Freo fans’ travel diary: day one

Purple haze: Eagles-turned-Fremantle fans Andrew Dean and Frances Finch. Photo: Liam Ducey Not much leg room: Could you sit like this for 44 hours? Photo: Liam Ducey
Nanjing Night Net

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Revelations that come to you, stone cold sober, at 1am, are never good. They’re usually along the lines of “oh God, I’ve made a terrible mistake …” I’m not claiming that quite yet. Time will tell.

But let’s backtrack for a second. At 7pm on Tuesday, I boarded one of two buses, full of mad Fremantle Docker’s fans, going across the Nullarbor. Non-stop. A 44+ hour, 3417 kilometre journey for the bargain price of $880 return. Each bus has two drivers, one sleeps while the other drives. They know I’m an Eagles fan and honestly they couldn’t care less. The more support the merrier.

I talk to the couple sitting across from me, Andrew Dean and Frances Finch, 26 and 27 respectively. Frances made the switch to the Dockers from the Eagles in ’95. Andrew, a New South Welshman, had no particular AFL inclination. His parents like rugby so he too liked rugby until he moved to WA. He joined the Dockers because he liked what he saw in the perennial underdogs.

He’s lucky he did. Frances met him at a party and they got along well enough to make plans for coffee. Realising she may have made a terrible mistake the next day, she sent him a text, asking if he was a Dockers fan. The rest, as they say, is history.

Frances, with her hair dyed, well obviously purple, makes a pretty good case for Fremantle as the neglectful boyfriend come good.

“You love this team so much and they just continue and continue to let you down, but every now and then they give you that little bit of magic and that little bit of spark that reminds you why you love them in the first place, then they just stuff it up again and leave you down in the dumps and depressed and crying,” she said.

“Right now, there’s some genuine heartfelt change going on.”

In the seat behind me there’s some heartfelt decision-making going on. Lucy Saracevic and her father Chris only decided on the bus on Tuesday morning. Lucy didn’t think she’d get tickets in the ballot, but the numbers fell her way and when you get the golden ticket, you have to take the ride. She doesn’t have anywhere to stay, and other fans are calling their hotels, frantically, trying to find her a room, any room. Eventually, she finds a place in Essendon with a spare room. It’s not close to the MCG and presumably she’ll have to swim through a wave of peptides, but a bed is a bed.

We make good time. The buses are quiet, most people have done a full day of work and they’re exhausted, as am I. A stop at the Tammin Roadhouse, where the Dockers guernseys are on proud display behind the counter, comes and goes, with steak and onion burgers and fried chicken snapped up by passengers.

After half an hour we’re off again and we’ve got Legends Of The Fall and Brad Pitt’s smouldering good looks to keep us company. It’s a natural anaesthetic, despite a brilliant performance from Bart the Bear, and the vast majority of the bus is asleep. Apart from, it seems, me. My 6’4” inch frame hasn’t been on a bus in a long time, and as I sit up from trying to get to sleep, it dawns on me. It’s not going to happen until I’m completely and utterly exhausted, and we’ve got 42 non-stop hours to go, at least.

Pav had better play his heart out for this.

Finally though, miracle of miracles, I drop off, somewhere between Norseman, where we stopped to refuel, and Balladonia, where we’re now getting breakfast. Only an hour or so, but it’s better than nothing. We’ve got a big stretch ahead of us, from Balladonia to Eucla to Ceduna. Watch out Hawthorn – we’re coming. Slowly.

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