We are just a few days away from the 2013 AFL Grand Final, and I find myself faced with a moral quandary about who to support for the match. My instinct is to barrack for the underdog, but can I get behind the Fremantle Dockers, a fellow West Australian team, but a bitter cross-town rival? It feels a little counter-intuitive.
Growing up as a West Coast Eagles fan in the 90s was pretty great. I was too young to remember much of the 1992 premiership, but I do remember when we won in 1994, and it was such an exciting time. The following year when the Dockers came into existence was bizarre; school chums that had cheered on the Eagles just the year before had suddenly jumped ship and I struggled to understand it. I didn’t object to the principle of another WA team, but given the accomplishments of the Eagles (first non-Victorian team to win the flag, if you don’t mind) I didn’t see why anyone would want to change allegiances.
Of course, being young, I became quite hostile towards the Dockers, and relished the Eagles early dominance over them in Western Derbies. When clashing with fans, I had no trouble pointing out the Dockers poor performances season after season, and their inability to make the finals.
Unlike apparently most footy fans, I (mostly) outgrew these attitudes. I’ve come to accept the Dockers as an important part of the WA footy landscape, and I don’t want to see them fail out of spite. I’m also a big fan of Matthew Pavlich, who deserves this opportunity more than anyone. I’ve always identified with him, as we are both Matthew’s, both have big noses and both studied at the University of Western Australia.
As a supporter of a non-Victorian based team, I can also appreciate how difficult it is to make it to the Grand Final, given all the travel demands.
Despite all this, will I really be able to barrack for the Dockers on that last Saturday in September?
I feel conflicted. There’s a lot of history that I can’t forget about. But whichever way you look at it, this weekend is a historic one for WA football, and if the Dockers manage to get over the line on the weekend, I know at the very least I’ll be happy for my friends who are long-suffering Freo fans. I’m looking forward to the game, and who knows? I may even don a purple shirt for the occasion…