Something very special is happening in Perth this weekend. Sunday to be exact. From around 2pm.
The Western Derby.
For those who don’t know what this is, you’re probably pronouncing it wrong too. It’s DERR-BEE – the way it looks, not the olde English pronunciation of DAHR-BEE.
Davo from my latest release, You Are the Reason, explains it well. Excerpt from Chapter Two:
The Tav was busy but not as crowded as it usually was. I strode to the bar and waved the owner, Charlie, over.
“Hey, Davo. What can I get you?”
“Corona, thanks. Where is everyone tonight?” I looked around at the slim pickings I had for the night’s entertainment.
“Derby,” Charlie grunted as he plonked the bottle on the bar for me.
I grimaced. I’d forgotten that the two local football teams were going head-to-head that night. It was a big deal in Perth. Bragging rights were on the line. We’re talking about sell-out crowds, marital discord, and at least one on-field fight per derby played.
After eschewing anything girly, I’d thrown myself into the football scene. Like every man in my family before me, I’d had to pick a football team to go for. I’d looked at my local team choices—West Coast Eagles or Fremantle Dockers—and decided they weren’t macho enough. So then I looked interstate: the Magpies, the Kangaroos, the Hawks, the Swans, the Lions….
Finally I’d set my eyes on the Demons. Yes. That described my internal struggle. So I became a Melbourne Football Club fan, and thus I hadn’t seen a premiership flag. Yet. I was hopeful. At the core of every Australian is the inability to give up on your footy team. So what if I’d followed them for fifteen years and never seen a flag? They’d once won three premierships back-to-back.
In the ’50s.
But wait, there’s more.
You see, my Dockers are currently on top of the AFL ladder, and the Eagles are second. So it’s sure to be a huge game. Any time that it is one-versus-two it’s big. But to have the two Western Australian teams...
To understand a little more about how much of a big deal this is, I’ll tell you a little history of the game. We’re talking about AFL here – the Australian Football League, otherwise known as Aussie Rules to differentiate it from soccer or rugby. The sport developed from a game that has its earliest documented history in about the 1820’s. It is said to have been created in Melbourne, which is the capital city of Victoria. But soon the whole of Australia was playing it. By the time I was born, each capital city had their own leagues. The Western Australian league is called the WAFL (pronounced ‘waffle’) where our top clubs compete.
Then, as my fellow Australian author, Sean Kennedy likes to say, the other states of Australian whinged about how they wanted to join the VFL, and so the competition expanded and became the AFL. It was now a league that was Australian wide, with the first non-Victorian team entering the competition in 1982.
In 1987, Western Australia got their first state team – the West Coast Eagles. We were extremely proud of our team, and since WA has one of the strongest amateur football leagues, WCE soon became a powerhouse team. Converting from a fan of whichever VFL club you went for, to go for your new state team was a pretty easy choice for most. However, in 1995, Western Australia became the first state outside Victoria to be represented by more than one team. The strong support in WA meant there was now room for another team – and The Fremantle Dockers were formed.
Oh, what a dilemma this created in the hearts of footy fans in WA. When there was only the Eagles, we knew who to go for – but now there were two teams. How to decide?
Perth is very divided geographically – we have a river that runs from east to west, and most people orient themselves in Perth by being North of the River (NOR) or South of the River (SOR). The city of Perth is located on the north banks, and is technically NOR. Our shipping port is Fremantle, and is technically located on southern side of the mouth of the river. It was decided that the SOR WAFL clubs would lead to Fremantle, and the NOR WAFL clubs to Eagles.
However you decided your team, you were frowned at by the others. And as Sean Kennedy likes to tell me, if you live in Perth and go for a team other than the WA teams, you are even more of a social leper.
My husband’s family made the switch to support the Dockers. His mother, father and brother are all dyed-in-wool Dockers. I’m a Docker. I made the switch too. However my husband refused to give up on “his” team and has firmly remained an Eagle.
1. You don’t put down the other person’s team.
2. On derby day, the house is mine.
You may laugh, but it keeps the peace. We don’t get angry at each other, because we’re not insulting the other team. And when our teams play each other, he can go to his friend’s house where they can yell at their team together, because I will be in front of the TV yelling at my team.
With 20 years of history between the two teams, there is a huge rivalry. You would think that the two teams that share so much (ie they are both hated by the teams “over east” and both have the physical disadvantage of being the teams that need to travel the longest distance in the league) would be a great support to each other. No. We have the greatest rivalry.
This morning I washed my Dockers jacket, ready to wear proudly for the next 48 hours. Should they win, I will be wearing it all next week too. Should they lose, I’ll put it away for a couple of days while I cry in shame.
In the next 48 hours you will not be able to greet someone without asking who they are going for.
This morning on the news, three of the six top stories had to do with the derby . The other three articles were about a murder, a mining company losing $1.4b, and an extinction threat to the numbat. Yes, the derby rated ABOVE gruesome stabbing murders and $1.4b.
The radio gave me the latest betting stats.
The latest craze in Perth is the great “bake off” where shops are making Eagles/Dockers themed cakes, muffins and more.
All for a game where 36 muscled men chase a red ball around the ground.
Some more stats for you about AFL:
1. AFL is the highest spectator attended sport in Australia.
2. The AFL grand final has the biggest crowd in attendance – in the world. Yes. The 2014 Grand Final had over 99,000 people there. In comparison, the 2015 FA cup in England had 89,000 and the 2015 Playoffs in the US had 85,000 people. 2015 Superbowl had 70,000.
3. Stats for the Western Derby are tight with the Eagles beating the Dockers 21 times, but losing 20 times. Of the last 15 games (ie the last 8 seasons) Fremantle have dominated, with WCE only winning 3 of those games.
So there is only one thing I can say. GO FREO!
I’d like to see that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2TO35rZjO4
Top marks, 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCoUKnswVWw
Top goals, 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7hD0-xTv2w
Hard hits: Obviously an Eagles fan made this. Had a bit of a buzz from the old footage, but wow it’s a hard game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh5hNY83UA4