It is generally rare for a clash between two interstate teams to warrant much interest from the Victorian footballing public. Traditional clashes including the Showdown and the Western Derby rarely provoke much intrigue from the state which refers to itself as the ‘home of footy’. But this week, the match between Fremantle and Port Adelaide should be watched by all Victorians with an interest in the finals series.
These two interstate teams have been flying under the radar all season, with Fremantle quietly establishing itself as the fourth team behind Hawthorn, Geelong and Sydney, while Port Adelaide has surprised many pundits with its stellar form for a side which only 12 months ago was in shambles.
Fremantle is likely to finish third on the ladder should it defeat Port Adelaide, with Sydney and Geelong facing off this week – the loser to drop below the Dockers on the ladder. On the other side of the coin, Port Adelaide remains a chance of securing a home final if it defeats Fremantle and other results fall the Power’s way.
With all the focus placed on the five Victorian teams in the top eight – six if you support the ‘South Melbourne Swans’ – it is easy for these two teams to be swept under the rug. Port Adelaide is barely clinging to eighth spot, with Carlton closing the gap between the two sides in time for a blockbuster Round 23 clash. Fremantle has largely been ignored as ‘the other top four team’ behind the powerhouses of Hawthorn, Geelong and Sydney.
Port Adelaide has had an arduous time since its infamous Grand Final in 2007 when Geelong defeated them by a record 119 points. Should Port make the finals, this would be a small step towards redemption for a side which has a rich history in the SANFL, yet a rather inconsistent AFL life.
Fremantle remains plagued by its status as one of only three current AFL teams not to have won, or even competed in a Grand Final. Adding insult to injury is the realisation that the other two teams are the newly formed Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney. Now into their 19th season, the Dockers will hope to compete in their first Grand Final and potentially win their first Premiership.
This Saturday night’s clash will be the first contest between the two sides for the season. Port Adelaide has been blessed with a relatively soft year, having only had to play one of the teams above them on the ladder on multiple occasions – resulting in two losses to Geelong. In their seven matches against the teams above them, the Power have won only two, beating Sydney and Collingwood. If Port Adelaide wants to prove that it deserves a finals spot, a win against Fremantle at Patersons Stadium would go a long way.
Fremantle has made Patersons Stadium a fortress, losing only one match at home all year – to Essendon. This includes the two matches that Fremantle played against fellow West Australian side West Coast, proving that it isn’t just the interstate trip that makes Fremantle so difficult to defeat at home.
For two teams that have slid under the Victorian radar all year, Saturday night’s match might not get outstanding ratings. However, with Fremantle having already secured a top four spot and Port Adelaide fighting to secure its spot in September, this clash is shaping up to be one of the most vital in determining the first week of the finals series.