It’s well documented that WA Premier Mark McGowan is a Fremantle supporter, but he’s not even close to being the biggest Freo fan on the television screen when giving his Covid-19 updates.
That title goes to Fiona Perry, a 21-year Freo member and Auslan interpreter, who has been a regular by the Premier’s side during the pandemic.
Fiona has been crucial in keeping the deaf and hard of hearing community up to date throughout what has been a tumultuous 2020.
She’s also won the hearts of many through her ability to navigate some of the more bizarre moments in the Premier’s briefings, namely the ‘kebab’ and more recently the ‘mullet’ related questions from the media that have brought some much-needed laughter during a testing time.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan and his sign language interpreter try to hold it together and still make it clear it IS legal to go for a run and have a #kebab at the same time. #coronavirus #covid19 #running #kebab #abcaustralia pic.twitter.com/pv7SvqMFHi— DC Cardwell ?? (@dccardwell) April 3, 2020
It’s earned Fiona a surprising amount of fame, which she is yet to get used to.
“Even still now I get stopped for selfies,” Fiona said.
“I had some requests earlier this week when I was working. I’m just not used to it. I keep saying I’m just an interpreter, it’s just my job."
While Fiona has become well known to West Aussies, she’s primarily focused on reaching a select group of the population.
“It’s obviously very important for the deaf and hard of hearing community to understand the importance of this pandemic in their first language,” Fiona said.
“As English is their second language, they might misinterpret some things without interpretation. For a life and death pandemic, you need to have the information in your first language as it gives the full awareness and understanding of what to do to make sure everyone is safe.
“That’s so important even if it’s just one person, but one in six people have a hearing loss, so it’s not just the deaf community but the hard of hearing community that benefit.”
Fiona has worked as an interpreter for 45 years, and as a professional communicator, she has no problems expressing her love for Fremantle.
“I’ve been a fan since day one, when we first started,” Fiona said.
“My daughters, Jayde and Clare, we all go to the games, the three of us love the Dockers and my husband Stephen is a Bombers fan who comes along with us.
“He wanted to join us as he wanted to be a part of our family outings. We said there was only one way, and that was to become a Dockers member, which he did.”
A standout memory from more than two decades of supporting Freo was attending the Western Derby where ‘Modra kicked THAT goal and banged the ground so flipping hard.’
She also feels honoured to follow the players’ careers from past to present.
“Pav’s retirement, it was just amazing to be there and I teared up a bit,” Fiona said.
“Being a part of his career from when he first started and following his whole journey, I love being a part of their milestones. You just can’t buy that.”
While Fremantle’s preliminary final win against Sydney is etched in the memories of every fan, Fiona can also recall the exact date – and for good reason.
“The 21st of September 2013 was actually is my daughters' birthdays,” Fiona said.
“They’re not twins, but they were both born on the same day two years apart. We went to the game and we loved the atmosphere of that game and the MCG chant!”
While Fiona was among the 100,007 at the MCG at the 2013 Grand Final, she also remembers hanging tough through the club’s most difficult years.
“Back in those days, to win a game the feeling was ‘I’m sorry what’s this?’ as we never won anything,” Fiona said.
“There was one time, no word of a lie, it was just Jayde and I, and we were the only ones in our whole block, there was no-one else!
“I think back to that time and we decided, no, we’re going, we never give up. That’s the way we are.
“It was pouring with rain and it was a really cold day, but we were still sitting there. And we got the win!”
More than 20 years on and Fremantle is now well established in the competition, but Fiona was one of the thousands of members to pledge their 2020 membership, recognising the gravity of the situation.
“We had a family discussion about how we’re very fortunate to still have jobs through the Covid-19 pandemic,” Fiona said.
“We thought that the Dockers are important to us, so we were fortunate as a family, with the way the economy is going, to be able to do the platinum pledge, so that’s what we did.
“We were happy to do that, and hopefully we will continue and get stronger and off we go!”
Fremantle fans have a reputation for being loud and creating a great atmosphere at games, so what is that like for those who are deaf or hard of hearing?
We reached out to Freo member Jenny Pupich, who is deaf and attends games with two other friends who are deaf.
“I have been a Freo supporter since day one because I was a Claremont fan, where Gerard Neesham coached before he joined Fremantle,” Jenny said.
“I am a very passionate purple girl and can get very excited and loud at the games and can still be very loud on Monday mornings after a win over the weekend.
“I can feel and hear the atmosphere at the games and love it when the lights flash purple after a goal has been kicked!”
As a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community, Jenny was very thankful for the work Fiona has done throughout the pandemic.
“It is very important to have an Auslan interpreter to access the information on such a serious matter,” Jenny said.
“It was great to see Fiona interpreting as the information was very clear as Fiona is easy to read and understand.
“Her work has helped the deaf community to relax and take all this information in during a difficult time.”