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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Lack of derby respect was factor on day one

It is wrong to suggest that the western derby has recently become a petty, nasty, toxic rivalry.
It has always been petty, nasty and toxic. It is time our football clubs grew up and it starts with the club leaders.
The first requirement of any healthy sporting rivalry is respect. You don’t have to like your opponent. But you have to respect them.
The derby rivalry kicked off in 1995 with West Coast devoid of respect for the new kid on the block. This was dysfunctional from day one.
If you are a Fremantle fan and you think this makes everything West Coast’s fault, think again.
When the Dockers sought to repaint the derby landscape in the second derby of 2000, they did so in blood.
The demolition derby may have been therapeutic for Freo fans the State over, but it was bad medicine for an already unhealthy rivalry. That rivalry has been set on simmer ever since, with the potential for boiling point at the flick of an elbow or an ill-chosen sledge — or an errant clenched fist.
Too many bad incidents, too few great games.
Four of 36 derbies since 2000 qualify as epics: 2003 when the clubs played for a home final, 2006 when Paul Hasleby kicked the winner a minute from the end, 2011 when the Eagles won by a point after Hayden Ballantyne hit the post on the siren, and round six this year when the Eagles won by eight points in front of more than 56,000 people in a cracker.
The Adelaide showdown has produced two last-gasp epics this year alone, 14 margins under three goals since 2000 and only a fraction of the nasty incidents and reportable offences the western derby produces.
In the wake of the Andrew Gaff hit that led to Andrew Brayshaw’s broken jaw, mang-led teeth and Gaff’s eight-week suspension, Brayshaw’s family were lavish in their praise of the Eagles and Fremantle for the way they had looked after both of their sons.
Gaff, who we doubt has thrown a punch before or will again, spoke to the media to express his concern and remorse. Hamish Brayshaw arranged for Gaff to speak to Andrew Brayshaw by phone and the pair will meet in person soon.
Senior officials and the senior coaches of the two clubs spoke to the Brayshaw family, but the clubs themselves barely spoke to each other. It was left to Eagles chairman Russell Gibbs and Fremantle counterpart Dale Alcock to make some sense and some peace out of it.
The example club leaders set makes its way down the food chain and leads to behaviour like the idiot who burned a Fremantle flag outside Optus Stadium in round six.
It is unacceptable. Players make peace quickly.
The ongoing cold war between the Eagles and Dockers hierarchies is childish.