I’ll begin by prefacing that the vast majority of the people that I love in my life are West Coast Eagles supporters. I’d estimate at least 70%. Fremantle would make up 20% and then the other Eastern state clubs the remainder.
I’m from the bush. I don’t live there anymore, but growing up if you weren’t rocking the Blue and Gold at Freeball (the pre-auskick auskick) you probably had rocks thrown at you. Country people love footy, in a lot of small communities the local football format is the glue that binds.
Another thing that country people love (and city people too, as I have learned) is “sticking it up the Vics” – as though Victoria were some foreign nation lead by a tyrannical despot intent on the murder and pillage of decent, hard-working West Australians.
So when the West Coast Eagles were founded in 1986, West Australians had basically stumbled on the motherlode, like a teenager happening upon his Dad’s Penthouse Black Label collection. Old loyalties to WAFL, SANFL and VFL clubs – my fiercely WA loyal Dad (he’s South Australian, it’s weird) even had a VFL team – were given the flick and out came the aforementioned Blue and Gold.
Early on, I was one too. Peter Sumich was my favourite, I fancied myself a barnstorming Full Forward, and I named my Guinea Pig after him (serious). But I remember asking Mum about her Dad, who had passed long before I was born – she mentioned that he had supported St.Kilda. I had some shitty football that Freeball had handed out, and strangely it was a Saints branded one (probably the only one in community I am from). I liked the link to my Grandad, and I liked the footy – and so, I made a stupid fucking decision and my love for the St.Kilda Football Club was born.
I won’t lie; it’s tough being a Saints supporter in WA. Eagles fans – when they know you are a passionate follower not only of a club that isn’t the Eagles, but of football in general – love a gloat. Not all, but a fair portion – most do it unintentionally, subconsciously rubbing it in.
They are a very successful football club, and it would seem that sometimes their fans take for granted that success, they have never had an extended period of shitness, so it’s not reeeeally their fault they come across as pretentious flogs (it really is). Half their luck.
Some WCE fan-isms – “Bloody cheating Vics” – this despite a fairly good rub of the green over the stretch – “BAAAAAALLL” “DELIBRRRRRUUUUT” – Fairly standard, but 60,000 in unison is huge – again, half their luck – “KICK IT LOOOONG” followed by “WHO WAS THAT TOOOOOOO??” – “Riewoldt? Hahaha never heard of her” followed by “How good is Hutchings, thanks Saints” – “Nice haircut, Natalie!” – “BOOOOOOOOOO” – I heard them boo Jarryd Roughead once, Roughy! – “FARKN COLLINGWOOD BOGANS!” From a bloke in an UNIT cap, Oakley minutes and Jetpilot shorts past the ankles.
I can handle Fremantle fans. Fremantle fans are empathetic. Fremantle fans hate West Coast, derbies are fierce. Post Derby Monday’s at work are hilarious regardless of the result. Freo fans know the pain of mediocrity, and the sting of inferiority. We are both shit-house, and we both know it. This, I am acutely aware – is fairly pathetic.
Some Freo-isms – “We didn’t get premierships on a platter!” – “We’re going to fuck this up” – “How did we fuck that up?” – “It’s KO-BURN” – “ For me, the years of 2004, 2009, 2010 were great ones. Sure, we didn’t get over the line in the big dance – but it was fantastic time to be a Saints fan, that confidence that you were a good chance no matter who you came up against – the confidence of an Eagles fan. Half their luck.
What is it like being a Saints fan in WA? Lonely, and shit. Wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ll leave you with the thoughts and words of the legendary Australian band, TISM