Reclink Community Cup – Perth: Footy lives on in Freo

The Reclink Community Cup WA

Fremantle Oval

Sunday 3 Sept 2017

David Zampatti


Footy Lives on in Freo

It was an odd kind of Father’s Day Sunday, and Fremantle Oval was an odd place to be on it.

On the drive down to Freo, the radio said that the state conference of the WA Libs had passed a motion to explore secession from Australia. (Rack off, then, I thought, and take the Eagles with you).

At the oval, the frame of the former Dockers’ HQ stood where it had been abandoned in favour of flasher grass down the freeway in Cockburn Central, the memories of its scant triumphs skittering away in the rising sea breeze.

Next door, the South Fremantle clubrooms were desolate, still recovering from the affront of yesterday’s loss to Peel in the WAFL qualifying final on their own patch. Peel, of all clubs, the spawn of those departed Dockers, with fourteen AFL-squad players fattening their team sheet. Outside the Parry Street gates, John Gerovich, skyscraping on the statue of his famous mark, turned his back on the oval in disgust.

The crowd gathered on the bitumen in front of the heritage Victoria Grandstand, the limestone walls of Fremantle Prison above the other wing gleaming incongruously in the perfect afternoon sun. The gluten-free pies van did a roaring trade, the veggie wraps were going fast, The Brow’s brassy hip-hop was pumping – it was like the hipster jungle of Fremantle was claiming an ancient derelict temple of footy for its own.

Not so fast. Footy in Fremantle may be down, but it’s not out. From beneath the old pavilion and the deserted clubhouse, was that the roar of a pre-match chant? Was that even the age-old martial odour of liniment? Were those beanies and scarves the headdresses and breastplates of red and white-hooped and black and gold-chevroned warrior tribes?

Yeah nah! As far as WA derbies go, the third annual Reclink Community Cup game between the Newshounds (in hoops) and their nemesis, the Bandgropers (chevrons) mightn’t exactly have the soon-to-be-iconic status of the weekly Ravensthorpe Tigers v Hopetoun Southerners grudge match in the two-team Ravensthorpe and Districts Football Association comp, but the blood-curdling howls as the Hounds and Gropers burst onto the ground certainly made their local AFL cousins seem bloodless by comparison.

An impressively solemn line-up for the national anthem (well, at least, Streets of Your Town and the Working Class Man adaptation of Advance Australia Fair) over, battle commenced.

First blood to the media types courtesy of a neat snap from the pack against the breeze at the end below the Fremantle Hospital (with its stories of celebrated South and East Fremantle hard men back in the day, keeping up with the game from its windows while their wounds were stitched up, before returning to the fray), but before long the class of the musos began to show.

Play gets stuck over on the prison wing for a while, allowing the crowd to catch up with goss and grab a Mountain Goat beer from the marquee (Souths have got Carlton Draught over at the club bar). There’s a cheer as state treasurer Ben Wyatt takes the field for the media, but he’s got as much chance of halting the chevron tide as bringing the budget back to surplus.

John Leikas (Bandgropers) channels his inner Paddy Dangerfield as he leaves Newshounds in his wake. Note the one-hand ball control!

By the half it’s 5.10 (40) to 1.1 (7), and, footy imitating life as always, things are looking grim for the media. The Floors went in hard and bluesy for the half-time entertainment, much more title-tattle was exchanged by the crowd (which had swelled to impressive proportions for a Father’s day afternoon) and, down in the rooms, the exhortations and liniment were being dispensed and absorbed in bucketloads.

All of which wasn’t quite enough for the Hounds to mount a comeback for the ages – and, in any case, the Gropers weren’t in the mood to be party to one of those E.G. Whitten Legends Game cliff-hanger finishes.

Exhaustion slowly overcame effort, the gaps in the teams’ pre-season preparations became evident, and the game staggered over the line, tired, thirsty and happy, with the wayward Gropers hanging on to win 7.13 (55) to the relatively fast-finishing Hounds 4.2 (26).

On the way home, the radio said we were still part of the Commonwealth. And footy is still alive in Freo.


To read other stories about the various Community Cup events CLICK HERE


David Zampatti reviews the popular arts for The West Australian and the From the Turnstiles blog, and is working with Austin Robertson on a book on World Series Cricket. He supports the West Perth and Fremantle football clubs, Norwich FC, and the San Diego Padres. He plays for the Mount Lawley Bowls Club.



About David Zampatti

David writes theatre and the popular arts for the West Australian. In past lives he hung out with some great bands, opened a pub in San Diego and did it tough with the Fremantle Dockers.


  1. Witty and elegant as always DZ. The bowls season starts early for the Purple horde back home.
    Was staying in the fishing boat harbour town of Pasaia on the weekend (did you catch any AFL on the telly?) near San Sebastian. It was the annual rowing regatta (think surf boats with 4 oars a side) with about 8 clubs competing. Our side of the harbour was San Pedro (of course) in purple (yuk). The far side where we went for lunch was San Juan in pink – but the back of their T Shirts said DOCKERS (double yuk). Most confusing. Much cidra was being consumed among the happy Dockers throng as we emerged from our modest 6 course lunch. The Monday papers said the Dockers won the women’s race, while the gold team won the mens. Much lost in translation – lets just call them El Eagletero.
    Regards to all back home.

  2. Hospital end, Prison wing. Love it.
    Thanks, David. Great stuff.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on a WA secession

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Please don’t secede. Where would the next Tony Casserly come from?

    Thanks DZ. Go Reclink.

  4. Well done David. A good read , re such a worthwhile activity.

    Reclink is such a good competition. Our organisation has a team, allowing fantastic opportunities to many who have limited access to exercise and participation.

    Sport is such a pivotal part of our lives, with Reclink providing this fantastic opportunity for many whose access to sporting activities is limited. By their partnerships with over 200 organisations, Australia wide, Reclink offers a program beyond the reach of any other similar body. They have managed to engage over 95,000 people to participate in their activities. A fantastic effort.

    It would be great having a book on Reclink. Any aspiring authors ?

    Re secession, be wary of the spirit of James McCallum Smith,and others of his ilk.


  5. What was your take on Gorman’s exploits? Gedling’s? Fox’s? Did they do anything to be noticed?

  6. PS Loved the piece. Very DZ. Thanks.

Leave a Comment