Friday, 28 September 2012

Matthew Scarlett

My younger colleagues have recently become devoted to a game they call "making Michael feel really, really old". Tactics include asking me to reminisce about particular events or objects, such as when the GST was introduced, or cassette tapes, or car windows that you had to crank with a handle, before saying "you know I wasn't even born then?".

Well, the joke's on you, kids. Because I wouldn't swap the chance to grow up with an iPod and electric car windows if it meant missing out on the 1989 VFL Grand Final.

The greatest game of all time

I was twelve. My mum, my dad, my bro and I were driving home after a game of tee-ball, listening to the radio in our station wagon, when the opening bounce first hit the turf. Dad was doing his best Ayrton Senna impersonation. Mum was sitting in the front seat in her customary position of highly strung watchfulness (on the look out for police and pedestrians). As we sped home, the first quarter captured my imagination like no other football game had in my previous twelve years. Maybe it was the adrenalin produced by travelling at the speed of light, maybe it was all of the injuries being vividly described on the radio.

The first quarter was a twelve year old's delight. It felt like someone was getting knocked out every couple of minutes. Lots of spewing. There were descriptions of broken ribs straining against bruised skin, punctured lungs and bloodied noses. When we got home, I suggested to my sweetly unsuspecting younger brother that he play Dermot Brereton to my Mark Yeates. Unfortunately Mum must have seen me eyeing my brother with a gleam in my eye and quickly yanked him into the house before he could be enticed out into the backyard.

A classic image from the 1989 Grand Final - Hawthorn premiership hero Dermot Brereton after he got knocked out by Geelong's Mark Yeates

We arrived home in time to watch the dramatic last half as Gary Ablett singlehandedly put the game tantalisingly, but ultimately fruitlessly, within Geelong's grasp. It was the greatest game of all time. A combined forty two goals were kicked by both teams, with only six points separating them by the end of the game.

Afterwards, I resolved to make the most important decision a twelve year old boy can. I trudged into the kitchen and firmly declared to all and sundry (my mum) that the Geelong Cats were now my team. (I also delicately enquired as to whether or not Dad could pick me up from school from now on - I knew that a good getaway driver could come in handy.) And so began a long and winding journey, full of ups and downs.

Scarlett leading the way

Fast forward to 1997 when the player who arguably became responsible for the vast majority of those ups - Matthew Scarlett - was drafted by the Cats. That year was yet another in a long line (1991, 1992, 1994 and 1995) of seasons in which the Cats contrived to get frustratingly close to achieving premiership glory.  Ten years later, Scarlett led the Cats to the premiership. And not just any old premiership - the Cats' first in forty four years.

The Cats' breaking of their premiership drought in '07 had implications far beyond making me extremely happy. The mid 2000s of the AFL represented the dark ages of the game in terms of playing styles. It was a time of mind numbing, watching-the-grass-grow type football. Teams that mastered the ability to lull their opposition into a long stupor would ultimately prevail. The nadir of this tactic was when a bedgraggled Richmond outfit managed to defeat a powerful Adelaide Crows unit by playing piggy in the middle in their own back line, for what seemed the entire game.

During 2007, I would watch game after game not quite believing what I was seeing. The Cats had somehow transformed into a gallant freeflowing attacking force of nature. Scarlett inevitably led the charge from his customary position in the backline. It seemed to me that in game after game he was everywhere, launching audacious forward charges at break neck pace, one after the other. Scarlett was the spiritual leader of one of the great teams of all time. He was at his counter-attacking best when the Cats pulverised the Power in the 2007 Grand Final. (That season, football, led by the all out attack of the Cats, once again became a great spectacle.)

Scarlett also appeared as if from nowhere during the final seconds of the 2009 Grand Final to famously save the day with his toe poke to Gary Ablett Junior.

Scarlett materialising as if from nowhere to toe poke the ball in the dying minutes of the 2009 Grand Final via
A close up view of Scarlett's toe poke via

I'll never forget the image of Scarlett escorting the little champ as he sprinted through the middle of the MCG before launching the kick that would eventually lead to Chapman kicking the winning goal. Scarlett has also been credited with backing the tweaks to the Cats playing style that eventually contributed to another premiership in 2011.

