JESS WOOLCOTT AND MICHAEL ROBERTS
Fremantle derbies are about more than just football.
East and South’s century-old tradition brings two cross-town rivals together in the biggest game of the WA Football League home and away season.
Monday’s Round 10 WA Day clash at East Fremantle Oval, which pits the fifth-placed Sharks against the sixth-placed Bulldogs, will be the 370th meeting between the two teams.
Past players said the long weekend derby was a special day for everyone involved.
West Coast Eagles premiership forward, former South captain, and now Fremantle Dockers assistant coach, Peter Sumich, said he was fortunate enough to play in some special Fremantle derbies during the mid to late 1980s.
“There was always big crowds”, he said.
“In 1986, ’87 and ’88 I played in front of 18 to 20 thousand people at Fremantle Oval.
“Individually, anyone who plays for East Fremantle and South Fremantle, it’s always a buzz to play in a derby, especially on Foundation Day”.
Sumich said the Fremantle rivalry had a different edge to the Western Derby.
“The Fremantle derbies are a bit more daunting because it’s your across-the-road rivals, with East and South being so close together”, he said.
The East Fremantle Grey No-Mads are a group of ex-players and lifetime supporters that give up their time to fix ageing East Fremantle Oval.
Graeme Hodge, a No-mad member, said the club gave them extra work in the lead up to derby games to make sure the place looked “spic and span”.
He said the old players from the club disliked South Fremantle players “with a passion” and vice-versa.
“Some of the old players won’t even step foot in Fremantle Oval,” Mr Hodge said.
“People get excited about the [derby] game, but it’s not nearly as good as it used to be.
“You used to get 15,000 people down here for the games.”
Dean Ellen, an ex-East Fremantle player, said back in the 1940s when both teams played at Fremantle Oval the players would cycle from work on the wharf together to the ground.
“[They] were friends off the ground and enemies on the ground,” Mr Ellen said.
“There was lots of rivalry.”
East Fremantle life member and club historian, Maureen Gathercole, said the club was part of her extended family.
“Sporting clubs like ours that have a long history all link together and are there for each other a lot of the time,” Ms Gathercole said.
“Some modern people don’t want to admit that football is more than going out on the field and winning a game.
“I don’t quite know if that goes for West Australian AFL clubs.”
The sculpture of John Gerovich taking the ‘perfect mark’ over Ray French in the 1956 WAFL preliminary final between South and East Fremantle epitomises the rivalry between the two clubs.
Robert Hitchcock was the sculptor commissioned to create the statue that stands outside Fremantle Oval.
“The sculpture is a symbol of the rivalry between the clubs,” Hitchcock said.
“It also represents the high-flying spirit that Fremantle has always had.”
Present players still feel the excitement that the match brings to the port city.
South Fremantle will be determined to atone for their 17-point Round 6 defeat to East Fremantle.
Bulldogs defender Adam Carter, who played in last month’s loss to the Sharks, said the derby’s rich history led to a finals-like atmosphere.
“It’s a rivalry of great tradition,” Carter said.
“When both teams play it’s more than just the four points, there’s a bit of pride on the line as well.
“It’s the closest thing you get to finals. Both teams are a bit hungrier, the intensity out there goes up another level and the standard of football is a step above.”
For the third year in a row the derby will be raising awareness about organ and tissue donation through Zaidee’s Rainbow Foundation.
CEO of the foundation, Allen Turner, said all the players would be wearing rainbow shoelaces to raise awareness.
“Fremantle is very community orientated,” Mr Turner said.
“The shoelaces inspire the community to have a discussion [about organ and tissue donation].”
The derby will be broadcast live on Channel 7 and ABC local radio at 2:40 pm.