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You only get one Fremantle in your lifetime
After selling the Nine network to Fremantle’s Alan Bond for one billion dollars, then buying it back three years later for one quarter of the price, Kerry Packer famously declared: "You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime." While Packer only got one Alan Bond, the conduct of the Fremantle Dockers seems to indicate that the region is a production line of basket cases.
Fremantle entered the AFL in 1994. In order to differentiate itself from its generic neighbour, the club pursued numerous trading policies and marketing policies that made it somewhat of a laughing stock Australia wide. In regards to its trading, Fremantle decided that it wanted to an underdog image and felt the best way to achieve it would be to trade away their best players and draft picks in exchange for the rejects of other clubs. In 1994, Adelaide convinced Fremantle to give them Andrew McLeod in exchange for Chris Groom. Melbourne convinced Fremantle to give them Jeff Farmer for Phil Gilbert. Essendon also engineered a deal that saw gun players Mathew Lolyd and Scott Lucus go to Bombers in exchange for Todd Ridely and Tony Delaney. Ten years later, Lolyd, Lucus, McLoud, Farmer were considered some of the finest players in AFL history, while Ridely, Gilbert, Delaney and Groom were asking kids if they wanted fries with their McDonalds happy meal.
In 1995, Fremantle delisted Peter Bell, who was later picked up by Nth Melbourne and became a premiership player. Fremantle then decided they wanted him back so they exchanged their 6 and 8th in the 2000 draft to get him. In the superdraft of 2001, the club traded away the first pick that it could have used to acquire superstar Chris Judd. In return they got Trent Croad; a middle-of-the-road Hawthorn player that it subsequently dropped to the WAFL before trading him back to Hawthorn.
In the Superdraft of 2006, Fremantle again decided that the busted arsed players of other clubs would be the way of the future. In a deal that a used car salesman would be envious of, Collingwood convinced Fremantle to give its first pick, and Paul Medhurst, in exchange for Chris Tarrant; a wayward Collingwood pretty boy more at home at the pub at 4am in the morning, than kicking goals when the pressure was on. If they hadn't been able to trade him, it is quite probable that Collingwood would have delisted him such was the unhealthy influence that he was having on the club.
At Fremantle, Tarrant contributed just as he did at Collingwood. On the field, he missed the crunch goals when his team needing them the most. Off the field, he spent his time mooning fans and getting into bar-room trouble. Not surprisingly, Fremantle went from premiership favourite to not even making the finals. In his statesmen years, Tarrant calmed down and found a niche at fullback where he didn’t have to kick for goal. As a valuable player once more, Fremantle decided it was time to trade him back to Collingwood.
In a clear demonstration of how little other teams thought of Fremantle, in the 2007 trade period, Fremantle offered Essendon a fourth round draft pick in exchange for Kepler Bradely. For Essendon, this was not enough and the Bombers demanded a first or second round selection. Essendon's demand for a first round selection was not a reflection of there ratings for Bradely. Essendon's main concern with the trade was that Fremantle was not being ripped off enough, and by failing to exploit Fremantle, Essendon was in fact losing face. (When the trade failed to eventuate, Essendon cut Bradely from the list and got nothing in return.)
In anchor we trust
Just as Fremantle's trading turned heads, so too did its marketing. The club realised that the AFL didn't need another club named after a cat or bird. Since they couldn't find a suitable name, they created their own word and soon 'Dockers' had entered the Australian lexicon.
Initially, people were confused as to what Dockers actually meant. Given Fremantle's criminal history, some could have been forgiven for thinking that it referred to suspects defending themselves in the dock of a court. However it was soon explained that Dockers really meant 'Wharfies' but that Fremantle Wharfies just didn't have the same ring to it.
The Fremantle song was also more on the imaginative side. The Eagle's song just sings about life as a bird. On the other hand, the Docker's song contains lyrics like "We're gonna role them and we'll rock em, We're gonna send them to the bottom" ; lyrics that seem to smack of a Bon Scott fitting concrete shoes as one of his dirty deeds being done dirt cheap.
For the jumper design, Fremantle chose to feature an anchor. Many people wondered what they were trying to say. Did they want to go to the bottom and stay there? Did they like being in the mud? Did they want to go nowhere? Were they concerned about the ship leaving without them? Lacking a wet sail, did they want to storm home with a steel anchor? If Alan Bond had won the America’s Cup with a Winged Keel, would an anchor bring them AFL glory?
