The Dockers’ Len Hall Tribute match is one of the most significant matches in WA football. Held over 25 years, the Freo faithful get down to support their boys, and pay tribute to not only the ANZACs, but one of their most heroic supporters.
The legend of Len Hall, like the Fremantle Dockers, was born by the docks of Fremantle. As the last surviving Gallipoli veteran in WA, he played a vital role in some noteworthy battles of World War I. He fought on the beaches of Gallipoli, in the capture of Beersheba, Palestine, and the liberation of Damascus.
Since 1996, the commemorative match has only been compromised twice, in 2020 and 2021, both due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Friday’s three-day lockdown announcement saw over 50000 fans turned away from Optus Stadium, with the match played behind closed doors. Additionally, the pre-game ANZAC eve ceremony was cancelled due to COVID protocols.
A massive culture shock to the players, like the ANZACs, several players displayed classic Australian courage in these strange circumstances.
The Dockers galvanised to beat North Melbourne by 51 points, driving them to victory and giving the WA community something to cheer.
Coach Justin Longmuir spoke about the unfortunate circumstances of the match, acknowledging the greater happenings. He was just simply happy to get the win.
“Obviously, there was a lot of distractions for both teams coming into this game. At the end of the day getting the win is the best part of it.” He said post-match.
“This is such a big day, the 25th Len Hall game where we get to commemorate the ANZACs.”
“It’s disappointing that there was no crowd here. [My] Heart goes out to the ANZACs who were coming out tonight and everyone at the club who put so much time and effort to organise such a great show.”
“The whole season has thrown different challenges and clearly tonight was a huge challenge for the mental side of our game”
“It’s just a bit of an eerie feeling to be honest, coming here today”
Like a fine red wine, veteran Docker David Mundy only gets better with age, delivering another spectacular performance. He and Nat Fyfe combined for 64 disposals, 15 clearances, and 20 score involvements.
Pleased with their ability to take the game on and get them over the line, Justin Longmuir gave them kudos for their performances.
“I thought him and Nathan were our standout players.” Said Longmuir
“Fyfey’s [Nat Fyfe’s] consistency across the four quarters, probably got us over the line in the end. I thought they just really stood out with their clean hands.
“It was actually quite slippery out there, the dew set in. I actually thought those two in particular were really clean around the ball, absorbed North’s pressure.”
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of both of their games – outstanding. [They] led the way as they’ve been doing and I thought our midfield group in totality were really strong, especially that first half”
MORE AFL NEWS
Fyfe and Mundy didn’t solely shoulder the workload. It was shared among young Dockers Andrew Brayshaw and Caleb Serong, who too had impressive outings.
In the absence of Adam Cerra, Brayshaw collected 31 possessions, eight marks, six tackles, and nine score involvements. Meanwhile, the Rising Star winner had 35 touches, seven tackles, gained 677 metres, and had 17 contested possessions.
“A lot has been made of Dave and Fyfey [David Mundy and Nat Fyfe], but I think it’s been a really even spread across there.” He said.
“We obviously lost Cerra out of the midfield, but Caleb was able to play more game time. Andy [Brayshaw] obviously spent a lot of time through there and both of those guys had an impact on the game.”
Another young player who has found his feet, is ruckman Sean Darcy.
Darcy held his own against all evening Todd Goldstein, a star ruckmen of the game, which is a sign of positive things to come.
Leading the hitouts count with 27, 12 going to advantage, Darcy also kicked a goal, had 15 possessions, and laid eight tackles.
His efforts to increase supply to the midfield over the last three weeks have been highlighted by Longmuir, praising him for his work rate.
“Sean Darcy’s work in the ruck in the last three weeks, in particular, has been really strong. He’s really complementing our midfield group and giving them first look.
“I feel like we’re getting it done as a collective, not necessarily relying on individuals.”
From here, things can only go up for the Dockers as they will be tested over the next few weeks. While they are not perfect, Longmuir is certain his players are ready to sink their teeth in and work hard.
“I feel like we’re building, we haven’t played the perfect game by any stretch. We’ve got a lot of things we need to work on”
“The thing that pleases me the most, is every time the players come to the club, they’re looking to get better and improve our footy.”
“We’ve got a tougher run coming up. We’ll need to improve what we dished up tonight, but we’re confident the players have the appetite to do that”