HANNAH MORRIS is a Freo girl who’s just returned home after a long absence overseas. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED she describes her anger at coming home to find the Dockers gone.
I’M angry, and I’m sure there are plenty of others feeling the same way.
I arrive home from forging a career, broadening my horizons and generally having a ball, to my old world crashing down around me.
The very foundation of my home town crumbling, seeping back into the harbour, muck in the river. The dredging of our community right before my eyes.
No more strong-armed man with perfectly chiselled jaws anchoring the core of this town. Making sturdy our beliefs and hometown bravado. We are not Perth, we are not the golden triangle, we are Freo; home of the mighty Dockers. Draped in the royal purple, armoured by the strength of our port city.
Together through the thick and the thin, the many ups and many downs. History right in the centre of town, stable and as solid as a brick shit-house. What will we do without them?
Ever since I can remember I’ve been a Dockers supporter and their home has been Fremantle.
My faith never wavers, my passion always purple. We grew up together, battling our teething problems, throwing tantrums, overcoming our broody teenage years, knocking on the door of adulthood and barging right on in.
What is my town — my own essence — without the Fremantle Dockers?
I think back to the open training days, the kicks on the footy oval at half-time, the sausage sizzles, the angst, the celebrations, the community, the eager eyes on greats such as Peter Bell, Troy Cook, Shaun McManus, Jeff Famer, Paul Hasleby, Luke McPharlin (one of my favourites), Matthew Burton A.K.A Spidey, Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands; the list can go on and on and is only getting better with Fyfe, Mundy, Mayne and the young guns coming through; taking that purple banner and holding it high.
How can we continue this ritual, this purple community if they are no longer here? How can a club embody a community if they no longer exist in it? They become removed, detached, something far away, out of the way, something over there.
They’ll go over to Cockburn because that’s who’s offering the money. Like a cantankerous 20-something flicking us the bird and moving on to bigger and better things after a pretty cushy upbringing.
Are we so meek, so beige to let them totter off without a fight? Where are our chants? Our banners? That hooting bus with the Freo siren?
2013. What a year. The streets were painted purple, shop fronts decked out in purple flags, balloons, streamers, purple green and red prayer flags. Cafes cluttered with purple muffins, cupcakes, milkshakes the lot. The bus chugging round blaring the Freo song.
Even if you weren’t a footy fan you were a fan of Freo.
Then September 28 — the big dance. Projectors on, screens up, the pubs overflowed and Freo Oval heaved.
A tightly woven community bursting with excitement, a can of purple sardines about to explode.
The siren sounds. I remember each quarter and the emotions that went with it, some slightly blurred with despair and Coopers Red.
We didn’t win but we made it and what a ripper of a season, full of hope, every weekend well spent, an air of pride whistling around the streets of Freo. It ignited the flame for the club’s future, an identity finally being recognised and applauded.
I reminisce most about the atmosphere, the roar of the streets weeks before the Grand Final, the banter, the tactical conversations, everyone had an opinion, the sheer bubbling excitement. Young kids kicking their purple ball with the neighbour, climbing fences in their purple jumpers, faces painted, hair in purple ribbons. We were all in it together. We were one purple army against the rest. What will happen now? Where will that army be?
Fremantle Oval is steeped in history. Built for prison guards in 1861, it opened to the WAFL and cricket in 1897. By 1901 South Fremantle and East Fremantle footy clubs were co-tenants.
It bred a fierce rivalry, embodying the WAFL, embodying Fremantle. The oval has hosted Queen Elizabeth, motocross, Foundation Day derbies, the Big Day Out and been home to our heroes the Fremantle Dockers. Is that not enough?
If we take away this history from a young country searching for identity, for some kind of anchor to hold us to our young roots, what do we have?
WA footy is changing; just look at the tragic demise of Subiaco in favour of Burswood. We are fighting a losing battle to keep West Australia’s footy history alive.
New names and places take up residence because of the greedy dollar and we are losing out. We will look back at this shift as a domino effect, one that will leave us with more uncertainty and less knowledge of who we are as a state and what we stand for. The Lathlain Eagles and Cockburn Dockers? Give me a break!
I sit and have this discussion with Freo locals at The Local. The pub has changed hands many times, but the anchor hangs high in the front bar — an always Freo bar — and it’s our constant.
What will that anchor mean when the Dockers evacuate? When their numbers dwindle and it no longer becomes habit to see the coaching team set up residence in your café, players strolling in for their after training brekky, Micky B pulling up in his truck with his speedos hanging from the wing mirrors — will I ever serve these champions their orange juice and big breakfast again?
Watch girls blush as the boys pull up and down their morning coffee? Hear the banter of players and coaches and the entire community cascade into the streets? The thing that separates us from the rest, from West Coast, from the Victorian teams, from the teams formed out of focus groups. We are Fremantle and the Fremantle Dockers are us. How will I belt out the song with gusto, lungs full of pride knowing that there’s no way in hell they’ll be able to hear me in the Cockburn locker-rooms.
WE ARE THE FREO DOCKERS – how does that even work anymore, because they are not? They no longer live here and they are so far removed from the community that made them. I don’t think we know what we’ve had, but when pre-season training rolls around we’ll sure know what we’ve lost.