General Footy Writing: Ignoring the Derby


I don’t like derbies.

It stems from a highly immature dislike for the Eagles that does not need to be explained in detail here. So my game plan for the big day – Fremantle v West Coast – was to set the recorder, ignore the game and watch it if the Dockers happened to win.

Spending a Saturday avoiding a game of footy can take some doing, especially when you’re not the type to escape to a shed and hammer things, and you lack discipline.

Here’s how the day panned out.

Bounce down was 2.10pm.

First item on my agenda was another game of footy starting at 12.30pm at Morris Buzacott Reserve in Kardinya.

My mate Kevin came to Australia from Malaysia about three years ago. He quickly fell in love with footy. He watched it on TV. He studied it. He grew to like the Eagles, the Dockers and the Saints. He carried a Port Power footy around with him and worked on his skills.

Earlier this year Kevin played in a multicultural footy carnival at Fremantle Oval. The games were modified – 12-a-side, no hard tackling – Kevin kicked a couple of goals and met Peter Bell and Kevin Sheedy. “Young Kevin and old Kevin,” he said later.

On derby day young Kevin was to take his most significant footy step. He’d been training with CBC amateurs and had been picked for his first game. He started on the bench and stayed there for the first three quarters. At the three quarter time huddle I noticed he was getting some specific instructions from one of the coaches. After the break he ran down to the forward pocket. Kevin is short and slightly built. Some of the blokes in this F-grade game between CBC and West Coast were huge.

Over at Subiaco Oval two young men of about Kevin’s age – Matthew DeBoer and Adam Cockie – were preparing to make their AFL debuts. Kevin knew how they felt.

The ball went into the forward line, Kevin went straight at it, gathered it cleanly and fired off a quick handball as he was tackled. It set up a goal for his team and his team-mates were quick to acknowledge his contribution. Kevin didn’t add to his stats but he chased and led and manned the mark well and looked at home in that strange environment. West Coast won by 35 points. That wasn’t good omen.

During the last quarter the West Coast D-graders started their warm up right in front of us. As they did some run-throughs my little dog Frankie raced in among them barking. I put her on the lead and explained that this was the West Coast Amateur Football Club not the West Coast Eagles. Frankie was having none of that and continued to growl at them.

It was the 13-minute mark of the derby as I drove away from Morris Buzacott Reserve. A nice passage of play was described on ABC radio – Garrick Ibbotson to de Boer to Byron Schammer to Stephen Hill. Goal. The Dockers were within a couple of points. I turned the radio off.

Back at home I needed to check that the recording was going ok. I turned on the TV to see Adam Hunter lining up from 20 metres on a bit of an angle. “This to put the Eagles 15 points up at quarter time,” said the commentator. Hunter kicked. “10 points,” said the commentator. “Good,” I said.

I headed off to do some shopping. Frankie was in the backyard eating olives that had dropped from the tree.

The radio was going on and off. The Eagles seemed to kick a point every time I turned it on. The Dockers seemed to be bogged down.

At JB Hi Fi, where I picked up the new Bob Dylan album, I noticed it was 23 points the difference at half time. I chatted to a North Melbourne supporter who couldn’t believe I wasn’t at the game or at home. I explained my game plan. He was there to buy Before the Flood.

At Scarvo’s Butchers I saw Ryan Murphy put one straight through the middle to reduce the margin to 16 points. “We’re in this,’ I thought.

An important omen appeared on the drive home. At about the spot where McCoy Street in Myaree turns from commercial to residential there’s a very prominent house number. 29. It’s the 29th derby and Freo’s 29 Matthew Pavlich is playing his 200th game. “There’s gotta be something in that,” I thought. The radio stayed off.

Home again and I realised it was after 4pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch. This game plan was taxing.

The WAFL game between Claremont and Peel was on ABC TV. New Tigers coach Simon McPhee was having a horror debut. Peel piled on 11 goals to five in the third quarter to lead by 49 at the last break – at one point the lead was 62. The quarter went for 37 minutes.

Over to 10. Scott Thornton kicks a goal. It’s close.

At Claremont Oval Jarrod Ninyette is making an interesting debut for Claremont. He played for Gosnells last year and won the Bowden Medal as the best player in the Sunday Football League. The competition no longer exists.

Back to 10. Nick Suban just misses with one of those along the ground kicks from an angle. Freo are in front.

Strange things are happening at Claremont Oval. The Tigers are kicking goal after goal. Ninyette has kicked six in the second half and missed a couple of easy ones.