My three favourite things about Scarlett

Scarlett recently retired as the greatest fullback in history and an all-time great of the Geelong Football Club. Besides being a supremely awesome player, what made Scarlett stand apart from the average footy player of the last decade? For me it was three things: his loyalty, his curmugeonly streak, and the fact that he was not a media darling.

1. His loyalty

In 1999, the Cats were stuffed. Our coach left and so did our captain. It turned out that the club had been run like a small African country for the best part of the preceding decade. We were in a lot of debt - a lot of debt. I was sincerely worried about the club's future.

Scarlett hung around. Watching him on the field, I got the feeling that here was a person who had intense loyalty, if you earnt his trust. I liked that as Scarlett became a bigger and bigger star, he was never embroiled in protracted contract sagas with the club.

2. His curmugeonly streak

During the summer of 2006 the Cats embarked on an intensive leadership programme. A component of this programme included players sittng in the centre of a circle and facing some hard truths from their teammates. The exact wording doesn't spring immediately to mind, but I've read that Scarlett summed up his own experience being grilled by his teamates along these lines:

"It was tough being told by your teammates how much of a wanker I could be."

Scarlett sure appeared curmugeonly on the field. I liked that he was a real character. He probably didn't intend to be portrayed in that manner, although I doubt if he cared either way, but in an era of automatrons (both in politics and in sports) his curmugeonly streak was refreshing. Besides, you can't help but like a player who freely admits to intending to whack Hayden Ballantyne.

3. He was who he was

If Paul Keating could describe Peter Costello as "being all tip and no iceberg", then I would describe Matthew Scarlett as being all iceberg.

I found it refreshing that Scarlett was a footy player that played footy. Nothing else. He wasn't a media darling. He didn't go on footy shows to accept a good natured ribbing from commentators. He didn't go in for the latest, trendiest hair style.

Thinking about it, I liked the fact that I barely knew about him as a person. For me it portrayed a human being with substance.

From one person who feels like he shoud be retiring to another who actually is: I wish Scarlett all the best. He'll be missed.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Misplaced shower at Bathers Beach

Some good news, not that it can be corroborated by anything published on the City’s website, but I hear that they’re moving the misplaced shower at Bathers Beach.

At hearing the news, my wife was saddened.

Upon initially seeing the shower, marooned on its sandy peninsula, she refused to believe that its location could be the result of indifference or stupidity. Instead she decided that it was evidence there was a secret anarchist working at the City, and that the shower was his or her small revolutionary act designed to catalyse the demise of local government.

"But Swaney, someone signed off on this! Someone looked at the little drawing of a shower at the beach sitting in the middle of a pile of sand, thought about it carefully, and then said ok!"

She still tries to protest whenever I suggest an alternative theory. Then she chuckles to herself, and concludes that the first degree abrasions on her ankles from rubbing off wet sand are well worth it for the knowledge that we live in a place where the bureaucrats are genuinely interesting.
Thanks to fellow Freo blogger Graham Morgan (at Freo Ramble) for letting me use his photo and also steal his great line for the caption - "Another classic, a shower on the sand."

Another classic, a shower on the sand via

Friday, 21 September 2012

Rooftop gardens

Second only to light rail, rooftop gardens rank high on my list of town planning obsessions. During my SimCity years, if there was an option to include rooftop gardens in my cities, I would have sourced the cheat code and run rampant.
A couple of years ago, I remember almost falling of my chair when I discovered that Vancouver had had the common sense to put a rooftop garden on their brand new convention centre. My wife wishes that I had never heard of Vancouver. Everytime I drive past our sorry excuse of a convention centre, I launch into an diatribe about how kick ass it would have been if they had put a rooftop garden on that darn building.
Vancouver Convention Centre rooftop garden via

Architizer recently published a slideshow of awesome rooftop gardens. Needless to say, I brewed myself a strong cup of tea and settled back to enjoy the greenery. I enjoyed myself so much I thought that Freo Doctor blog readers would also enjoy checking them out.
Click here to check out these deluctible rooftop gardens. Enjoy!
It would be great to see rooftop gardens feature as part of the Kings Square redevelopment and as part of redevelopment facilitated by Scheme Amendment 49.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Five ideas for Freo from...New York

Dean Cracknell is the author of this post. He is a Freo devotee dedicated to creating interesting, diverse places for people and is a guest contributor to The Fremantle Doctor blog. 

