Fremantle fans have been left frustrated by their team’s inconsistency in season 2019. (AAP: Tony McDonough)
Four losses by less than seven points and likely a fourth AFL finals series missed in a row — it is a frustrating time to be a Fremantle fan.
On occasion this season, Dockers fans have regularly watched their side produce inspired performances to claim stunning victories, and back this up by throwing away winnable games.
Fremantle started season 2019 with an 82-point flogging of North Melbourne, only to follow up with a three-point loss to Gold Coast.
They have produced away wins against premiership fancies Greater Western Sydney in round 5 and Collingwood in round 11, only to lose to cellar-dwellers Carlton by four points at home and Melbourne after conceding three late goals.
Last week they hunted ladder leaders Geelong and recorded one of the club’s great wins, but yesterday the fell short against Saint Kilda by less than a goal, despite leading by nine points with two minutes remaining.
The Dockers have one home game remaining — against a struggling Essendon — giving the players one last chance to send their fans into the off-season on a high.
It is something the club will be desperate to do, not just because no-one like losing, but because it is rapidly approaching membership renewal time.
A worrying membership slump
In figures released by the AFL last week, Fremantle suffered the biggest fall in total membership numbers across the competition, from a club record 55,639 last year, down to 51,431 for this season.
That number is on par with the club’s last season at Subiaco Oval.
“We had record levels of membership in our first year at Optus Stadium in 2018,” Fremantle’s chief commercial officer Scott Gooch said.
“In our second year in the new stadium membership levels have come back a bit, but we will be looking to return to record levels in the near future.
“To help drive this, we will be introducing a range of new membership initiatives for the 2020 membership renewal period.”
A tale of two memberships
The numbers are in stark contrast to West Coast, which had the biggest increase in memberships in the AFL on the back of its 2018 premiership.
Some of the decline in memberships can be attributed to the influence of the new stadium, which would have seen some fans purchase three-game memberships last year to experience the ground, but not bother to renew them this season.
Freo crowds down at Perth Stadium
Of added concern for Fremantle will be the added drift in home-game attendance numbers.
Last year, disregarding the round 3 game against Gold Coast which the club purchased to stage in Perth but technically remained a Suns home game, the Dockers averaged 41,763 in home-game attendance last year on their way to six home wins.
That figure has fallen to 40,202 so far this season, with crowds only eclipsing the 44,000 mark for the Western Derby.
Aaron Sandilands leads a dejected Dockers off the ground after a three-point loss to St Kilda. (AAP: Daniel Pockett)
This comes despite the Dockers posting seven wins at Perth Stadium so far this year, with Saturday’s match against the Bombers still to come.
In the context of the AFL, these figures are far from an embarrassment. Only five clubs have a higher home-game average crowd than the Dockers, including powerhouses Collingwood and Richmond.
A big win over the Bombers would send fans into the off-season with optimism for 2020.
But a big loss would leave a sour taste in the mouth that may linger over the summer break.