AFL Semi Final – Fremantle v Port Adelaide: The Unvarnished Truth

Despite a friend suggesting that we head down to Fremantle because it was ‘pumping’ we had already made plans to head to the hills (Kalamunda) to see my sister and her crew for tea. I reflected on the season on the drive up in between singly loudly and badly to songs that came on the radio. The Ginger Ninja asked if I could stop. I agreed to her request only to move on to some serious steering wheel drumming. She stared off into the distance of an impossibly beautiful and clear spring afternoon ignoring me.

Despite talking it up on the ABC Radio Drive program with John McGlue the day before – wedged in between the Sail n Anchor and The Fremantle Markets with a stubby of Coopers Pale in hand – I was not as confident as I made out. Our season was odd. We hadn’t played the same brand we played in 2013. Inexplicable losses to St Kilda and North Melbourne ghosted my thoughts as I sang Take Me Home Country Road.  I then did my best steering-wheel drumming to Blondie’s Atomic as the games against Carlton, the Rnd 15 Derby, and the Rnd 20 Cats game circuited in and out of my thoughts. The Carlton and Derby games were ones where we kept letting them back in.  Against Geelong it was a classic Freo condition of starting late and not converting.

We arrived at my sister’s place. Her partner Bruce is a Kiwi and a North Melbourne supporter. Bruce has Foxtel. The Purple Pilot Light asked “Dad do you think we…..” “No” came the Ninjas’ swift reply. Bruce hand’s me a Corona & a high five “3 from 3” he says. The Kiwis just bashed out a Rugby Championship win against RSA. Bruce spruiks he has also has tickets to the GF and the Roos are a certainty. He is pumped. I think of how I can improve my drumming on the steering wheel.

As the ball is bounced Crowley is on Boak. Great. Port make the first strong incursion into their forward line. Mundy chops at Monfries arms and gives away a free. He then gives away a 50 not giving the ball back correctly. For a senior player it is inexcusable. Monfries kicks true from the goal square. A good linking play by Freo in Mundy, Barlow and Clarke sees Mayne mark and miss a set shot. Mundy is asserting himself to atone as is Taberner who is trying to erase his game from the week before. MVP Fyfe has crumbed the ball like a sausage and goals. He gets another from a lovely gather. But Freo miss easy running goals by Clark and Taberner. Port miss an easy goal from Westhoff. The pressure is immense. It is probably the most willing football all year. Freo are up by 9 points up at the first break.

The second quarter starts like the first. Hard running football. Sandiland’s clunks and goals. He could be the difference. An island in a sea of fast moving tuna. Sonny Walters has two points from three very gettable shots. But he is no orphan. Misses by Suban, Hill, and Mzungu are frustrating. Bruce pipes up “Freo have no idea going forward and Port no idea about getting it out”. He is right inaccuracy is our curse and Port seem shaken. Barlow goals but Pav misses. Crozier is playing well. Freo have scored 3.6 in the second for a total of 6.11. Port have scored 1.3. Their score 3.5. The game is in the balance.

I grab a beer and a home-made kebab. My lack of confidence is amping but I hope Lyon’s words at half time and a home ground advantage has to count for something. Doesn’t it?

Port start the third quickly. Robbie Gray is a star and on the rise. He kicks true and Port are back within three goals. Port look composed. Port get another free kick from a sloppy punch from Dawson (a report but no fifty). He goals again. Port are working the ball more directly. Freo are second to the ball despite trying. A heavy clash on White looks like he has reinjured his jaw/cheek. Even on TV you can see his bloodshot eyes. Taberner is subbed out despite everything that Danyle Pearce is doing turning to shit. Wines and Wingard are starting to seriously get into it. Gray is getting the job done with aplomb. Pav bombs and it is touched on the line (ho hum). Walters misses but also snaps a wonderful goal. Pearce gets a free and kicks a shit-bird across the face. Wingard marks. You guessed it. Then to really set the cement Robbie Gray ties Mzungu up deep in Ports forward line. Tendai is holding the ball. Gray quickly has his check side from deep in the pocket and misses. The ump calls it back and he gets a second crack. Major. Freo 8.13 to Port 9.9.

At the start of the fourth a Sandilands boundary tap to Mundy sees a mark by Crozier in the goal square to help Freo settle. They are 10 points up. Ibbotson pops out his shoulder and the medicos pop it back in. He is back on.