Perhaps the choice of anchor may have even been a legacy of Fremantle's criminal history. Convicts frequently had anchors as tattoos to symbolise "hope". Confident that they would be entrenched at the bottom of the ladder, the Dockers may have foreseen that hope would be important for them as well.
Sure enough, Fremantle's drafting ensured that it would be a loser team and the anchor struck a chord with the public. Fans painted anchors on themselves. Banners gave words of encouragement accompanied by an image of an anchor for extra emotive appeal. Children even bought inflatable anchors to hit each other with.
Send in the clowns
Although the foolish trading and marketing decisions made Fremantle a laughing stock in the eastern states, doing the hard time on the bottom of the ladder helped the Dockers attract a different breed of supporter. There is a saying, that "its not whether you win or lose its how you play the game". Of course, this is just another way of saying "we lost". Because of consistent floggings, Fremantle fans came to appreciate there is more to football than onfield success. Watching their team humiliated necessitated creativity to keep their spirit highs thus they created imaginative banners, dressed up in silly attire and of course, hit each other with inflatable anchors.
Although losing helped breed eccentricity, some credit should also be given to Fremantle's colour code of purple and green, which are the worst colours in world sport. Fremantle's marketers should have known that if they made their fans wear them, they can't seriously expect them to be concerned about societal approval. Consequently, masses of purple hair at Fremantle games has concerned citizens in dire fear that Damn Edna Everage has become trendy. World tourists, already coming to terms with Australians wearing moleskins and ugg boots, are horrified to see people wearing purple and green bomber jackets that has them resembling apple and grape lollipops.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Fremantle club is its egalitarian supporter base. The spirit shown in the America's cup when billionaires and wharfies drank side by side is evident in the demographics of the clubs supporter base. Although the Dockers are promoted as working class, they have now attracted a strong following from yuppies. Perhaps the yuppies have embraced Fremantle because it offers something few other clubs in any code can; an egalitarian spirit of larrikinism, eccentricity and solidarity.
2013 slogan - Let's go Freo
Looking at the slogans, one get a sense that Fremantle's marketing department likes love stories, and probably has an extensive collection of Mills & Boons novels with Fabio gracing the cover.
Send in the clowns
Roy Morgan research
Fremantle Dockers supporters are:
2001 when compared to other Australians
*2004 when compared to other AFL supporters
*From 2001 to 2004 Fremantle Docker supporters have increased by 54.9 %
2006 - When compared to other AFLsupporters
Fremantle dockers theme song
Maybe not direct references to concrete shoes, cynanide or TNT, but Bon Scott would be proud that the Dockers seem to offer Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.
The West Coast Eagles started in the AFL 8 years earlier, have two premierships and have dominated the Western Derbies.
The Dockers like to portray the Eagles as a silvertail club and themselves as the battlers. The Eagles like to portray the Dockers as perpetual losers with hideous colours and a stupid anchor.
The rivalry was given some real grunt in 2000. In their first clash of the season, West Coast continued its tradition of humilating Fremantle in the western derbies. This time, the margin was a mere 117 points.
In the year's return clash, Fremantle decided that if they couldn't win on the scoreboard, they would win on the casulty count. Fremantle best-and-fairest winner Dale Kickett being rubbed out for nine weeks after being reported for three seperate incidents. A total of 18 players were reported. As for the game itself, Fremantle won by a point.
Q)When eating a clown, what did one canibal docker supporter say to the other?
Q - What's the difference between the Dockers and a square?
Q - Whats the difference between The Dockers and the Australian Army ?
Q - What's the similarity between the Dockers and that crazy runaway train in America?
Not really many icons as it has tended to trade away its star players who had potential, in exchange for losers that it will later cut. Not a policy that is conducive to icon formation. Perhaps the following players could be defined as popular.
Dale Kicket - Went walkabout as he played for Essendon, St Kilda, West Coast and Fitzroy before becoming an inuagral player at Freo. Went on to set the the club's game record.
Matthew Pavlich - Superman who can play midfield, full-forward, or full-back.
Why kind of country has four codes of "football"?