I recently told a friend that the IPL does not interest me at all. My actual words were. “I have no skin in the game.” IPL is big for my friend because there is a team from his home town. I understand that, especially when it comes to the AFL.
I was born in Fremantle. I was raised to support East Fremantle. At my Grandmothers knee I was taken to the game. With royal blue and white matching knitted beanie and blanket I was baptised into East Fremantle The Old Easts.
It is now Sunday afternoon and I am trying to report on the game between Fremantle and Essendon. Can I do this without being emotional? No I cannot. Not at all. I ride every bump. I complain when the ball bounces badly. I agonise when kicks are missed and handballs are fumbled.
The first quarter was tense. Fremantle in front, phew! The second quarter was a good fight from both sides. I thought Essendon should have been in front. They had more shots on goal. Fremantle’s defenders were flustered. I called it stage fright. Essendon’s pressure was great.
Just before half time Fremantle skipped into the lead. Essendon increased their pressure as the clock was winding down. They could have scored a few times. At the siren a free kick and fifty meter penalty ushered young bomber Nic Cox within goal scoring range. It was missed.
Third Quarter Onslaught
At half time I thought this was going to be a close game. Then the onslaught occurred. Yes there were free kicks given to Fremantle. A few of them in front of goal. Despite this Fremantle sliced through Essendon. Accountability was lacking from the Essendon mid-fielders.
Where it showed was on the scoreboard. Six goals three behinds to only two behinds. From the 15th minute mark to the 24th Fremantle scored five times. The commentators were surprised. The words ‘putting them to the sword’ were uttered. I was very happy. From the Essendon fans was silence combined with many worrying faces.
The fourth quarter began with Fremantle 40 points ahead. The crowd noise through the tv speakers could only be described as unsettling. A scrappy holding pattern began the quarter with Fremantle kicking the ball between defenders and switching play across half back. Frustration for Essendon fans.
Then a decisive movement while players were unmarked and Matt Tabbner gets his seventh goal. Soon after a good tackle from Fredricks rewarded him with a free kick and another goal. The score now 93 to 40. Finally the ball ends up in the Essendon forward 50 and the shot hits the goal post, 93 to 41.
Fourth Quarter Pain
I have not seen Fremantle play like this for a long time. With just 10 minutes to go Fremantle’s Ruckman Sean Darcy kicks the tenth goal in a row without reply. 99 to 41. Am I gloating? I am proud. But I am also very surprised. The commentators are starting to discuss just how far Fremantle can go this season. That is rare.
Finally, a mark by an Essendon forward, its a goal. Their first in an hour. Suddenly, back to back goals too. And then a third. 99 to 59. There are a few Essendon fans celebrating. Five minutes to go. Sean Darcy takes a strong mark. He hits the post with a low strike. Ironic cheers from the Essendon fans. 100 to 59.
Switkowski picks up his second goal. Sean Darcy takes another mark, and another behind. Siren sounds! Boos and cheers emerge from the broadcast. Bright futures for Fremantle announced by the commentators. Are they finals bound?
After The Game
Fremantle’s song echoes around the ground. It is far from the best one around. The stadium is already empty. Meanwhile, players from both teams mingle and chat. To be honest players calmly having a chat after the game is a great image for the AFL. And then my mind goes back to the Essendon fans.
I know how loosing like that feels. Sitting in the stadium watching your team struggle and strive with nothing to show for it. Bad decisions. Poor marking by the mid-field. You know that better is possible but it just did not happen today. It is not a great feeling.
For Essendon, Anzac day beckons. Collingwood are looking good right now. Not as good as they could be, but better than Essendon. There is a sliver lining for the Essendon fans. Many times in Anzac day games the underdog has won. Here’s hoping.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.