Spurr gives away a free which proves costly as Wines goals. Then comes perhaps the games great allegory. Mzungu, who was shown at the Big Bash series in Perth taking a one handed catch while standing on his head in a esky full of ice drops a stock standard chest mark. White who has played like a dead set ANZAC has crumbed the ball, run hard and measured the kick. Goal. Pav and DeBoer both miss more opportunities but Mr Fumble (Pearce) scoops up a loose ball deep in the Freo attack and snaps a beautiful goal. Port are five points up. Enter Chad Wingard. What a great running play from a running player par exellence, he goals. I put the pad down and go and stand over at the table and pick at the lamb. I neck my beer.

Ports run and clearance work in the second half corrected their game, they were superb. We squandered our chances in the first half. Hitting targets, fumbling and converting have been our biggest issues this year, why we have lost close games and let sides in who we should have buried. I think back to last years GF (quite possibly the best finals writing the Almanac has seen). It was the same shit then as it is now. Well played Port and good luck next week. You will need it.


Gray (3) Wines (2) Neale (1).



  1. Great report Sean. I heard you on ABC radio on Friday and thought “what a load of shit, can he possibly believe all that hype?” Clearly you didn’t. You were just the elected representative of the People’s Republic of Dockerland.
    A couple of people asked me today “how did Port do it?” My only answer was they didn’t. Fremantle stopped. And that is not a criticism, as much as to question whether human beings can play the Ross Lyon game plan for 120 minutes.
    The first half was the Swans Prelim Final last year revisited, except this year the Dockers were the ones banged up, another year older and not able to sustain the performance.
    All the bullshit about Port not playing their game style in the first half is revisionist crap. They weren’t allowed to play it. The Dockers had bodies, arms and tackles harassing every attacking move Port made. Nothing changed in the second half except the Dockers bodies could no longer keep up with their game plan’s commands.
    If Johnson and Ballantyne had played the Dockers would have won, but it is a high risk/low reward game plan to depend on a Superhuman game plan not seen since Blitzkrieg. Stalingrad happens.
    Sandilands was BOG to half way through the 3Q. But he had no back up. Zac has been AWOL all season. Lobbe was outpointed, but is young and game and eventually jumped over an extraordinarily brave Sandilands.
    Barlow (injections wore off?) and Mundy fell out of the game. Fyfe is a genius, but has been fatally compromised by being turned into meat for the Lyon battering ram.
    I love watching the way Port play and I am glad they won. Fremantle and Lyon deserve respect for (like St Kilda) overachieving with a modest list.
    Never has so much been owed by so many to so few.

  2. Thanks PB – yeah that last home and away fixture I got the feeling that each of the PA players were taking notes as they played. They are a great side and I’ll be the first to say it – they are a real chance against the Horks – just don’t tell Trucker Slim – and I think they are at the start of a destiny…..

  3. Peter Schumacher says

    Next week’s game is mouth watering. Port played the home ground advantage to perfection against Richmond and then faced a severely depleted purple haze in Perth.

    Now is their real chance to prove how the game should be played, on the MCG. As a Norwood barracker and a second tier Crows supporter I should hope that they get walloped but the truth is that I am seriously thinking about going to the MCG despite the exorbitant ticket prices to see the match of the year so far.

    GO PORT!

  4. It is the same old story, a Lyon failure.
    The chess-master, the general who talks about the ‘brutal’ game knows how to repress, destroy, neutralise but not create a winning score.
    He had great talent at St Kilda, Riewoldt, Hayes, dal Santo, Schneider up forward.
    He has great talent at Fremantle (Pavlich, Walters, Fyfe) but his mindset is fundamentally negative.
    Port, Geelong, Hawthorn create, Sydney creates as well as destroys…but Freo has no idea how to kick a winning score.
    They need a new coach! (heard that one before)

  5. The People's Elbow says

    Is “unvarnished” a not to an earlier analogy I made about being sodomised with an unvarnished broom handle? If so, it’s apt.

  6. Good piece Mr Gorman. For a side depleted with core player injuries and looking more exhausted as the year went on Freo did very well. Deep into the Last they still had their chances. Mzungu’s dropped mark (as you mentioned) was the moment the game seemed lost to Freo.

    To your point about Port playing the Hawks next week, we don’t under-estimate them at all. But I don’t think they have played nearly well enough in comparison to the mighty Hawks through the second half of the season. That will tell come Saturday.


  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good summary , Sean a power official made a comment after the game re Chaplin and Pearce that they were given ample opportunities at Port and consistently failed under pressure rarely has a club been so correct about 2 ex players playing against them in successive finals . Freo should have had the game won at half time they blew it

  8. David Zampatti says

    A year when you only win two out of eight against the preliminary finalists is never going to end well. Just one of those seasons where nothing was ever quite right – nothing catastrophic, but always unsettling.

    We end up 6th (who’d have thought) with some work to do, but plenty to work with.

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