Dreaming is something guitarist Dominic Simper, bassist Cam Avery and keyboardist Jay Watson have been doing for years. They grew up in Fremantle and are rabid Freo Dockers supporters.
Like Freo fans everywhere, the Tame Impala boys are envisioning a top-four berth in 2013 and dreaming of a purple premiership in September.
While frontman Kevin Parker prefers his Rickenbacker 335 JG guitar to a Sherrin, the three Freo fanatics sit together backstage at House Of Blues San Diego, hours before a sold-out headlining gig, talking about footy.
On stage, their intensity conveys their focus on this Southern California Friday night. But there’s something else in the backs of the trio’s minds. About the same time they open their 90-minute set with a spirited version of one of their early singles, “Desire Be, Desire Go,” the umpire is bouncing the ball to start play in AAMI Stadium’s rain-soaked centre circle, where their beloved Freo Dockers are challenging the Adelaide Crows.
“It always seems to work out that we’re on stage when they’re playing,” Simper says. “I think sometimes, ‘It’s a shame we’re not watching the game live’.”
As a child, Simper barracked for the Dockers while playing for the Mosman Park Junior Football Club Redbacks. “I was in the ruck,” he says. “I also used to love going forward. They got all the glory kicking goals.” Simper says the game’s accolades recently shifting to the midfielders has left him a little nostalgic for legendary big men from back in the day. “You do miss characters like Tony Lockett, Fraser Gehrig and Jason Dunstall,” he says. “But my favorite player was Clive Waterhouse.”
Contemplative and reserved, Simper says he favoured Freo’s quiet, hardworking players in his youth, like Troy Cook. But Avery, the charismatic and outgoing jokester, was captivated by Freo Dockers who sometimes made Subiaco Oval their own personal stage.
“Most of my childhood was spent climbing on people’s shoulders and yelling, ‘Modraaaaaaaa!’” Avery says of Freo Dockers’ cult hero Tony Modra and his penchant for taking speccies. Modra won the AFL’s Mark of the Year award three times, including once for Fremantle in 2000.
“I also loved Jeff Farmer and watching the other Indigenous guys play,” Avery continues, rising with both arms raised upward, looking up at the roof of the venue’s lounge, mimicking Farmer’s pose after the enigmatic forward nailed crucial goals.
Avery played as a centre half forward for South Perth in his junior days. One of his Stingray teammates was current West Coast Eagle Sharrod Wellingham.
While any mention of Freo’s archrivals usually gets a rise of any purple-bleeding fan, it especially does with Avery. He calls Ben Cousins one of the best players he has ever seen, but the grudging admiration for anyone in yellow-and-blue stops there. “I barrack for Freo and then anyone else playing against West Coast,” he says. “The week leading up to the Derby, I don’t even want to talk to my friends who are Eagles’ fans.”
Avery’s passion for the Freo Dockers, which runs as deep as Fremantle’s Inner Harbour, goes back a generation. His father Michael is a longtime Master Class 2 boat driver in the port city and has been a Freo Dockers member since the team’s inaugural season.
Avery recalls his youth, when his mother took him to the dockyards to visit dad. “He bought me a Freo scarf and beanie and said, ‘You better barrack for Freo’,” Avery said with a smile.
And barrack he has. So much so, that in 2006, when the Dockers came within one win of reaching the Grand Final, Avery put nearly all the money he had on his team winning, so if they made it, he could afford to get to the MCG.
“I lined up a deal with someone at Skywest Airlines for about $1,000, to get a flight to Melbourne and hotel and tickets,” Avery recalls. “I had $350 in my bank account then and I put $300 on a bet for the Dockers against the Swans. If we won, I would’ve had enough for the package. If the Dockers had won, it would’ve been a Derby Grand Final. I saw my life converging into its greatest moment.”
Being among the 38,000 at Subiaco Oval for Justin Longmuir’s match-winning, after-the-siren goal against St. Kilda in Round 21 of 2005 also ranks high on Avery’s life’s greatest moment’s list.
“My seats were right behind Longmuir,” Avery says. “The entire place was going crazy. When he kicked the goal, it was the loudest noise I’d ever heard. Everyone was jumping around and hugging people they didn’t even know.”
After Simper shares the memory of his favourite Freo Dockers game he attended – a come-from-behind, three-point win in 2003 over then-reigning premier, Brisbane, the conversation shifts to this season.
They relish the incredible fourth-quarter comeback against Sydney that resulted in a draw, but lament the Freo Dockers’ inability to punch the last kick through for a behind that would’ve won the match. They’re keen to see injured midfielder Anthony Morabito return, but agree he’ll have to earn his place in the side.
They acknowledge that the spate of injuries which have robbed captain Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands, Kepler Bradley, Jonathon Griffin and Michael Walters of valuable playing time have hurt, but on the flipside, they are thankful for the opportunities youngsters Jack Hannath, Hayden Crozier and Cameron Sutcliffe have been given to gain vital experience.
Until then, Avery, Simper and Watson rock on, while keenly keeping tabs on their footy club from afar, through phone apps and websites.
“I don’t think about footy when I’m playing,” Avery says. “It doesn’t make us play better.” But Avery's footy fervour has influenced his music at least once. Pond, an offshoot band he's involved with covered Ken Walther's Fremantle Dockers Club Anthem a few months ago.
Simper, meanwhile, says the resilient Freo Dockers’ knack for dazzling fans with their inspired play is a lot like the band’s ability to enchant and enrapture audiences with its ethereal sound.
“Both,” he says, “are escapism.”