SCENE SETTING: an office in a football club administration building, early on a winter’s day in 2012. A crisply dressed man in his forties is seated at a large desk, reading on his iPad 3. A frown gradually deepens on his brow as he scans the screen.
BOSS, calling loudly: "Thwaites. THWAITES. In here now."
A baby-faced man in a shirt and tie sitting in the open plan area outside the boss' office minimises the minesweeper game on his computer and races in.
BOSS, still frowning and staring at the iPad: "I need you to to draft a media release, Thwaites."
THWAITES: "Another incident already, sir? I only just finished the last one..."
BOSS, looking up, suddenly attentive: "Ah yes, I've been meaning to talk to you about that. It needs redoing. I know you’re a new arrival, but when a player stuffs up there's a procedure to follow, do you understand? Get him in front of some cameras, cue puppy dog eyes, cue sincere apologies, and spread a rumour about possible internal suspension. (Pauses.) Hold that thought, make sure they don’t actually suspend him. I’m running out of trades for my dream team. (Settling back in his chair.) No, this is something else. The fans are getting restless about this move to Cockburn. Hit them with some soft soap."
THWAITES, raising his eyebrows: "So this move could really go ahead?"
BOSS: "Of course. Why would that surprise you?"
THWAITES, looking incredulous: "I would've thought the name alone...I mean, Cockburn? The Cockburn Dockers? (Gives a snorty laugh.) It sounds like something from Wilberforce's video collection. Especially if we went one step further and alliterated it."
BOSS, growing red: "It's pronounced COE-BURN, you ignoramous! Good lord. Anyway, we won't be changing the name. We'll still be 100% the Fremantle Dockers."
THWAITES: "I see, sir. So the first key message in the media release will be that we're still 100% Fremantle...except for our location."
BOSS: "That's right."
THWAITES: "Right. (Hesitates.) So how might I explain..."
BOSS, sighing wearily: "The Dockers will always be 100% Freo in spirit. It's our heritage, our heartland, yada yada yada. (Rubs eyes.) I simply do not understand the antagonism to this move. I mean, St Kilda did exactly the same thing. It's not like we're the first."
THWAITES, breaking into a smile: "Ah, so there's a precedent! Phew, that's a relief. So, St Kilda changed sites and then went from strength to strength? (Jotting into a notepad.) And I expect broke the drought of decades and won a premiership? (Looks up, beaming.) Gosh, all those nay-sayers who talked about their fans getting disenfranchised sure must have egg on their faces now."
BOSS, shifting uncomfortably: "Pretty much, pretty much. Don't reference the Saints in the media release, though. Just focus on those key words - heartland, spirit, fans."
THWAITES: "All for the fans...(Muttering to himself as he scribbles.) And the site itself, sir? Should I put in some photos, or a map?"
BOSS, stiffening as though an electric current has suddenly passed through his body: "Are you bloody insane? NO maps, DEFINITELY no photos. (Wipes a sudden bead of sweat from his brow.) For goodness sake."
THWAITES: "Oh. So I guess mentioning the masterplan is also a no-no."
BOSS: "What masterplan?"
THWAITES: "Ummm, the one that the club worked on for about two years with the AFL, the South Freo Bulldogs, and the City of Fremantle?"
BOSS: "Where on earth did you find that?"
THWAITES: "I stumbled on it the other day when I was hiding...I mean, "filing". Veee-ry dusty. It's just that it seemed to suggest that remaining in Fremantle would be the preferred option."
BOSS, exasperatedly: "Greater Fremantle, Thwaites...Greater Fremantle. Anyway, it's just a masterplan. What about that one you were telling me about the other day, from your old job? The Phillimore Street Integrated Master Plan, I think it was? And you said nothing had been done on it since it was finalised in 2004?"
THWAITES: "Oh, it's that kind of masterplan. Now I'm with you. (More scribbling.) And should we address the loyalty angle?"
BOSS, exasperated: "What loyalty angle?"
THWAITES, chuckling: "Ha, exactly sir. Good one. (Boss looks bemused.) You know, sir, the angle that fans are being unrealistic expecting loyalty, because the idea that loyalty exists in football clubs is just a wrongheaded outside perception. This is a businessplace like any other. I mean, if Coles changes sites or its CEO moves to Woolies, their customers don't get all bent out of shape, do they? So why are we any different? I mean, yes we ask for volunteers. And get people to buy raffle tickets. And memorabilia, and uniforms. But why does loyalty need to be introduced into the equation?"
BOSS, shaking a stern finger: "Stop right there, boyo. I thought I told you to keep away from the coaching box! (Sits back, thinking.) Now, I think what's missing is a focus on just what kind of training facility we could build..I want people thinking elite, worldclass..."
THWAITES: "Back in the old days in LG we would start with having a good name."
BOSS: "Now you're onto something. Let's hear some ideas."
THWAITES, after a long pause: "How about Cockb-, I mean 'Coeburn' Regional... Administration... Purpose-built facility?"
BOSS, shaking his head: "I want something with World Class or Elite in it."
THWAITES: quickly writing something on a paper: "Ok then, this one will blow your socks off...World class Awesome New Kickass Elite Recreation Super facility?"
BOSS, shakes his head, still not convinced.
THWAITES: "Well, we could start with a military sounding acronym and work backwards. I don't know...something like ETAF or SFORCE."
BOSS: "Now you're talking."
THWAITES, scribbling: "What about Elite... Training... Administration... Facility?"
BOSS: "Not bad. It does sound a little like a secretarial training college...but if it puts this issue to bed I can live with it. Now, off you pop and start your first draft." (Thwaites nods happily and makes for the door.)
BOSS: "Oh, and Thwaites? Send someone from I.T. in. There's something wrong with facebook - it keeps saying Harvey's blocked me."
DISCLAIMER: I've spent a bit of time pondering any potential move that the Dockers may make to Cockburn. It's a bit rich to suck out the life of the place you purport to be from. It smacks of cynicism to me. I do hope that those in the know at the Fremantle Football Club come to their senses and make the right move by staying in Freo.
Below is some additional reading on this topic:
The orginal Fremantle Football Club media release on this topic.
City of Fremantle's plans to house the Dockers at the Stan Reilly site (looks pretty good to me).
Caroline Wilson's article describing the some of the post-relocation problems faced by the St Kilda Football Club.
Roel Loopers' blog 'Freo's View' is keeping all of us in the loop.