I’m a Dockers Fan. Foundation fan, second-year member.
I jumped on the bandwagon when the band didn’t have a name and there was no wagon. I attended a primary school where East Fremantle and South Fremantle WAFL players regularly visited for footy clinics and while I didn’t play the sport, I acquired an affinity for those clubs. When there was a sniff of a Fremantle-based AFL team in the making, my hand was up.
It’s been a long road, but I’m not averse to long roads.
I joke with people that for many years, Fremantle’s tagline was ‘Proud, loyal and passionate’ and none of these words make any assurance about performance.
While fans of other post-VFL expansion clubs have enjoyed success (did you know the West Coast Eagles have won three premierships? I had to googled it as Eagles’ fans will never let on), the Dockers hang their hat on forsaking Andrew McLeod for Chris Groom and other selection master strokes.
It hasn’t been all bad. We turned up at a Grand Final a few years back. Unfortunately, we got the rules wrong in the first quarter and thought you got more kudos for the sticks on the outside than the ones in the middle, but that’s ok. Ross went out at quarter time, told them to kick it through the middle, and we nearly got across the line. Fifteen points is close enough to think you may have walked away with the silverware – no one’s thinking that when you go down by 46.
The 2016 season to date has been low on highlights for Dockers’ fans. Hayden Crozier has taken a few hangers and our long-time servant, Matthew Pavlich, has kicked a couple of goals that will probably see him tie with himself for Goal of the Year. Most of our team success, though, has been contained to the pre-season. Important and crucial, no doubt, but difficult to spot on the 2016 Premiership Ladder.
2016 may well be Annus Horribilis as Ross has dubbed it. No one likes to be horrible at the bottom, and I doubt we’ll even walk away with the Brownlow this year.
None of this has diminished my enthusiasm as a supporter of the Fremantle Football Club – results had little to do with what forged my passion in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, I like winning as much as the next person. Perhaps more. And I would love to see my team win a flag before I go to be with Jesus. I’d also be happy to live to 200. I realise, though, that unless your team wear the colors of poo and wee, these things are hard to come by.
The thing is, that I believe it’s entirely possible that we will win every game we play.
When we’re ten goals down at three-quarter time, I’m among those who genuinely believes that if we get the first couple in the last and keep stringing them together, we could pull off a famous victory. History may not be my friend on this front, but it doesn’t stop me dreaming. I’m not utterly devastated when we don’t win, either. Disappointed, sure, but not devastated. I have a firm belief, despite recent form, that success is entirely possible. Next week.
You may consider me delusional for this, and there is merit to your consideration, but here’s the thing: I have seen my team at my best and I have imagined them at their collective best, and they were invincible. As some level, I anticipate that this form will appear at any given moment.
I’ve seen David Mundy and Justin Longmuir sink long bombs on or after the siren to crush the hopes of opposition fans. I’ve seen Nat Fyfe run through twenty-two mountainous men without losing the ball nor breaking a leg. I’ve seen Matthew Pavlich be Matthew Pavlich for decade on decade, and I’ve seen Haydn Ballantyne be, well, a pesky ball of irritating brilliance. I’ve seen us build a wall of defence that was so impenetrable that it was the catalyst for some truly tragic TV graphics, and I’ve seen us string win after win after win together. And you know what? I’m delusionally optimistic enough to believe that they could all do that again right now. Or at any tick of the clock.
Talk of our team tanking for draft picks is, for me, comical and ludicrous. We could win every game from here and make the finals based on the form that I can recall!
I know the best of my team, and it’s worth watching loss after loss after loss for a sniff of the next resurrection, restoration, regeneration or reformation.
For those with no interest in ball sports (or the Dockers), you may have experienced this with your own children. You’ve seen their best (and their worst) so, aside from them being yours, you’re likely to leap to their side when someone observes a flaw in them.
Watching my Dockers at their worst and believing the best gives me the tiniest glimpse of how Jesus sees me.
I am grubby. At my best, I am grubby. Yet when Jesus looks at me, He sees me as an image-bearer of His Father – the pure, undefined version of God’s original intent. Of course, He’s not oblivious to reality but he’s not blinded by it either. There’s a bigger story than my misgivings at play and He’s in the business of writing it.
It’s a story written in grace that says: “I see that your win-loss record is 0-10 right now, but I see brilliance in you”.
He says: “I’m loving you at 0-10, but I don’t want to leave you there”.
He says: “I’ve created you to be my masterpiece, and not just you alone but a host of creative masterpieces made whole and holy by me.”
God demonstrated his love to us in this, while we were still sinners without a Saviour, Christ died for us.
So, while it might seem like I’m tanking, Jesus sees my grubby heart and says “I’m going to die for that – you’re worth dying for.”
Whether Fremantle Football Club holds up a premiership cup in my life or not (and I sure hope they do), one thing is certain: just like the non-plastic trophies on my shelves, they will fade and tarnish. They will age badly.
The crown that Jesus places on me – through no brilliance on my part – is an eternal one. He will present me with spot, wrinkle or blemish (Ephesians 5:27) ready for a life that goes on living.
I’m not tanking; I’m just a little unwell. Yet a time will come when I’m presented faultless with exceeding joy before God. It will all be because of Jesus’ work on my behalf. That will be season-on-season joy. Forever joy.
Of course, I’m all for occasional glimpses and sniffs of what that day may be like and are privileged to see and smell many of them. Perhaps seeing Nat Fyfe hoist a premiership cup above his head might just point me in the right direction. Or Nat Fyfe Jnr. One can never tell.