Fremantle fans loving their purple patch (AAP) - ( 4U5TR4L14 )

Ask a psychologist what the colour purple represents and they will tell you it signifies royalty, magic or mystery.

Ask an AFL fan what it has meant for the past 19 years they would have laughed first, and then through the derisory chuckles told you: “The Dockers”.

This week, as Western Australia and then Melbourne was draped in an indigo blanket, no-one was laughing at the Dockers anymore.

Fremantle has finally arrived, physically and metaphorically.

And purple no longer seems like such a silly hue.

Buses, cars and privately chartered jets have been painted and pointed across the Nullarbor.

The Freo Express – driven by Fremantle refrigeration company boss Phil Robbins – hit a kangaroo, ran out of fuel, but still made it to the MCG.

It epitomises Fremantle’s journey as a club.

Through the false start of first coach Gerard Neesham and the failed experiment of successor Damian Drum, came the salesmanship and optimism of Chris Connolly and CEO Cameron Schwab.

Battling the big brother of West Coast up the road, Connolly’s court jester act overshadowed the improvements he engendered in attitude and quality on field.

And while Schwab’s reputation has suffered since, his efforts in tandem with chairman Rick Hart turned the club from a financial basket case to a case study on how to make more from less.

In Essendon premiership hero Mark Harvey, the Dockers fans were then given a coach they liked and respected, and the hierarchy of chairman Steve Harris and chief executive Steve Rosich were even forgiven for changing the guernsey, the logo and threatening to change the much-maligned song.

But when they then ruthlessly changed Harvey’s employment status and poached Ross Lyon from St Kilda, the AFL landscape in Perth – and the national perception of the Dockers – changed forever.

The rest has been football history.

Lyon’s steely reaction to his hostile WA reception matched his footballing philosophy.

It was not pretty, but with the wins came belief. The Eagles were conquered, as were Geelong in the Dockers’ first final under Lyon.

2013 brought more wins than ever, a top-four finish and another Cat whacking.

And with the brutality of the defeat of Sydney in the Dockers’ first home preliminary final, everything was coming up purple.

Fremantle – the town that literally has football at its heart in the shape of a statue of an iconic John Gerovich mark – was painted in the Dockers’ colours.

Parliamentary protocol was temporarily suspended when MPs of all persuasions came together to don purple and support WA’s sporting darlings.

Even Premier Colin Barnett, a former WAFL footballer and a dyed-in-the-wool West Coast fan, raised the Dockers flag outside his office and declared himself “a loyal and dedicated Freo Dockers supporter for the past four weeks”.

He is not alone, with the Fremantle bandwagon departing for Melbourne creaking under the weight of recent arrivals.

Sam Newman in a purple mohawk. Perth’s ABC radio station renaming itself ABC720 Freo.

Even Eagles icon Nic Naitanui sported a violet hue in Federation Square, albeit to promote a chocolate brand as well as state pride.

But for Dockers fans who remember losing 18 games in row in the early 2000s, or losing the chance to draft Andrew McLeod, or losing the first nine AFL contests against the Eagles, they don’t need any of the latecomers.

They have always known what the late Matt Price, columnist for the Australian and unapologetic Docker wrote about his team, that “the enduring attraction of the Dockers, (is) unorthodoxy mixed with madness”.

And now they also know that being passionate about purple for all those years finally makes sense.


Friday, September 27, 2013 0 comments