Feeling returns to the WAFL

The WAFL briefly flared back to rude health on Monday, as the traditional Foundational Day Derbies were reborn as WA Day Derbies.

At Joondalup Arena, in the far northern reaches of Perth, a healthy crowd of 5000 or so people watched East Perth and West Perth fight out a draw after West Perth had led by 40 points at half time. These games have gathered heat in recent years after the East Perth Coach Micale was hit by a wooden spoon thrown by a West Perth supporter in 2009. True to form, coaches, players and spectators seem to have been involved in melees at half time and after the game was ended by an unheard siren. Without wanting to condone such behaviour etc, etc, one can’t help imaging from afar that it must have added to the entertainment of the day.

I spent the day as a neutral watching the Fremantle Derby at Fremantle oval with 10 000 others. Without being critical of Joondalup’s charms, comparing Fremantle with Joondalup reminds one of the aesthetic disaster that the late 20th century was. Whatever hardships people suffered in the 19th century, a bland ugliness in architecture wasn’t one of them. Perhaps Tim Winton was a little cruel in Dirt Music when he described Joondalup as ‘a miserable throughway’ and ‘a landscaped car yard with all the franchises that pass for civilization.’ At least, Joondalup Arena has matured of late into a reasonable spot to watch footy. Joondalup also has a very nice lake.

So, having enjoyed the limestone ambience in Fremantle my mate and I found a spot on the well populated outer terraces. You can’t beat a terrace for watching footy, in my opinion. I think it’s something about their communal nature and the freedom to sit where you like, along with the option of standing up if things get really exciting.

What struck me most about the experience was the atmosphere engendered by the critical mass of the crowd. Wafl crowds these days tend to have a friends and relatives feel, with silence occasionally punctuated by the seeming unhinged urgings of brave single voices. The age profile seems to be that of a joint outing of a kindergarten and retirement village. On Monday, in contrast, slightly frightening wound up fertile adults suggested other spectators visit Spec Savers or ‘shut their gobs’ and those in the firing line had to decide how far they wanted to take things. Those calculations are interesting, if you’re not involved, you’ve got to admit.

And again, without wanting to condone such behaviour etc, etc, it did add to the entertainment of the afternoon. Old style suburban rivalry on the ground and the terraces was back.

The best you could say of the game itself up to half time was that it was close, with an undersized Souths just hanging in there. After half time, Souths and the match sprung to life. Undersized became quick and full of run. Easts’ physical presence seemed to have turned into lumbering encumbrance.

The match was hanging on a knife edge late in the last quarter, players were throwing themselves around with reckless abandon and the crowd yelling themselves hoarse and other appropriate clichés when one rude and unfair spectator urged South’s cult player Paul Magumbwa to make just one small contribution to the match and run down an East’s player scooting down the wing. Magumbwa seemed to respond, heroically given his many previous exertions, and launched himself horizontally at the escaping wingman. Tragically he succeeded in only adding some small forward momentum to the Easts’ Man.

Any umpire with an ounce of natural justice inside him would have let things lie there, but no, our man had to umpire by the letter of the law. He blew his whistle and paid a relayed free kick on the half forward flank. Instead of a mighty chase being left naturally unrewarded and the game free to continue, Magumbwa’s act of desperate contribution to the greater cause was punished, and the resulting free kick sealed the match.

I suppose that’s life, but I’ll tell you one thing. Mugumbwa’s chase will be the one bit of play I’ll remember from the day. That and the pleasant return to the 1980’s Wafl when people gave a damn.


  1. DavidStreet says

    Hi Mark,

    t’was there as well and I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. I spent much of the third quarter in the ‘Sharks Bar’ (a mobile bar that the sharks supporters bring with them) behind one of the goals in my Souths colours. The banter in there was as good as the game and made for a very enjoyable afternoon.

    Dave Street

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