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  • Writer's pictureJohn Townsend

Stand-alone Anzac Day match has special appeal

A former Perth player rang me from the queue as he was waiting to get into Lathlain Park on Anzac Day.

“How good is this?” he said.


“It’s the first time there’s been a queue here since I was playing.”


The queue might have been explained – partly – by having only one gate open on each side of the ground but the excitement was real enough.


Football supporters were eager to get into the ground to watch a keenly-anticipated WAFL match between improving Perth and surging East Perth under the league’s best lights and were prepared to wait for the creaky turnstiles to crank over.


The crowd of 4000 or so was also an eye-opener and proof that a dedicated Anzac Day clash between these two teams should become a permanent fixture on the WAFL calendar.


Perth and East Perth have played three previous Anzac Day games at Lathlain but this one was something special, and not just because it was 65 years to the day since the first match was played at the ground.


The official crowd figure has not been released yet - (nearly a week later!) – but there is every chance it was the best response since 4873 supporters attended the Anzac round match against Swan Districts in 1993.


Perth haven’t had much go their way in recent decades but the Demons still provide one of the best match-day experiences. And it doesn’t take much for their rusted-on supporters to emerge from the shadows.


They should be rewarded with a dedicated match where continuity would build interest and one of the great historic rivalries could be re-interpreted in modern times.


The concept was flagged by then-Perth and now Peel player Brady Grey several years ago as the teams prepared to play a stand-alone match on Anzac Day.


“Anzac Day is up there with finals footy on the footy calendar,” Grey told me at the time.


“We are fortunate that we have the right to play on Anzac Day and to take on East Perth adds to the pretty big rivalry that we have already.“We would like to make it a big event and showcase it by putting it on as a twilight game which should draw the fans in.”


That rivalry dates back nearly 120 years – it wasn’t for nothing that it was known for decades as the City derby and considered more potent than the competition between East Perth and West Perth.

That provides a sound historic foundation for a blockbuster game but it is what is happening today that is most significant.


Both teams have been down for many years – East Perth’s last flag was in 2002 and Perth’s 25 years before that - but there is a strong sense that both are on the climb and building towards a genuine challenge.


The twilight element makes the concept work even better.


The Collingwood-Essendon match at the MCG turns the nation’s focus to football after the attention throughout the morning has been on Anzac Day commemorations.


But once that MCG match finishes, there is a void that could be filled by a substantial event at state league level.


Maybe the match could start later than the 4.10pm of last week, particularly as Collingwood-Essendon went to nearly 4pm, but that would require minor tinkering to get right.


The weather is usually reasonable, the Lathlain lights ensure the spectacle is showcased appropriately and the strong likelihood of a good crowd adds another compelling element to the mix.


Promotion is the life blood of second-tier leagues like the WAFL but there must be something to promote.


A stand-alone Anzac Day match provides that event. Fixture it and they will come.


IMAGE: Supplied

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