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Purple haze sweeps Fremantle before first AFL Grand Final
Australian Broadcasting Corporation Broadcast: 25/09/2013
Reporter: Claire Moodie
Nineteen years after entering the competition, the Fremantle Dockers will play their first AFL Grand Final and finals fever is sweeping the Western Australian city.
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: In the 19 years since the Fremantle Dockers first entered the national AFL competition, the Premiership Cup has been an elusive dream. The hopes of diehard fans were dashed season after season.
But this could be the year that Fremantle finds glory, as the sentimental underdogs tackle the favourites, Hawthorn, in Saturday’s Grand Final.
Claire Moodie has the story.
CLAIRE MOODIE, REPORTER: The port city of Fremantle has always been colourful, but never moreso than right now.
BRAD PETTITT, FREMANTLE MAYOR: No, it’s not over the top. I think more. I think it’s looking pretty purple now, but by Saturday, it’s gonna be absolutely crazy.
CLAIRE MOODIE: To understand the euphoria, you have to understand the history, the history of a football team and its spiritual home.
FAN: 20 years waiting for this moment. It’s really – touches the heart.
CLAIRE MOODIE: After 19 years in the AFL, finally the moment Dockers fans have hung in there for.
LES EVERETT, WRITER: There was this nagging feeling that, you know, for some of us, it might be not in our lifetime.
GERARD NEESHAM, FREMANTLE COACH, 1995-’98: I think they’ve got a fantastic chance. I think I would nearly start ’em if I was the bookies equal odds because they comprehensively beat Geelong down in Geelong and they demolished, forget the scoreboard, they demolished Sydney.
CLAIRE MOODIE: Gerard Neesham was the Dockers inaugural coach in the mid-’90s. Like others, he attributes much of the club’s current success to the leadership of Ross Lyon.
GERARD NEESHAM: Everyone’s prepared to play to the game plan. They’ve totally committed to it. They are ferocious tacklers. Even the littlest fellas are.
CLAIRE MOODIE: But it’s been a rocky road to the top. As recently as 2009, the club ended up 14th on the ladder.
LES EVERETT: There’s a stoicism about us that we keep with it. There’s probably a sense of humour, a bit of – in some of the dark times.
CLAIRE MOODIE: Putting the finishing touches to a book on the club’s history, Les Everett remembers the highs and lows, including the sacking of former coach Mark Harvey. He says Harvey should be given credit for his part in building up the strength of today’s team.
LES EVERETT: What had happened around then is that they – the club decided on a new list management style which meant not trading in the established players, but going to the draft, and so that’s when this great squad was started to be built up.
CLAIRE MOODIE: Les Everett also remembers the early days when one of football’s most intense rivalries was born.
LES EVERETT: The Eagles were a great team when Fremantle came into the competition and almost treated Fremantle with disdain.
CLAIRE MOODIE: Today the dynamics have changed, but not enough for most Dockers fans.
LES EVERETT: The West Coast supporters always have that thing they can say: “You haven’t won a premiership. We’ve won three. You’ve got nothing, etc.” And, they do.
CLAIRE MOODIE: Making the most of the Dockers’ dream run is the club’s hometown of Fremantle. It’s been suffering a downturn in recent years with shops and businesses closing.
CHRIS LEWIS: On Saturday night I caught the train back from Subi’ at about 9.30 or something. 1,000 people got off the train, walked out in unison, waving, cheering, across the pedestrian crossing, through the traffic and walked straight down South Terrace and the good will was enormous. Horns blowing, people cheering.
CLAIRE MOODIE: 30 years ago the America’s Cup win prompted millions of dollars of investment in Fremantle’s historic buildings. Locals hope the Dockers’ exposure will put the port city back on the map.
BRAD PETTITT: You have this feeling in the air that this is almost the start of a new renaissance for Fremantle, perhaps the first since the America’s Cup.
CLAIRE MOODIE: This is a town with a proud history and now a football team in the running for Australia’s ultimate sporting prize. The Dockers’ success is likely to kickstart a push to keep the club in Freo.
These diehard fans are part of a group set up to stop the club moving its HQ away from its historic base at Fremantle Oval to a brand new facility in Coburn, 15 kilometres away.
CHRIS LEWIS: The Dockers just fit into Fremantle. They’re called Fremantle, they’re part of Fremantle. Fremantle can really wrap around the Dockers. It has done for 20 years. The Dockers are winning while they’re based in Fremantle right now; they can keep doing it for another hundred years.
CLAIRE MOODIE: Gerard Neesham grew up in Fremantle and understands the passion locals have for their club.
GERARD NEESHAM: I much prefer them to stay with the original colours in Fremantle, so that’s me. But having said that, if I had my way, I just wished they’d win on Saturday.
CLAIRE MOODIE: As thousands of Dockers fans flood into Melbourne like a purple tsunami, in Fremantle, civic leaders are preparing for what they’re calling the next best option.
BRAD PETTITT: We’re gonna close down the cappuccino strip, put up two huge screens, and so whole families can come down, bring a rug, watch the game.
CLAIRE MOODIE: And the excitement is building by the day.
FAN II: I mean, it’s massive for Fremantle. It’s the Fremantle Football Club; it’s that simple.
GERARD NEESHAM: Hawthorn could win by 30 or 40 points, but I think that they are gonna run into something that’s gonna be very hard to beat. That’s my sense and I’ll be barracking for Freo.
FAN III: A win, by this much (indicates small amount with fingers) or this much (indicates larger amount with fingers), it doesn’t matter.
CLAIRE MOODIE: Can you do it?
FAN IV: Yes, definitely.
CHRIS LEWIS: We would like to see the cup sitting there on a big plinth above South Terrace, just there. Perfect.
LEIGH SALES: Claire Moodie reporting.