AFL Round 10 – Adelaide v Fremantle: Embedded in a travelling banner team

How early would you leave home to ensure you supported your team at the footy?
Well for husband Dave and I last week it was 4.15am EST from the Gippsland side of greater Melbourne for a 1.40pm match in Adelaide. The Adelaide Crows were to battle an in form, but superstars missing (as per Melbourne media), Fremantle Dockers.  I’ve been a Fremantle member since the club’s inception and I was up early for a day I’ll long remember.
We had a job to do, possibly the last volunteer role left in the professional game, that of banner team members.
So the journey, in short, an hour and a quarter hour drive to Tullamarine Airport then flight to Adelaide, check in to hotel then to ground by 11am to help pole the banner. As we landed in Adelaide they announced our plane, which was running 20 min late, was the next on to Darwin. Port Adelaide fans were sitting at the gate waiting to go north as we disembarked. We weren’t the only ones assisting the airline industry through sports travel!

The only qualification you need to help with a banner is a basic ability with sticky tape and scissors plus a willingness to crawl around on the floor.  Our job was to stick the crepe paper purple banner into its sleeves which have the club’s main sponsor logos and then put the poles through the sleeves.  Where? On the asphalt in the underground car park outside the away team’s room. The process takes about 45 minutes. A group of about 10 banner team members were on hand to help out. Most had driven from Melbourne and two who reside in Adelaide, Chris and Steve helped too. The banner was pulled out of a large garbage bag and we get the job done.

Some background here. Fremantle has two banner teams one for home and one for away games. The away or interstate banner team are based in Melbourne and are responsible for all the east coast banners raised. The interstate team this season has raised banners at the Gold Coast, Launceston, Sydney, and Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. One loss and two wins and a draw, we’re pinching ourselves over the success. Now it is Adelaide’s turn to see our talents!
But it is a wet day, a very wet day. Anyone who’s got a school project made of crepe paper wet while walking home from school knows what happens to crepe when it gets wet. It disintegrates pretty quickly into pulp!
Some members are not hopeful of success. We hadn’t trained that week in the rain like the players. (We don’t train, by the way!) Would we even get it out of is nylon protective bag when going to raise it on the ground before disintegration? Would we be able to lift it before the elements turned it into mush?

After placing the banner ground side by the dugouts we set ourselves up behind the goals for the game – pom poms and flags ready. I grabbed an uninspiring serve of fish and chips for lunch in the hour break before banner time. We were all issued with our official banner team jackets and Di, our leader, gathered the 19 crew, a mix for today of Vic, SA and WA members, and gave us our roles.

Much like a football team, a banner team only succeeds when everyone does their bit at the right time in the right way.  I was on a side rope, Dave on a front rope.  Believe it or not a 5 foot nothing women in her 30s can help hold up a banner! As we walked out onto the ground it started to drizzle.  The ground surface was very slippery and soggy following the rain of the last 24 hours and within a few minutes my little runners were soaked through to the toes.
We all stayed close to the banner trying to keep it covered and dry. It was going to have to be a fast lift. Simple in theory, lift the banner out of the bag, hook on the ropes, place the plates in the ground, poles in the plates, extend the banner out and lift up.  We needed to do this in one motion in the now constant rain, in about 30 seconds! Try that at home! Dare you!

Fremantle’s acting Captain Luke McPharlin stuck his head up out of the race, it was time.  Was everyone in position? Well sort of. Plates are in the ground in time, a pull and a tug of ropes, with the players graciously holding back a few seconds for us to pull the banner vertical. Tears appear at the top of the banner but it doesn’t shred. For a photo moment it is there, complete and the players run through. We’ve succeeded.

This is a good omen, I think, as it continues to rain. We shove the banner remains to the boundary, crepe running purple onto my runners and hands. I look like I’m bleeding purple! But memories of the semi-final loss against Adelaide last season still fresh I’m cautiously optimistic about what’s to come.

Now the players work begins, a heart grinding skill testing grunge game in the rain. I sit and cheer in my wet weather gear, feet soaked.
It’s going well then in the final quarter Adelaide push ahead. I fear a repeat of Fremantle’s last loss at this ground. Then two quick goals to Barlow and Sutcliffe bring us back in front enough to hold.

We cheer to will the ball to our end of the ground.  Mayne has the ball lined up for a goal. The siren sounds, his kick sprays but it doesn’t matter. Fremantle have won by seven points.  Our predawn start is now well and truly worth it.

The players come over to the cheer squad to say ‘hello’, hi fiving supporters along the boundary.  Di and encourage an Adelaide based Freo junior supporter, to move in front of us so he can see the players. His reward for cheering is a club cap from Matt de Boer. The youngster’s smile is priceless.  It’s a wet win under Freo’s belt shared by its South Australian and travelling supporters. Anyone, anytime, anywhere and any weather, as we say.

About Liz Roberts

Melbourne based Fremantle Dockers member. On Dockers bandwagon since day one. Former country newspaper reporter.

Comments

  1. Neil Belford says:

    Nothing wrong with bleeding purple.
    Awesome effort in the conditions Liz. I sat next to Di on the plane back to Melbourne, she was a happy banner leader.

  2. We need Di back in our pages too! (Where are you Di?)

  3. Ben Footner says:

    My wife and I were at the game and actually discussed how the cheer squads manage to keep their banners dry! Great win by the Purple Haze

  4. Di Waddingham says:

    I’m still here John, not far away, living my 50 shades of purple every week.
    Thanks Liz for sharing our battle with the elements and what it takes to get a banner up.

  5. Fantastic read and learned a few things well done Liz x

  6. Cheryl Critchley says:

    You guys are legends!!

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