It’s time for their periodic (daily?) installation. Headlights flash by on Blyth St and Nicholson for the last time. Curtains hung, we’re now disconnected from the outside world.

Who is Lachie Neal? Someone by that name apparently has 15 disposals.


We’re back on and A Sandilands goals from a set shot. He seems to be growing.

#10 misses once, twice, thrice. Looks mad.

#8 misses a set shot after being legged.

Freo are wastefully up to 4.9.33. Are they kicking themselves out of it?

The drummer warms up.

Guitar. Twang twang twang.

Pav is denied a mark to the raucous accompaniment of a warm-up drum solo (they’re working).

#21 sharks one from the throw-in.

Sandilands ploughs on, creating space. It’s grand. Matt Zurbo’s ruck piece timely.

Drummer is getting well warm now. We’re getting the Bo Diddley accent pattern that drives U2’s Desire. Why all the grief to U2 this week? Alright, they appeared at an Apple launch. But they remain artists; putting themselves out there.

A Sandilands takes a big grab, handballs to #17, kicks to Pav. Who misses his set shot. Sheesh, 5.10.40 to 2.3.15

Skater #17 finally skids a Freo goal through.

And then #28 marks after soft passage of play. Saunters up to goal and misses.

Woeful foot skills here.

Now #21 misses.

And another Freo miss after N Fyfe artistry in the forward pocket.

Tapped Sandilands, sharked Fyfe.

Before Port steal another one at the death. Again with 30 seconds left. Ouch.


FRE 6.11.47

POR 3.5.23


Freo are dominating; failing to score goals.

And I’ve already got my heading for the article describing Freo’s win tonight:

Port Adelaide; caught Fyfe, bowled Sandilands.


But my phone uncharacteristically rings. It’s N. cunninghammii. One of her crew needs to go home to attend an unsettled baby. I’m asked to drive. No bother.

In the toilets, this pearl of toilet graffiti:

Blue pen: there are no gods

Red pen: except Clapton


I’m home and collecting Unnamed Associate #1.

– Where do you live?

– Northcote.


She’s up for a chat.

Heading home again, I’m not even thinking of the footy.


Home, I take the place of Unnamed Associate #1 at the table, with N. cunninghammii and Unnamed Associate #2. It’s a heavy night of red wine I’m suddenly a part of, with conversation around a (very) recent marriage separation (she wants kids, he doesn’t, 17 years together). Lots of questions. Not so many answers.

Onto the tea, cake, before I consider the footy.

Check the score.



FRE 11.17.83

POR 15.15.105




Twelve second half goals?

Will the real Port Adelaide please stand up?


Unnamed associate #2 stays the night.

She’ll be off into her (new) world tomorrow. And the next day.


Sometimes it’s the things you don’t see that are most important.


About David Wilson

David Wilson is a hydrologist, climate reporter and writer of fiction & observational stories. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Gregor Lewis says

    Another great read from you David.
    Snuck up on me, that one did.


    I’m thinking Ross Lyon might have felt a bit like Agent Dave Kujon in the Usual Suspects at the close of play.

    Keyser Sose was sitting right there in front of Fremantle for both Finals they played this year. They carried the narrative and had their chances for long periods, only for them to be squandered.

    And just like that … [Fffffooooo], they’re gone.


  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Watching the game it had a eerie similarity to the 98 GF when the roos didn’t put the crows away . Freo should have had the game done and dusted at half time where
    Wingards goals just before q and half time gave the power a chance . Sounds like
    Lyon could have used you in the dockers coaching box to fix there problems while you were , Mr Fix it re domestic dramas in the , 2nd half ! Thanks OBP

  3. Thanks Gregor Lewis and OBP.
    Interesting and predictable responses that R Lyon is a flawed coach being trotted out again. That mystifies me.
    If his boys had kicked straight they would have won last Saturday, threatened in last year’s GF, probably won the 2010 GF…
    Instead he’s called a negative chump with no attacking nouse.

    Ahh well – everyone is always right.

  4. Well said ER. I reckon Ross Lyon is a brilliant coach for transforming modest talent into serious contenders with his unique game plan and approach. Casual fans are dazzled by the Fyfe, Pavlich, Mundy, Riewoldt, Goddard, Hayes etc.
    But I suggest that both teams had modest bottom ends with players like Suban, Zac, Mayne, Clint Jones etc that would have struggled to get a game in the other Top 4 teams. The Dockers and Saints would not have made GF’s under more conventional coaches.
    Lyon gave his sides the best chance of success with the cattle he had. He is one of the smartest coaches of all time, but it is a risk/reward thing with that brutal game plan he deploys, and he is not a miracle worker. He can make the lame defend, but not get up and run and kick goals.

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Wasn’t aware of Lachie Neal either. Goes alright.
    Loved the Clapton line. For me the Clapton God is Richard rather than Eric. In my mind that’s who the red pen graffitist was referring to.
    The Lomond continues to creep higher on my list of places to visit.

  6. G’day Luke.
    I know of Richard, but that’s all. Aside from Eric’s Giant career with Cream and his association with George Harrison, that unplugged album I think set quite a trend (in the early 90s?).
    That’s a cracking version of San Francisco Bay Blues on there.
    The kazoo is un under-utilised instrument.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Thanks for the link DJW. Really enjoyed it. I do like Eric. The kazoo is indeed under-utilised.
    But I’m a big Richard fan. Have a look at this
    Wonderful live performer.

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