Going into his seventh year as coach of the Fremantle Football Club, Ross Lyon had the huge task of taking the Dockers back up the ladder after plummeting down it following their minor premiership in 2015.
Anyone can contribute to The Roar and have their work featured alongside some of Australia’s most prominent sports journalists.
Here’s the first interview in Downsey’s Supporter Series, where she ‘shoots at goal’ with fellow footy supporters about their beloved teams.
Of course, as a Fremantle Dockers diehard herself, the opening interview must feature a Fremantle Dockers supporter and a female, in keeping with Downsey’s wholly biased approach to her writing.
So, welcome Taarna Cam (Taarns) – family friend, bush girl, mum of five, swimming coach, tortured Dockers devotee and all round top chick.
This interview takes place on a Saturday night, with drinks in hand and tuna dip on the table. The West Coast versus Gold Coast game is playing in the background but no one is paying attention because the Suns are being hammered like a chicken breast before the parmigiana bit.
Taarns tells me she was a Collingwood supporter before the Dockers came along. She was born at Swan Districts Hospital and so her family were naturally Swans (WAFL) supporters, and the team’s black and white colours transferred to Collingwood in the VFL/AFL competition. To make up for this shocking admission, she boasts that she has, ‘Never, ever gone for the Eagles. Ever.’ This is enough for me to forego a cheap shot about her last dental appointment.
Taarna’s journey to embrace the Dockers started in a little mining town and ended in the whimsical port city of Fremantle. As a girl from the bush, where red dirt, spinifex and bindiis dominate the landscape, the colourful streets and light spirit of Fremantle enchanted her. It became her favourite holiday destination. Unsurprisingly, when the team was formed and she saw that they had purple in their colours, that was her, she was in.
At this point in the interview, the peanut gallery chimes in – there’s always a peanut gallery when people are talking about footy. Someone jokes, “When did you decide to quit the Dockers?” To which Taarns retorts, “Oh, shut up!”
Over the course of the interview, the jibes get worse and Taarna’s responses increasingly sharp. I’m close to swatting one of them with my laptop; I’d do it too, if I was on my previous rented one.
We start to talk about Taarna’s favourite FFC memories. Some readers might find this surprising, but Taarna is struggling with her answer because she has too many choices. She starts with, “It’d have to be the grand final. Making the grand final, that was the best feeling.”
After a few seconds she adds, “Oh, that and Fyfe winning the Brownlow!” I think we’re finished with her answer, but she changes her mind, arguing to herself, “Nah, not that one. Stuff it, it’s not all about Fyfe.” She then recalls our minor premiership year and throws that into the mix. “Oh, that was a good year,” she muses with a Sherrin sparkle in her eyes.
Unfortunately, the interview goes off track for a bit when the peanut gallery reminds her that Fremantle also lost the only grand final they’ve been in, and the year they finished minor premiers they didn’t get past the preliminary final.
We adjourn to clean up the spilled blood and drinks, and refill the tuna dip.
The peanut gallery becomes absorbed in a game of darts, so Taarna and I can continue. We transition from greatest Fremantle moment to worst, and this time, Taarna has no hesitation or indecision.
“Owen,” she says definitively. “I hate Owen.” Her lips become pursed and tight. “I see those memes and I get so cross,” she continues. “That was a tough year.” I have to agree. I’ve endured the same Owen jokes, and after all this time I’m yet to think of a cutting retort to shut that crap down.
Her dark eyes tell me it’s time to move on from this question. I’m as relieved as she is.
We discuss her current favourite player. Her whole demeanour changes. Dark eyes turn bright and their new shimmer is not because of the cider. The Hill boys are a favourite, but it’s Hayden Ballantyne who has her heart.
“I love Ballas. He’s a Chihuahua. An annoying Chihuahua, but he’s our (italicised) Chihuahua.” Taarns’ all-time favourite player, however, is Matthew Pavlich. I didn’t pick her as mainstream, but there it is. She’s a sucker for a golden boy.
Finally we get to Fremantle’s current season. We’re on the same page. Their gaping full forward hole is frustrating. She’s ready for a rant now. “Why do we not have a full forward? It’s killing us. We need a full forward. It’s just getting ridiculous.” Her spray ends with, “We won’t make the top eight.”
She looks at me disconsolately, “How sad’s that?!” I look glumly back at her. I feel like I’ve been drinking gin.
Taarna offers Ross Lyon some advice. Advice I’ve read before in numerous posts from fans. “Change it up! Bloody change it up, man!” I think she’s using my name when she continues, “Sandy, he should retire!” and I laugh because I interpret that as her advice to Lyon is that he should change it up by retiring.
She actually means Sandilands should retire. On this point, I’m not sure I agree. I would have a few years ago because I’ve always found Dockers players to have flat feet when Sandilands is around, but he doesn’t seem to be as much of a crutch these days.
So, because it’s a Saturday night and a festive affair, I decide to finish with a frivolous question. Who would Taarna marry, bang or kill from the Fremantle Dockers, past or present players?
The golden boy, of course, is her choice to marry. The sex symbol and failed full forward (at the Dockers), Tony Modra, is her choice to bang.
Shaun McClanger (McManus), as she describes him, is her choice to kill. This makes me snort as I recall memories of screaming at him to kick straight. It also brings back flashes of a period of time when the Dockers would handball as often as they breathed, and my stomach turns unpleasantly.
The peanut gallery chimes in one last time with ‘Buddy Franklin!’ I’m not sure which criteria they’re referring to. I’m sure he could work for all three.
I thank Taarns for her time with a clink of our drinks. It’s a gutsy thing to put oneself out there as a diehard Fremantle Dockers supporter.
Our interview finishes to the revolting cacophony of West Coast Eagles players singing their team song in the background. I guess they won over the Suns.
What a shame.
If you would like to be interviewed for Downsey’s Supporter Series please comment below. Downsey’s looking for every day footy loving peeps; no expertise, just passion required.