It’s a similar yet different build-up to today’s western derby, with masks and distancing in place for Fremantle and West Coast’s first games back in WA.
Dockers players masked up upon arrival at Optus Stadium for this afternoon’s clash, which will be played in front of a capped crowd of 30,000 under the State’s Stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions.
There was a distinct sea of purple among fans, with Fremantle earning hosting duties for the clash. But there was still a smattering of West Coast supporters hoping to see their team earn a 10th consecutive derby win.
For fans who couldn’t make the game, watching live on Seven was the order of the afternoon – including for Victorian supporters in lockdown.
Only a handful of fans donned masks and gloves as they made their way into the stadium, with Graeme and Lyn Barnett among the crowd building up for WA’s footy return.
The couple, from Glendalough, have been Fremantle Dockers members for 14 years but said this was a Derby like no other they had experienced.
“We are wearing all the precautions, we have got masks on and gloves and we have brought our own food so we are not touching anyone,” Mr Barnett said.
“We are pretty comfortable coming to the footy but we are a bit surprised there aren’t more people wearing masks.
“We not relaxing our guard because we are still vulnerable. You’ve just got yo take all the precautions.”
Mrs Barnett said they were a little disappointed they couldn’t sit in their usual seats but it was a small price to pay just to be back at the footy.
“We usually come every fortnight so it is night just to be able to be back again” she said. “Hopefully we will get to a few more games this year.”
Jesse Harris and his daughter Pyper, 5, are experiencing their first game at Optus Stadium under the COVID-19 restrictions.
Mr Harris said as Eagles supported they expected to be outnumbered at the game but were looking forward to their team hopefully making it 10 straight Derby wins.
“It’s Pyper’s first game so we are very excited,” he said. “I think we have got COVID-19 covered in WA at the moment so we are pretty comfortable, we just need to keep up a few precautions.”
Friends Keely Walker, 23, and Lauren Grayson, 23, said they are exited for the Dockers to finally turn the tide on nine straight Derby losses.
“I’m a member so I am used to coming every second week so it’s been a bit devastating,” Ms Grayson said.
“I was worried when COVID-19 was big but I’m feeling better about it now, we just have to keep up hygiene and hand washing and that sort of thing.
“We are just keeping a bit of distance in the crowds and on the train and that sort of thing. We are just so excited to be back at the footy.”
Terry Aguiar and Sandra Malho are part of the Eagles cheer squad and said they had missed the atmosphere of being at the game during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We’ve been waiting a while,” Mr Aguiar said. “The whole lockdown obviously stopped everything and we have been hanging to get back to the first game.
“We initially had nothing to watch and when it eventually came back and was on TV it was ok and it gave us something to look forward to but we still missed coming to the game and the atmosphere.”
Mr Aguiar said he was “quietly confident” of an Eagles win.