“I hope you bastards remember the sunscreen” Pavlich snarked as he shook Essendon captain, Jobe Watson’s hand. It was bloody hot out and by the look of that sweat building on Jobe’s forehead, he’d either just sat through an interview with an anti-doping official or the weather was already getting to him.
The WA sunshine had smiled on Fremantle. Hit by a string of injuries and Nat Fyfe’s decent towards a Hannibal Lecter like attitude to football, they needed something to go their way. A bit of a sunny day is usually all it takes to have the Victorians carrying on like they’ve cross the river Styx, smothering their face in zinc, setting up Louisiana style airboat propellers to keep themselves cool and, hilariously trying to act like the heat isn't affecting them but this was a scorcher. The big yelow ball of gas had taken on the role of 19th man, well 23rd man, well 22nd if you discount Zac Dawson.
Fremantle tried not to laugh at the Dons as they stood around blowing before the siren had been, but they weren't so kind after the ball had been bounced.
Pavlich knocked a couple of them down, already dizzy from sunstroke, took a strong grab then dished it off to Ryan Crowley and then sat back as Crowley dobbed the goal and then gobbed off at Jobe Watson.
One they'd locked in a lead they decide to see how much they could run the Bombers around before the Essendon players started fainting. Up and down, left and right, they ran them into the ground for twenty minutes before Danyle Pearce felt sorry for the bastards, danced around a couple and gave them a quick breather by kicking Freo's second goal.
Essendon blokes were falling over everywhere, limping about, running off for ice baths and zinc top ups and Dyson Heppell even tried to run onto the ground wearing a hat with two beer cans and a straw (he was stopped by the AFL’s strict one can policy). They were a deteriorating from a rabble into something resembling Carlton.
But then they got a lucky break. A loose kick took the ball into their forward line, Ryan Crowley and Lee Spurr's shared enthusiasm for the footy lead to their heads colliding and, in the confusion, Jobe Watson was able to get the ball and kick a very lucky goal from the only shady pocket on the ground.
Of course, Zac Dawson was back after a week out suspended so that goal was followed up by another and the two teams went into the first break with a similar scoreline.
There was nothing similar about the way the two teams handled the quarter time break though. Over on the Essendon side it was beach umbrellas and the most ice seen at Subiaco Oval since the Eagles 2006 Premiership celebrations, while Fremantle opted for Slankets and a thermos flask of Cream of Mushroom soup, to make it feel cooler when they ran back out onto the ground.
The Bombers came back onto the ground looking cranky. They pushed, they shoved, they tried to pretend they wouldn’t all abandon the game if a Mr Whippy van had ventured down Roberts Road, Greensleeves ablazing. Fremantle looked unbothered by the whole new era of post global warming sport and Taberner snapped a lazy one to put Freo in front in the opening minutes of the quarter.
Heat or no heat, however, soup is not a great snack to have between quarters of football. Maybe a light broth based number if you really had to but the cream of mushroom wasn’t sitting right in a few of the players stomachs. It left them a bit flat around the ground and the Bombers managed to fight through their exhaustion to sneak a couple of goals past the gastroenteritically challenge Fremantle players.
The Fremantle players weren’t happy. It’s one thing to exploit a team’s lack of heat sense but exploiting a man with an upset tummy is taking liberties. Fremantle had a good mind to dry up the goals, shut down the game and force Essendon into a grueling afternoon of trying to break through a brutal zone defense.
Then Ben Howlett thought it would be a clever idea to hit Aaron Sandilands in the head. The big fella went mental. It was full on Hulk Smash time as he stormed around the ground whacking puny humans. And when Sandilands fired up, it was like someone had lit the Beacons of Gondor. The entire team got angry, abandoned their sensible win by numbers plan and decide to school the Bombers in some old style WA run and stun footy.
It was great stuff. Raking left footers down the wings, carving runs through the middle, dashes off the half back line leaving over fed forwards in their wake. The crowd were loving it. Mundy put Freo back in front with a beauty from the Jeff Farmer Back Spasm Pocket (before Luke McPharlin sconned him in the head and gave him membership in the red vest club), Suban drilled one from what he’s now claiming was 176 metres out and Matthew Pavlich sent Fremantle into the half time break with a handy lead by kicking a lovely goal from the Jeff Farmer Purple Jesus Pocket.
At half time Fremantle continued their Superclimatisation method of heat management, donning full tracksuits, eating curries and listening to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Essendon headed down the local grog shop to stand around in the big fridge for ten minutes while Bomber Thompson recounted tales of the winters in Geelong.
Of course, hydration is always an important factor in the recovery process when you’ve been out in the heat and it appears this particular grog shop didn’t stock anything soft. The only possible explanation for the state Essendon returned to the ground in was that they were all drunk as Buswells.
The quarter started straight forwardly enough. Hayden Ballantyne swooped in under three Bombers players, dodged around another three and then toed the ball in for what, for an ordinary person, would be considered a miraculous goal. Then things started getting weird.
Luke McPharlin floated up into the forward line, didn’t knock any of his team mates unconscious, and slotted through Fremantle’s 8th.
All of a sudden blokes were queuing up to kick goals. Danyle Pearce from the Jeff Farmer Goal After the Siren Pocket, Matthew Pavlich from the centre square, Matt Taberner after taking a mark that should start scaring the league’s defenders, Lachie Neale after weaving through just about the entire Essendon 18 and Tendia Mzungu finishing off from a Danyle Pearce midfield rampage. They were magnificent.
Even if the Essendon players had been sobre they wouldn’t have known what had hit them (for the record, most of the time it was Aaron Sandilands that had hit them). There was nothing dire or defensive about the Dockers. They hit hard and attacked even harder, moving the ball quickly and booting it long. It was 25 minutes of football perfection as they stretched their lead out to 48 by the break.
When three quarter time came around, there was only one bit of good news for the Bombers - Fremantle’s forward line was going to be in the shade for the last quarter.
The Dockers didn’t waste the opportunity to spend some time in that shade. Michael Johnson loped down the wing, hit Pav on the chest with a lace out, sponsors logo to the camera pass and Pav was in the mood for goals so he jailed it.
Zac Clarke wasn’t far behind Pav, he flew at the footy, took a screamer and put the Dockers 10 goals up.
Then Stephen Hill won football, all codes, when he effortlessly collected the ball out of Aaron Sandilands’ hands and sent the ball sailing over the goal umpire’s hat from 87 metres out.
Lachie Neale chimed in for one more before Fremantle shut up shop for the afternoon, confident they’d done all they could to bring about an end to the Essendon Football Club, and cruised in for a 53 point confidence boosting win.