After The Game v Brisbane R1 2024 – With Snaps Truly

G’day friends,

Can’t believe it was twenty-nine years ago, I took my young family to the MCG to watch Freo play their first game in the AFL.

Dressed primarily in green or whatever they could find in the lost property box, Freo surprised the squeamish Tigers to lead at quarter time; fell behind in the middle, but kicked five goals in the last quarter to flash home and miss out by less than a straight kick.

My daughter, just two at the time, thoroughly enjoyed her ice cream and managed to get through the game without needing a wee, but probably didn’t realise I’d just signed her up to a contract with the Devil – which she would have to live with and honour, forever.

A contract to wear a Freo raincoat to her East Melbourne primary school even though everyone else wore Hawthorn colours.

A contract to sit in the car with me on the rare occasions Freo would snatch a win, and drive through those leafy indifferent suburbs, with the theme song blaring from the cassette player, the scarf a flyin’ out the window and the horn a tootin.’

A contract to never be embarrassed and to never waver in her loyalty.

Her brother would arrive two years later and be subject to the same rules.

Her mother, a Collingwood supporter knew this was a hell of a price to pay, but she paid it too.

In the early days it didn’t matter much. We were weird and quirky. The song was a shocker and the colours were gaudy, but they were ours. The artistic and the misfit were drawn to us. We were oddly interesting.

29 years on, and here we were again … on another warm Sunday afternoon, wearied slightly by age and hard experience we traipsed towards Optus Stadium, highly doubtful we could win against Brisbane, but understanding still, our contractual obligations.

A contract that reckons Matt Taberner can still play a bit and Ethan Hughes isn’t just someone’s brother who said, “Yeh, I’ll play if you’re short.”

A contract that reckons Jye Amiss will never miss this season and Cyclone Tracey will today surely blow the stands down.

And within moments of taking our seats and greeting those who’d also signed that mad pledge, we sighed, shrugged our shoulders, and awaited the bounce of the ball.

And before it even hit the turf we roared as one “Come on Freo, you bloody beauty.”

And then everything fell apart. The way it so often does.

Switkowski dropped a mark and Hipwood goaled from the turnover.

Matthew Johnson tried to force a behind, only to be judged accountable and Hipwood had his second.

Zorko goaled after a 50-metre penalty – and an easy mark and goal to Zac Bailey made it four to nothing inside ten minutes.

Freo’s football was diabolical and in the eleventh minute my son declared wryly, “There’s always next season,” as the blood drained from his face and we sank further into our seats.
And then it all changed again. Because the contract requires it.

A goal from Bailey Banfield was followed by a good snap from Switkowski and remarkably we were only thirteen points down at the change.

Luke Jackson’s goal opened the second term and Josh Treacy applied a huge tackle, won the free and scored to even it up.

And frankly from there it was a procession. Freo poured on 9.7 to 1.2 in the second and third quarters. Dominant out of the middle, stern at the back and suddenly freed from the miserable words of doomsayers like David King, the Dockers finally found pinpoint movement and delivery into the forward line.

And the leading Jye Amiss rewarded them with exquisite back-to-back goals.

And Freo had to show resilience. Karl Worner suffering a terrible head knock, and Brennan Cox and the newly arrived Oscar McDonald both collapsed with leg injuries and had to be helped off, not to return.

And still Freo held firm. There were a couple of junk time goals for the visitors, but tonight the Dockers showed enormous character and yes, remarkably, poise and daring.

With victory assured, I looked at my daughter and rubbed her back and said, “You can relax now.” She couldn’t, she said, “I’m too busy grinding my teeth.”

And my son, who dared not even watch as our forwards lined up the goals they invariably kicked, wondered in amazement if this was some kind of wickedly beautiful dream.

Which it sort of was too.

On the siren, Freo won by 23 points. And we were reminded yet again that even though this contract often requires Docker fans to pay a heavy price for the privilege, it is sometimes worth it.

* By our multi-talented and amazingly insightful footy scribe, SNAPS TRULY. Snaps has seen and done it all. He may or may not have been a fringe player at Fremantle. Don’t miss Snaps’ report after each Freo Dockers match here on the Shipping News throughout the 2024 season.

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