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No more sand in face of Dockers
No more sand in face of Dockers

There is no place like home.

It was easy for Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz to say. No so, for some Fremantle fans who now find themselves caught in another civil war with a splinter group again trying to hijack a club agenda.

According to the Cockburn City Council the Dockers’ yellow brick road leads to a brand new $100m facility in Perth's southern corridor.

But their Fremantle counterparts don’t want the club to leave and like the good witch have warned of the perils of quitting the port family.

Like the fantasy film, the decision on where the Dockers are based for the foreseeable future will require brains, heart and courage. It is a big call for the Fremantle board and one that has again resulted in another batch of lobbyists emerging from the club’s membership ranks warning the sky will fall in should it leave town.

However, does it really matter where an AFL club is based during the week?

While there is the romanticism of keeping the Dockers in Fremantle, surely the key for any premier sporting outfit is the availability of the best possible training resources. On field is what counts.

If Cockburn offers such a facility, shouldn’t the greater good of the team outweigh the emotional attachment held on to be a small band of followers?

It isn’t as though the Dockers’ brethren flock to Fremantle Oval in great numbers. Almost all of the club’s football operations take place behind closed doors so there isn’t much for anyone to see anyway.

The club plays their matches at Patersons Stadium and they hold most of their functions in or near the Perth city area. There are also few Fremantle identities in senior roles at the Dockers. So just how much Freo is in Freo these days?

A lot if you listen to the Keep Freo in Freo band. Just like the Freo Mob of a decade ago these self-appointed protesters are demanding the club stays in the port. If you believe them there will be no Fremantle spirit at all left in the purple guernsey (another element that has been changed at the club in recent times).

"At the same time, though, no-one should be under any illusion that abandoning Fremantle for some sweetheart deal in another city will do anything other than, as founding Dockers chairman Ross Kelly once said, ‘rip the guts out of our club’," said group convener Chris Lewis.

There are plenty of Hawthorn supporters who will disagree.

The Hawks are now 25km from their spiritual home of Glenferrie Oval. The old ground just outlived its usefulness and the Melbourne club took the opportunity to move to the renovated AFL Park in Waverley.

Since settling in to the spruced up training and administrative facility the Hawks have won a flag and enjoyed a membership spurt boosted by relocating to a growing suburban region.

It must be noted that Hawthorn retains a small retail operation at Glenferrie Oval. Maybe the Dockers could do the same in Fremantle if the board opts for the Cockburn deal.

The Magpies are no longer at Collingwood. Even East Perth moved to the home of their WAFL arch-rival West Perth – something almost unfathomable to Royals supporters. Three premierships in the first three seasons at the new base quickly appeased the fans.

But the supporters aren’t the most important element in this debate. That is the playing talent. Dockers supporters will still have to go to Patersons Stadium, and later Col’s Bowl in Burswood, on matchdays so ensuring the on-field talent has the best preparatory opportunities available is the key. They don’t have to be in Fremantle.

After all, traditionalism might help define clubs but it doesn’t win them premierships. That is achieved by fit and cohesive teams. And great sides are built at training.

The Cockburn bid and the counter-offer from the port council need greater scrutiny.

However, the paramount consideration is whether the board believes it is in the best interests of the team to move.

It might finally give the Fremantle fairytale the happy ending it has desperately wanted since 1995.

Follow Ross Lewis on Twitter - @R_Lewis_thewest

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