Switch channels. Roger Hayden misses from close range. Then Hill kicks long and Aaron Sandilands marks near the goal post. He slams it through. It’s all over. I’m watching with the sound down as if that’s keeping with my pledge to ignore the game.

At Claremont it’s only four points the difference but the scoreboard’s wrong so maybe the players don’t know. Claremont have kicked eight goals to one in the last quarter. The siren goes. Peel have hung on.

That night we have dinner in front of the TV and watch the game. During the second quarter I say, “There’s no way we can win from here.”

“No hope,” says my wife.

Frankie’s watching intently. She’d refused to let me tell her the final score.

About Les Everett

A Footy Almanac veteran, Les Everett is the author of Gravel Rash: 100 Years of Goldfields Football and Fremantle Dockers: An Illustrated History. He is the WAFL correspondent and uses the money he makes from that role to pay for his expensive websites and and fund the extravagant Vin Maskell at


  1. Terrific story, publish this one!

  2. Stephen Cooke says

    Hey Les,
    Do you know whatever happened to Stephen Hooper? Geelong picked him up in the 1990 national draft at number 1 but he only played about 20 games. I’m very interested to find out.

  3. G’day Stephen.
    Stephen Hooper came back to WA but never got over his injuries. He played seven games for East Perth in 1995 and one in 1996. All up he played just 44 games (23 EP & 21 Geel) between 1990 and 1996… and a few for Geelong’s reserves I suppose. In 1998 he coached Canning in the Sunday Football League (he also struggled through a few games) and the last I heard was coaching in the Amateurs. If you’d seen him play for East Perth in 1990 you would understand why the Cats wanted him. He was brutally strong and very talented. He’s best remembered for wiping out West Perth’s Basil Zempilas at a centrebounce ruck contest. He finished 8th in the Sandover Medal voting in 1990 with 25 (the winner Mick Grasso got 36). That turned out to be the only full season he ever played.

  4. Stephen Cooke says

    That’s very thorough Les – thanks very much. What injuries afflicted the big fella? I know he had three seasons at Geelong but didn’t play at all in his second season.

  5. I’ve just discovered an article I wrote about Hooper in 1998. He also played five games for Subiaco in 1988 (I’d forgotten about that). And those 25 Sandover Medal votes in 1990 came from just 12 games (he was suspended for four weeks for the Zempilas incident). He had knee injuries at Geelong and shin splints when he came back to WA.
    One more thing, he hailed from Mt Barker, just like the Krakouer brothers.

  6. Hi Les,

    This is a great story – thanks for sharing it with us.

    Are South Fremantle & East Fremantle games still billed as ‘the derby’?

    Its always seemed highly presumptious for the Eagles & the Dockers to expropriate this term.

    They should have adopted something equally artificial as their creations like Showdown…

  7. Thanks Rod.

    Yes the Fremantle derby (South Fremantle vs East Fremantle) AND the Perth derby (East Perth vs West Perth) are still going strong.

    South have dominated East in recent years just as Fremantle has had it over the WC Evil.

    The future of derbies is in doubt. West Coast are almost certain to be deregistered once the real stories come out while in the WAFL there are strong moves for a merger between East Fremantle and Peel Thunder and the formation of the Peel Sharks. Both East Fremantle and Peel have been very disappointing in recent years.

  8. Hi Les,

    I can’t believe there is serious talk about a merger between East Freo and the Peel Thunder – how can the AFL Draft continue without the production line from Old Easts?
    At the last count there were over 29 on AFL lists!

    Are you able to reveal more about the West Coast position? It has me intrigued.

  9. Sorry Rod, I made all that up. Most of it anyway. It remains to be seen how revealing Ben’s documentary is. It could have an impact on all those situations.

    It’s WAFL grand final time and South Fremantle will play Subiaco on Sunday. The 2000s are the first decade East Fremantle hasn’t won a premiership. It’s important not to get all your WAFL information from Dave Warner.

    By the way Knacker David Mapleston kicked four goals in the preliminary final… he’s more accurate from 55 than 15. He’s Subiaco’s great hope in the big one. Isn’t it comforting to know the result of the WAFL grand final is in the hands of a Knacker.

  10. Les,

    Mapo is clearly far too good a footballer to be writing for us.

    His position will have to be reviewed in the off-season.

    And you’re right about Rocket re- Dave Warner.

    Rocket, some of those players were at East Freo for five minutes.

Leave a Comment