It was an unforgettable summer.
The year was 1963. The setting… Catskills in upstate New York. The vibe? Sexy.
Did they dance? Oh boy did they dance. They danced in lakes, on logs, in underground dance dens. Was it dirty? Sometimes. But they didn’t care. They were having the time of their lives.
Throughout all this dance-related frivolity, there was one main rule. Nobody was to put baby in a corner.
Patrick Swayze simply wouldn’t allow it.
Wayne Carey had similar strong feelings this week when he essentially declared “nobody puts Fyfey in the WAFL”.
Carey said the move was “absolutely ridiculous”, and doubled down – “I can’t believe it, I honestly can’t”.
Leigh Montagna agreed, rehashing a version of Ross Lyon’s old mantra “you don’t take the Ferrari out to the bush”.
The modern footy media is hot take city – we’re heading toward a place where the takes will be so spicy, the commentators will literally catch fire before finishing their statements.
Sure, it’d be amazing to have a full-flight Fyfe terrorising the Brisbane midfield on Sunday – but that’s not where this is at.
The key here, is information.
Fyfe hasn’t played football in 10 months. He’s had four surgeries since he last played a game, to three different body parts. He’s had setbacks, random infections, major obstacles. He turns 30 this September.
Fyfe may be a Ferrari, but he’s one in dire need of a pit-stop.
The decision to play Fyfe in the WAFL against Subiaco today didn’t come lightly. There was a consultation process between Fyfe, Justin Longmuir, Peter Bell and the strength and conditioning department, led by Phil Merriman – a man fast becoming a crucial cog in Fremantle’s on-field success.
Merriman is a former Hawthorn fitness guru and he’s firmly of the view all players returning from extended stints out should play at least some minutes at the lower level.
He did it with Luke Hodge in 2013. The Hawks captain had an interrupted pre-season, so rather than rush him in for the round one blockbuster against Geelong, Merriman and his staff went the other way. Hodge rocked up to Box Hill in the VFL, threw on the number 82 jumper and got his legs back.
Hodge returned to the Hawthorn side in round two, played every game for the rest of the year, and held up the premiership cup after the season’s final siren – somehow fittingly, as Fyfe watched on.
I’m only aware of the Hodge scenario because Fyfe himself brought it up during our chat on Thursday. There’s a blueprint here.
I get it, Carey just wants to see the best guys out there, dominating and dazzling – but even Fyfe knows he’s not at that point. He needs time, and he needs reps.
Throwing him in, as tempting as it is, would be short-sighted and foolish. The Dockers don’t operate that way any more.
A younger Fyfe may’ve forced the issue and convinced the hierarchy he was good to go, ignored the advice and backed-in his freakish talents and physique. That would’ve been selfish.
But this is a different Fyfe. He’s grown.
Fyfe has been the best player on his team for a long time – he still is – but he doesn’t need to be that every minute of every game. I believe he knows that.
His confidence – call it arrogance and all the great ones have it – has got him this far, but it’s his selflessness and new-found sense of self-awareness that could take him to the promised land.
Fyfe’s become aware his clock is ticking, developed a sense of football mortality. He knows if he plays his cards right this version of Fremantle will present him with the chance to finally do what Hodge did so many times.
There are no guarantees in football, but you can play the percentages, you can deal in facts and information – not just unbridled desire and fanfare.
Can Fyfe be Fyfe again? Maybe. If you think he can’t evolve, you haven’t been paying attention 12 years a go a skinny kid from Lake Grace lined up as the third tall forward for Claremont.
He weighed 72kg but could leap like a hyperactive grasshopper and had that “thing”, the rare trait we don’t completely understand but know when we see it.
Fyfe wasn’t supposed to be the best player in the AFL. He wasn’t supposed to be a two-time Brownlow medallist.
Depending how you feel about Dustin Martin, Buddy Franklin and Gary Ablett, Fyfe’s arguably the best player we’ve seen in the past decade.
He evolved into that.
We don’t know what the final chapter of his career will look like, but the ink pen has been dipped and the page is ready to be marked.
Putting baby in a corner would’ve stifled her. Her stage presence squashed; her pirouette platooned. Putting Fyfe in the WAFL? It might just be the decision that unlocks everything he’s ever wanted.