Dean can be followed on Twitter by checking out: @city_pragmatist

The hustle and bustle of New York’s streets is legendary. Cars, taxis and pedestrians compete for the limited space on the crowded streets.

The Big Apple is reimagining the way people use its public spaces. New York is shifting its thinking from roads for cars to streets for people. City Hall is redesigning streets to include mini parks, street vendors, moveable seating, potted plants, safe pedestrian crossings and bicycle lanes to attract more people. The program has been very successful and is being copied around the world.

The picture above shows the transformation of Madison Square on 5th Avenue, which used to be a confusing, traffic-choked roadway. If you want to find out how the streetscape revolution was done, this 5 minute video clip is excellent.

As I was walking around Manhattan last year, I started thinking about William H. Whyte’s famous observation that:

“It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.”

Whyte noted that people vote with their feet – they use spaces that are interesting, safe and comfortable. The opposite also applies.

So, what can Freo learn from New York? Here are some ideas (also see the picture above) -

1. Provide more moveable seats

Firstly, well done to the City of Freo for including moveable seats as part of its placemaking efforts for Kings Square. I think it has been a real success. Why?

Seats are an invitation for people to stay in a place. A place can be created just by adding simple things like comfortable seats, especially where people can watch other people. A space becomes more meaningful when moveable chairs are available. The moveable chairs provide people with an option to arrange the chairs to suit their situation or mood. 

The success of the Kings Square trial suggests that moveable seats could also be provided in other places.

2. Encourage street vendors

People like food and drinks.

Encouraging street vendors is another invitation for people to use and stay in a space. Street vendors add life and interest to the street and are also another pair of eyes to monitor what’s going on around them. The assortment of street vendors at the back of this photo adds a market-like feel to what used to be a busy roadway.

3. Cars still have their place

The obvious objection to the streetscape revolution is that it would cause traffic chaos. But, as they explain in the Streetfilms video, traffic is still flowing down 5th Avenue. Let’s be blunt, Fremantle doesn’t have a traffic problem when compared with New York, Toronto, London, San Francisco or other major cities where these ideas have been introduced. Cars are important and should still have the right to use the street. But cars should use the street on people’s terms in our town centres, not the other way around as it is currently.

4. It is difficult to design a space that won’t attract people

We need to provide a range of choices for people. Sitting next to two lanes of vehicle traffic isn’t the preference of some people. But, they do it here on 5th Avenue. Why?

It feels welcoming and has a range of people-watching opportunities. It also looks as though someone gives a damn about the street. It looks cared for. The large potted plants and huge rocks provide a barrier between the people and cars and make it feel safe. People use the new public spaces even though the popular Madison Square Garden is just to the right of the picture. Parks are great, but don’t provide the alternative attractions that a street can provide – people, movement and colour.

5. More greenery

Greenery softens a place and makes it feel more welcoming. Human evolution has hard-wired us to appreciate green spaces. This street has 3 types – street trees, garden beds and large-potted plants. The more greenery the better!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Some more cool quotes about cities

A couple of months ago now, I shared some of my favourite quotes about cities. My post featured quotes by William H. Whyte, Richard Florida, Jane Jacobs and Jan Gehl. Since then, I've come across some more cool quotes about cities. I thought I'd share three more of my favourites:

Bill Bryson on getting our priorities for cities right:

“I have nothing  against novelty in buildings – I am quite taken with the glass pyramid at the Louvre and those buildings at La Defense that have the huge holes in the middle – but I just hate the way architects and city planners and everyone else responsible for urban life seems to have lost sight of what cities are for.

