They clapped, they cheered, they chanted.
And even though their team had not conquered, several thousand of the Dockers faithful gathered at Patersons Stadium yesterday afternoon to welcome home their heroes.
The Dockers army turned big expanses of the lush green grass of the oval purple, and most had two messages to impart.
One was to the players and staff: Thank you.
And the other was to anybody and everybody: We'll be back.
The welcome home had started earlier at Perth Airport.
The club song boomed over the loudspeakers and there was a carnival atmosphere despite the heartbreaking defeat on Saturday.
Purple and white balloons, blow-up anchors and signs declaring 'In Ross We Trust' greeted the players when they arrived about 2.20pm.
Skipper Matthew Pavlich was one of the first down the escalator, his sombre mood mirrored by the entire playing group.
But long-time members Rosemary Kelly, 70, and Doreen Billingsley, 75, were there to cheer them home.
"For 14 years we've sat in the same seats and thought, 'Oh well, they lost again, maybe next week', but this year, it's just been fabulous," Ms Kelly said.
"We're here to try to cheer them up and let them know we love them whether they win or lose."
Several players bore bruises and others walked with limps, but the rousing reception at the airport visibly lifted some players' spirits.
The fans had also waited outside Patersons since before 1pm, and the team store did a brisk trade as they took the opportunity to add a bit more purple to their wardrobe.
Among them was Jill Riddle, of Port Kennedy, who had brought a group of kids to pay their respects.
She had bought a Dockers cap at the store and said they were "proud as punch" of their team.
It had taken them two trains to get to the ground, but it was worth it.
Why the effort? "It's 19 years of love," she said.
"We wanted to make sure the boys know we appreciate their hard work. We are still excited, still pumped for next year.
"It's happening next year."
As the clock clicked past 2pm, a cheer went up, the gate opened and a trail of purple made its way out on to the oval.
As the team bus headed to the stadium, the fans posed next to a giant cut-out of Aaron Sandilands, tried their hand at jumping up for an imaginary ruck knock and relished the chance for a kickabout on the famous turf.
Among those enjoying a stroll with fellow supporters was Wendy Cooper, of Wilson.
"We just wanted to welcome the boys back," she said.
"We are disappointed for them, but there's always next year."
Just before 3.30pm a shower of rain swept across the ground but failed to dampen spirits as a chant of "Freeeeoooooo" went up, along with the umbrellas.
Then, to a steady stream of cheers, each player was introduced in turn.
Pavlich thanked the crowd for their support.
He injected a note of caution, saying it would take much hard work to get back to the game's big day next year but also that he had faith in the club.
Coach Ross Lyon said the club was humbled by the show of support. He said it was just the start of their journey. They would continue to grow, he said, urging the crowd to stick with them and "stay passionate".
"We'll come again," he said, to cheers which may have been heard back at the MCG itself.
After more thanks and pledges of hard work from chief executive Steve Rosich, the players waved their goodbyes, the loudspeakers pumped out the unofficial Dockers anthem TNT and, for a few minutes, the arena resembled a rock concert.
And as the fans finally drifted away, a few kids and a few big kids played on, taking shots at goal at each end.The dream is well and truly alive.