The Nathan Fyfe Appreciation Day holiday

I thank Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews for the long weekend to reflect on Fremantle’s first ‘Charlie’ winner.

As a Foundation Fremantle Dockers member I’ve watched players come and go, admired their skills and prowess, had high hopes for them all and watch some grow from boys to men taking a place in Freo folklore.

Dave and I support Fremantle at away matches in the cheer squad and help with the banners.

In 2010 a scrawny kid, whom I was concerned might break in half, lankily strode on to Etihad Stadium, (Remember back then they didn’t let Freo play the MGC). I noted he was graduate of my Alma Mater’s brother school Aquinas College and a Claremont pick up. His name was Nathan Fyfe.

He was blessed with the number 13, the previous two wearers had only managed a match each, and you see why I worried!

He could run fast, had a daring jump, and liked the ball plus grinned nicely when you asked him to sign your cap. I began to think;”This kid from Lake Grace has a chance.”

Nicknamed ‘Fyfe the Avatar’, after the popular movie of that year, for his short hair and thus obvious ears, an embarrassed youngster saw his first fan banner at an away match – “Freo’s newest Superstar is Nathan Fyfe the Avatar.”

Paying attention to our own list we notice our stars rising earlier than the east coast footy media identifies them, or can spell or pronounce their names.

I was delighted to hear Fyfe’s name in an SEN Monday wrap-up in only his second season. He’d also managed to convince someone at the Club to move him up the jumper numbers. They pulled out ‘7’ last worn by Brett Peake in 2009; Ben Allan and Jeff Farmer were also in the jumper’s pedigree.

Fyfe improved in leaps and bounds. His shared interest in aviation with Dave led to a chat about planes and helicopters in the race as he recovered from an injury.

Now 2011, it was a given he was in the team and a little concerning if he was not.

As our affection grew… his first name shrunk to ‘Nat’ and his surname stretched as we yelled ‘Go Fyfee!’

Two personal interactions with Nat in the past couple of years, I’ll share, sum up for me what the media have endeavoured to glean about Fyfe’s character in their reporting post- Brownlow Medal night.

The Fremantle interstate banner crew have a tradition for milestone games where we salvage the player’s jumper number off the banner, sign it from the crew and present it to the player. Fyfe’s 50th game fell on Fremantle’s 2012 Semi Final against Adelaide in Adelaide.

With these presentations everyone wants be the “hand over the banner bit” person… until the team loses. It’s a harder gig to go down the rooms to acknowledge a player’s personal effort in making a milestone after a loss …let alone after a final loss. I was the ‘bunny’ that day.

I congratulated Nat on his milestone as I handed over this bit of crepe paper in a large orange garbage bag, which was then passed to the property steward for safe keeping. From memory he may have even apologised for the loss.

We said we were impressed with the team’s good first season under Coach Lyon and I reminded him many players don’t even make 50 games. Some say the AFL average is only around that!? (Depends how you calculate).

He politely and appreciatively accepted then said he would send the crepe home to Mum, a common response from players early in the career. I hear this is where “the Charlie” is heading too. It’s in good company.

Looking back now, his goals were obviously greater than that bit of crepe and Nat set to work to achieve them.

Fast forward nearly three years to 2015, our family is now three, and we head to Tassie to watch Freo play Hawthorn in the freezing cold. Why don’t we go to the Gold Coast games I moan?

Freo is top of the ladder and a much more athletic Fyfe is Brownlow Medal favourite, with an additional 50 games under his belt.

Our Bub, Miss E., just 14 months old sits cocooned in purple in her stroller by the Dockers race…well at Aurora Stadium it’s less race, more a four pace from the rooms to the boundary two metre high cyclone fence. Her Dad will be helping raise the banner on Luke McPharlin’s 250th game. Luke’s wife and girls wait nearby.

The players come out for their final warm up. Miss E. realises she’s at the football, used to bigger venues you see.. MCG, Etihad, Simmonds. She starts to yell “Yay, Yay.”

Fyfe emerges on the other side of the fence. Her little voice must break his concentration. He turns and smiles, gives a small laugh and waves at her though the fence. He quickly bounces the ball and takes the field…nothing said.

Nathan didn’t have to acknowledge Miss E. but he did.

His natural ability to live in this moment just gave us a story we will treasure for years!

When Nat stepped up to be awarded “the medal” on Monday he acknowledged, in his now legendary speech, the Club and its supporters and everyone who had a role in getting him there. I genuinely felt acknowledged as a Fremantle member and fan, Thank you Nathan.

In a post presentation interview with Gerard Whateley, on ABC Radio Grandstand, Nat described footy as his “calling” listing his values for living his life, “hard work, integrity and loyalty”, with maturity beyond his 24 years. For a moment I thought he had just stepped out of a ‘Leading Teams’ workshop!

But he is genuine. Just ask Miss E. She will be cheering Nat on to his next goal…a purple and white premiership.

 

About Liz Roberts

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

Comments

  1. Keiran Croker says:

    He is a gem Liz and certainly appreciated by this Swans fan.

  2. Dianne Waddingham says:

    Liz – great read and have shared some of Nat’s “moments” also as part of the travelling Vic Banner Crew. Who would have thought this gangly kid would turn into “the beast”!! We have had some real shockers as far as the draft is concerned but I think it will be a long time before we see another beauty like Nat at pick 20!!

  3. E.regnans says:

    Well played Liz.
    Watching N Fyfe in action is a joy and an education in “what is possible”.

    I’d love to know about his imagination.

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