They are for people.

That seems obvious enough, but for half a century we have been building cities that are for almost anything else: for cars, for businesses, for developers, for people with money and bold visions who refuse to see cities from ground level, as places in which people must live and function and get around. Why should I have to walk through a damp tunnel and negotiate two sets of stairs to get across a busy street? Why should cars be given priority over me? How can we be so rich and so stupid at the same time?”

I really like this quote from one of my favourite writers, which is taken from his book 'Neither Here Nor There'. Bryson makes a very insightful point and it’s a salient one for the future of Freo.

I also believe that it's a particularly timely reminder for Fremantle's Councillors, who seem to be happy to saddle us with the heritage-friendly, people-unfriendly dustbowl at Bathers Beach. 

Sarah Goodyear on the benefits of multigenerational cities:

“So to me, at least, it makes all the sense in the world to raise a kid in the city. In the end, of course, it’s a profoundly personal choice, and it’s obviously not the right decision for every family. One thing is clear, though: The city benefits as much from having children as children do from having the city.

A city that is filled with children is a happier, more lively place than one that isn’t. More than that, it’s a place that is clearly headed toward the future, not stagnating in the past. A city that can keep its children engaged and stimulated is building a resource that will pay off big-time in years to come.”

I enjoy Sarah Goodyear's articles on Atlantic Cities and I'm definitely buying what she is selling in her 'Multigenerational Communities or Bust' article. A city that provides a range of people young or old, singles or families with options, be it for getting around, housing or just for kicking back and enjoying can only be a good one.

Hubert H. Humphrey on planning for active, vibrant cities:

“We are in danger of making our cities places where business goes on but where life, in its real sense, is lost.”

Thanks to Mum and Dad's inclination to give me an additional reason to stand out in the Karratha playground besides being tall, foreign and very skinny, I grew up a bit of a baseball nut. 1991 was a good year, as one of our family friends in Perth had taped the World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves. They mailed the video up to us in Karratha for our viewing pleasure. It was a classic World Series. The Twins (who I went for because the Braves had knocked out one of my teams the Pittsburgh Pirates) eventually won in seven drama filled games.

As a 12 year old, I was fascinated by the nomenclature of the Minnesota Twins home stadium - the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Being from a small country town in north-west Australia, I was already impressed with the fact that they played baseball in an indoor stadium, but the fact that they had given their stadium such a strong sounding name lifted my appreciation to new levels. Suffice it to say that the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome inspired many a strong named stadium for my Sim City games.

Humphrey's quote is more than likely from the 1950s and 1960s (he was an American politician during this time, being elected Vice President in 1964). Its context was during the period of American suburban expansion. I like Humphrey's quote because it is still relevant in 2012, especially for Freo.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Some old school tram maps

Regular Freo Doctor blog readers will appreciate my endearing love of all things light rail. My recent post showing the Popular Science Monthly cover page from 1925 inspired me to check out Perth's old school tram network.

I found two cool maps. The first one shows Perth's tram network in 1930. It mainly focuses on inner city Perth. The second map is one of Perth's tram network from the 1950s. 

Perth's tram network in 1930 via Google search

Perth's tram network from the 1950s via

The red lines show Perth's tram network. I'm impressed. 

On my search, I came across a cool blog about old Perth. The creator has posted some kick ass old photos of Perth (including Fremantle) and is well worth checking out. I've included it on my blogroll.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Chewing the fat with...the family guy

The family guy performs a juggling act being a dad, local author, fitness fanatic and town planner.

I don't move in particularly exalted circles, even for Perth, and I don't know many people who have accomplished something significant enough to put them in the public eye. The magnificent Village Kid, until his recent passing, would have topped the list, and he was a horse.

