‘The great divide’ set to hit the Dockers
A new breed of Dockers supporters comes out from the woodwork in light of Fremantle’s breakthrough season.
They’re coming. Everyone get inside and lock your doors.
Every sports fan loathes them, with some declaring them to be the lowest of the low.
You know who I’m talking about. The bandwagon supporters. The fairweather fans.
When your team is on the cusp of success and even greatness, you can start to feel some creaking underneath.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the sound of bandwagoners coming out of the woodwork. Not just one or two, but at an array of ‘supporters’ who you didn’t know existed until now.
The AFL landscape in Western Australia has undergone a massive change since West Coast entered the national competition in 1987.
But Fremantle, after its breakthrough semi-final appearance this season, has finally reeled in the Eagles to become the No.1 team in WA.
The Dockers made it to the second week of September with 10 more wins over its bitter, cellar-dwelling cross town rivals.
It’s all part of sport and its cyclical nature. Success comes and goes – though the time frames clearly differ for each team.
Freo is currently on the up and, with its young and inexperienced side, the club is on track to reward its loyal and long-suffering band of supporters with more glory in the years to come.
It is a changing of the guard in football circles as we know it, with the passing of the “underdog” status from Fremantle to West Coast coming as “quite a shock” to the football landscape in WA, according to a Perth-based cultural expert.
“It’s a shock also to the supporters of the Dockers who have always been the butt of jokes, whereas it’s always been easy to support the Eagles,” Curtin University cultural studies Professor Jon Stratton said.
“When the Dockers become the more successful team in WA, it gets complicated because they have this whole history of being the battlers, and their supporters support them in spite of the fact that they lose. If you’re a Dockers supporter, you’re rusted-on, you have had to put up with so much bad news over the years.”
Because the port club has entered an era of expected success, Professor Stratton now expected the Fremantle fan base to be cut in half with new supporters jumping onto the ship.
“There will definitely be that divide between the people who have come on board now and over the last 12 months and in the future and the people who I call the rusted-on fans, the ones that have been there through all the bad times,” he said.
Professor Stratton said there were many fans who were gutted by the recent radical overhaul of the team’s guernsey and logo, leading him to believe the new look would have a number of repercussions.
“One is that the new guernsey is being seen by some people as a marker of change as the Dockers get successful and as they’re starting to bring in more fans, so they change their guernsey,” he said.
“It’s like ‘let’s forget the past and let’s move into the future’ as in a sense a different team and I think that’s what upsets a lot of the fans.
“It’s not just what the guernsey stood for itself, but also that changing it now just when the team is getting successful suggests that there’s a shift that it’s kind of accommodating those new chums (supporters).”
Professor Stratton said the old guernsey and colours would have reminded the Dockers fans of the dark days and how they persisted to see the flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s that experience that a lot of people think of in relation to the Dockers,” he said. “It’s what the older fans would like, to keep the old guernsey, to say, ‘look, we have battled, we the fans have battled, the team has battled, the management has battled, we have all battled to survive and be successful and we have been successful and now we’re proud of it’.
“But that continuity has been lost with the change in guernsey and I think that’s what upsets a lot of people.
“You get the new fans coming on with the new Dockers look and they don’t have that history so that increases that divide between the two groups of fans.”
Professor Stratton expected the friction to be minimal between the loyalists and the newcomers, but questions would be asked.
“Who are the real fans and who are the fairweather fans?” he said. “(The real fans will ask) ‘have you been there like forever through the bad times or have you just come on board now when we’re winning?'”
Watch this space.