Memories of Kardinia

As the Dockers look forward to playing a final at Kardinia Park I recall my first visit there for a game in 1999. This story was published on on 6 June 2003 in response to an article The Age by Dwayne Russell.


The Hasleby game. An insider’s view


DWAYNE Russell wrote an interesting article in The Age this week about the Round 22 game between Geelong and Fremantle at Kardinia Park in 1999.

In short the Dockers needed to lose the game to secure a priority draft pick.

Fremantle led at half time but conceded the last 11 goals of the game and lost by 51 points.

Russell says some in the Fremantle camp refer to the match as the “Hasleby game” suggesting the loss and resulting priority pick meant the club could gain East Fremantle youngster Paul Hasleby.

While he doesn’t say the Dockers didn’t try to win the game, Russell rightly points out the incentive to lose was there.

What needs to be made clear is at that period in its history Fremantle had no trouble losing to anyone, anywhere. In Round 16 of 1999 it had its greatest triumph, beating the Eagles for the first time, but that was the fifth and last win of the year.

Key players Dale Kickett, Tony Modra, Matthew Burton, Chris Bond and Clem Michael were out of the Fremantle team in Round 22 of 1999 and the line-up included Justin Longmuir on debut, Antoni Grover playing his second AFL game and Steven Koops who was making his first appearance of the year.

I was at Kardinia Park that day and have a story to tell. It involves Dwayne Russell, Damian Drum and being led astray by some high-ranking Fremantle officials.

On my return to the west I wrote in the Fremantle Herald (forgive the self-quote): “The Dockers had to lose to sew up three of the first five draft picks. It’s hard to imagine teams losing deliberately in order to gain draft goodies but really the AFL needs to take a little of the mathematical certainty out of the awarding of priority choices.”

But that’s not the end of the story.

It began with the hour-long train trip to Geelong during which I listened to ABC Radio’s excellent pregame program with Tim Lane, Dwayne Russell and others.

The part of the show that remains in the memory involves Russell revealing many at Geelong were unhappy with the style of coach Gary Ayres. The former Cat seemed to have sources close to the heart of the club, in 2000 Ayres was coach of Adelaide.

At Kardinia I took a seat right in front of the Fremantle coaches’ box alongside Mark Gale who had been left out of the team. He wanted to be out there.

Longmuir took a set shot in the first quarter and sent his first kick in AFL football sailing out on the full. However during the second quarter he slammed one through from the goal square after receiving a handball from Koops. The Dockers kicked six straight goals for the quarter to earn their nine point lead at half time.

The second half was pretty familiar. The Cats rallied with the support of the home crowd, the Dockers missed opportunities, their last eight scoring shots were behinds, and by the last quarter they were all out of confidence and ideas. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

The rooms after the game lacked the normal post-loss despondency. People seemed pleased the season was over while the game was a homecoming of sorts for coach Drum and his deputy Terry Bright, both former Geelong players.

In his press conference Drum said: “The draft picks are small compensation for a disappointing year. I’d rather be on the improving track. However the concessions do give us some optimism to go on with.”

Armed with my return train ticket I set out to walk to the station. In the car park I ran into Fremantle chairman Ross McLean and marketing manager Vern Reid who offered me a lift.

During the drive in one of those people-mover type vehicles which contained a number of other people including a non-footy journalist from the Sunday Times I began to worry that we seemed to have stopped getting closer to the city lights. My suspicions were confirmed when we pulled up at the airport. They were flying back to Perth, I wasn’t. The taxi fare to my digs in Windsor was $35.

At no stage during the trip to the airport did anyone mention bloody priority draft picks and all I could think of was how pleasant it would have been on the train. And cheap.

Fremantle’s next game for premiership points was at Subiaco Oval on 11 March 2000. The full strength Dockers went down by 22 points to, you guessed it, Geelong. Youngster Paul Hasleby impressed on debut making 30 disposals.

Footy note 1: In the 1999 national draft Collingwood got Josh Fraser at one; Fremantle snared Paul Hasleby (two), Matthew Pavlich (four) and Leigh Brown (five). Richmond had pick three and decided on Aaron Fiora.

Footy note 2: The Dockers have won once at Kardinia Park. It was in round 10 2005. Ryan Crowley kicked three goals on debut. Jeff Farmer kicked four goals. And Paul Hasleby polled three Brownlow votes. Fremantle 14.7 (91) Geelong 11.16 (82).

My last visit to Kardinia was eventful too…

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. Did Jeff only kick four, Les? God, it seemed like nine or ten.

    He could do that to you, Jeff.

  2. Les, I was at the game and remember thinking at the time as a Cats supporter that the storming finish and win was too good to be true. Maybe it was.

    That 1999 draft turned out to be a beauty for Geelong. The Cats picked up Joel Corey, Chappy, Cameron Ling and Corey Enright. All handy.

    It will be great to see three of them running around in a big final with Pav on Saturday, some 14 years later – Chappy in his 250th. Can’t wait.

    Another memory of that game was sitting near Steve Bracks on the Moorabool St wing. We shook his hand and wished him all the best in the upcoming election, which no-one expected him to win. Against all odds he came home with a wet sail and triumphed.

    1999 was an interesting year. We were approaching Y2K with some trepidation, the Bombers got done sensationally in the Prelim by Carlton and the Kangas won the flag. Wonder what memories we’ll have of 2013 in 14 years time?

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