It was as true in 1995 as it is today: having the Fremantle Football Club in your life is not good for your health.
But on this momentous Saturday night, something shifted, and the caste system of Australian football was turned on its head. How the late, great Matt Price would've written of this occasion. There were signs of the usual nail-biting drama. There were several missed set shots and fumbles under pressure. Even at the end with a seemingly unassailable lead, there were moments of concern. But they will soon be forgotten, for everything about tonight was different.
There are some Fremantle matches that will always be special: the Demolition Derby of 2000, the second derby win of 2003 that secured our first final's berth; our first finals win against Melbourne in 2006, and our elimination final win against Hawthorn in 2010.
But there can be no disputing this to be our finest hour.
This team were the reigning premiers. Full of Brownlow Medallists and future AFL Hall of Famers. Fremantle were above $3.00 on every betting market, and rightly so. We were stepping out onto the biggest stage of all, the ground that matters most, against a side with the finest pedigree. The Melbourne media had Geelong nailed on as a bolter, the looming story of September. Now the script has been changed.
This contributor watched on from the confines of a jam-packed west London pub. So often it is a distant and lonely experience for the expat supporter; to watch on from afar, scarf and jumper in hand, hearing the chants ring around the ground through the TV speakers. But again, today was different; purple was in the majority, strangers and friends sharing in the shock of a blistering first quarter, like it was not the same team of all those agonising eighteen years. And in so many ways, they're not. They're composed of sterner stuff, and it's a privilege to watch them. If only the players could see how happy they make the wandering supporters around the world; one senses from the volume of the song in the rooms however, they know how significant tonight's win will be for so many who support them.
Playing Adelaide, in Adelaide, with the uncertain form they're in, is about as attractive a second week final as a 7th placed team could ask for. History and statistics says the top four side bounces back, and this might well occur. But supporters should not forget this has been a stellar season regardless of next week's result. Use whatever modern language one desires: the team has over-achieved, and is ahead of schedule. A season will come when nothing but the ultimate is expected of them. But this is not yet that time.
For now, let's celebrate this rarified air; the statement we have made; the example set by our leader; and undeniably, the club's finest hour.