Fremantle have finally arrived in Sydney after their schedule was disrupted by a cancelled flight yesterday afternoon.
The team and coaching staff landed at Sydney Airport about 2.30pm Perth time or 4.30pm Sydney time ahead of their crucial qualifying final against the Swans at ANZ Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
The Dockers were left stranded yesterday after their 4pm Virgin flight was cancelled due to an engineering fault. They were forced to go home before doing it all again this morning on a 10am flight.
The same 25 players who checked in yesterday came through this morning, with their flight on track to leave at 10am as planned.
That would see them in Sydney at 4.20pm this afternoon, throwing their usual routine of flying two days out from away games way out of whack.
But general manager of football operations Chris Bond said it would not affect them.
“The players are in really good form,” he said. “Once they realised the details of what’s happened, they are a very professional group, they grabbed their bags, got a good night’s sleep, had a home cooked meal back here this morning and it’s business as usual.
“We don’t think it will affect it at all. We’ll get in there late afternoon. Our meeting times will be the same of what we usually do tonight.
“We have full faith in our sports science team so there will be good recovery when we get off the plane and also again tonight.
“We will go and have a look at the ground for our usual walk and stretch (tomorrow morning) and then game on about 2pm tomorrow.”
It is understood some of the team were upgraded by Virgin this morning to make up for the inconvenience caused.
“Virgin are doing everything they can to assist us now and that’s the most important thing for us,” Bond said.
“We only do with the facts and we can’t control anything that’s happened.
“It’s against the norm of what we do but that won’t be an excuse from our end.
“Tomorrow afternoon we’ll be ready to go no matter what the situation.
“We have been doing this a long time. We have got a history of playing some big games interstate.
“We have got no doubt the boys are fully prepared, they’ll be hydrated, they’ll be well fed, that won’t be a problem.”
Fremantle officials decided to delay the team’s departure until 10am today.
The Dockers have stuck rigidly all season to travelling two days before interstate games.
A passenger aboard the flight yesterday said the players were in good spirits when they arrived at Perth Airport.
But he said the players were “visibly frustrated” in the Virgin lounge after they disembarked.
Fremantle football operations general manager Chris Bond said the flight cancellation changed the logistics of getting to Sydney and the club’s plans for today.
He said the club had full faith that its players and staff would be ready to go tomorrow afternoon.
“We don’t think it’s too much of a disruption,” Mr Bond said.
“It’s against our norm — we obviously travel two days out — but at the end of the day we’ve moved on quickly. No one’s stressed about it. Unfortunately, we just deal with the facts.”
Former West Coast coach John Worsfold said that there was no doubt the incident would affect Fremantle’s preparation.
“Physically, it’s not the best preparation,” he said.
“It may mean they’re not at their peak. That’s the unknown of it.”
Worsfold said the team’s schedule would have to be squeezed and could be more rushed than usual. But he believed the club’s leaders would have quickly worked on ways to turn the problem into a positive.
“They will be very clinical in the way they’ll say, ‘It’s out of our control, let’s just deal with it and not get flustered by it’,” he said.
“Obviously it changes a lot of things for their mentality but it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t run out there switched on.”
A Virgin Australia spokes-woman said the plane aircraft was a new Airbus A330 and had been unable to take off because of an issue with one of its flight management computers.
She said the airline had been working to fix the problem with the computer but they ran out of the time because of Sydney airport’s curfew, which restricts take-offs and landings between 11pm and 6am.