Four Fremantle greats have revealed their jealousy over the success of the current Dockers under coach Ross Lyon, lamenting that their once-fractured football club had cost them their chance to play in an AFL grand final.
In an exclusive interview with The Weekend West, then-captain Peter Bell, Shaun McManus, Matthew Carr and Troy Cook, who all played in Fremantle's only other preliminary final to date against Sydney in 2006, were united in their hope that the Dockers would earn the premiership shot they failed to secure by this time beating the Swans at Patersons Stadium tonight.
But the opportunity also revived "bad memories" of a time when a terminally fractured relationship between coach Chris Connolly and several senior players had belied a nine-game winning streak that took the Dockers to the brink of their debut grand final appearance.
Some players had been furious that breaches of team rules had regularly gone unpunished, causing an inferior team unity to the one they now perceived under Lyon.
After trying to instil a radical new gameplan the next season, Connolly ultimately quit his post and was replaced mid-season by Mark Harvey.
"We had a lot of distraction at Fremantle and we had a lot of times where a core group actually got pretty tight because of the distractions that were happening," Bell said.
"Perhaps decisions should have been made that weren't. All you want is for guys who you know have bled for the footy club and done everything right, you want them to experience it as well.
"But you need everyone at the footy club doing it and looking back at it, there's no way we can put our hand on our heart and say that's where we were at as a footy club at that time," he said.
"It just felt like we went through an awful lot at Fremantle, not all of it nice and not all of it about losing games of footy. We just couldn't get everyone on the same page and events of the last few years have demonstrated that you need everyone at the whole club on the same page to win the ultimate."
McManus, who stepped away from a development coaching job at Fremantle earlier this year, said several past Dockers had pondered how a more unified team of 2006 would have played under Lyon, speculating they would have been "hard to beat".
"I think we would have had a period of sustained success rather than just be the one-hit wonder which we turned out to be," McManus said.
"You can view it one way and say it's not jealousy, but it is the word . . . I'd love to be out there (tonight). Being in the environment down at Freo under Ross and (watching) the way the club is run, I'm jealous of that.
"There are no issues that aren't solved straight away, nothing gets swept under the carpet, everybody is treated the same, everybody has bought into the philosophies and everybody is on the same page.
"But there were a few cracks and when things weren't dealt with straight away, that just lingered a little bit and always spelled a few doubts around the place. I really thought it (2006) was our year, the way things were going. There was a bit of destiny about it the way things had turned out. But in hindsight, not all the moons lit up at the same time. It was horrible . . . the game meant so much."
Carr, who believed he would sit and watch as Fremantle won the premiership when he tore a medial ligament early in the 2006 preliminary final, echoed the sentiments of the quartet with his hopes for the club's first flag next weekend.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for them and I have so much respect for the way they go about it," he said. "You listen to them talk and the language they use, they're really well drilled as people and as footballers and they would be 100 per cent focused on their task at hand. There's no advice I could give this group, I think they'll do it themselves."I'm excited and my kids are even more excited than me. All they talk about is the Dockers and 'are we going to win?' If the Dockers win, I'll be that rapt just to see the smiles on their faces."
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