The one exception in my (otherwise sadly lacking in celebrity) friend group is Will Schaefer, who's garnered media attention for both his fiction writing and his lack of road sense.* His debut novel, 'The Wolf Letters’, is a fantastic, pacey historical thriller/adventure novel set in 1930s England and medieval Germany, which has deservedly netted him recommendations from fellow celebs such as Susannah Carr and a spread in Men's Health magazine. There's not much more I can say, except that you should read it immediately and here's the link for the e-book.

(I raced through the book in a single sitting on a long-haul flight, and enjoyed it so much that I asked my wife to take a photo of me reading the book for Will (to use in publicity shots, future Men's Health spreads, etc, you understand). My wife, being my wife, neglected to mention that the airline seat had made my shirt gape in such a way that I was revealing a hefty slab of side-boob. I wondered at the time why she a) cackled to herself as she took the photo and b) didn’t show me the photo. Setting aside the fact that there is a R rated photo of me floating around, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Will has a particular talent for cool chase scenes and in making sure the action comes thick and fast.)

Today Will and I are on one of our bro-dates. We’re having one of our half yearly summits where we catch up and celebrate our successes: on his part, having his first novel published and then sell out, plus a new gig as a strategic planner; me, making it a year into blogging without any defamation suits. This time we’ve decided to check out the sumptuous and exotic sounding food at Lapa Brazilian BBQ in Subiaco.

Quick aside

Here is an insight into how the first part of the day went:

Will wakes up and does 1067 push ups and chin ups listening to ‘Eye of the Tiger’.

Will does some skipping. Daughters Lucy and Maya alternate sitting on his shoulders, swapping every 5 minutes. They each get two turns.

Will sits down for a hearty breakfast of 6 sausages, 5 hashbrowns, 12 eggs (a combo of fried, poached and scrambled), baked beans (two cans if wanting to clear the system) and a pack of old school English smoked bacon; crispy style.

Play with the kiddies. Generally involves impersonating male and female cartoon characters, having kiddies jump on belly, impersonating more cartoon characters.

Quick massage for wife (if requested).

Change into super sexy pink lycra cycle pants and equally sexy tight fitting (three sizes too small) cycle top that emphasise massively pumped, granite figure.

Mirror time.

Hop on the BMX and wheelie down the street on the way to Swaney’s joint. Wave to wife.

Stops off at the local deli for a couple of cheese sausages and a sausage roll (you never know).

Arrive at Swaney’s joint. A bit whiffy. Asks for a quick shower. Gets knocked back.

Walk down to Freo train station. Swaney smelling really good. Will is a bit stinky.

Arrive Subiaco. Swaney sits with crisply dressed and nice smelling Freo businessmen and Will hangs out with (to be honest, 'attracts') Freo’s more “interesting” types.

Will arrives back in Subiaco. He missed the stop off because he was too busy conversing with Freo locals and had to get off at West Leederville. Probably showing off about running from Freo to Perth dressed up as a medieval monk.


Power saluting, lots of power saluting. Another coffee.

Tour of Subiaco. Swaney gets “cramp” 20 metres in and returns to the cafĂ© complaining of “sweating up” and not wanting to smell like Will. Will goes on by himself.

Will returns. Swaney having drunk another 15 coffees is having a heated argument with his alter egos, the Fremantle Doctor and Captain Translator. Will sits in the corner pretending not to know his overexcited and very animated nice smelling friend with a hint of coffee breath.

Will smacks his pal whilst yelling “snap out of it Swaney”. Smacks his pal again and once more for good effect…and then one more time (for not letting him have a shower).

Presentation of new plans and consideration of different strategies. More power saluting.

Will and Swaney arrive at Brazilian restaurant to stuff themselves senseless.

Swaney does first prank phone call of his wife for the afternoon.

Back to the business at hand

Will and I enjoyed a merry afternoon of chowing down on some awesome food, power saluting and shooting the breeze about Freo. A big part of Will’s successes revolved around his running stunts to promote his book. They even led to an article on the back page of Men’s Health magazine.

We couldn’t avoid chatting about Freo and in between chomping away on some succulent and tender beef we moved onto this delicate topic. Will, who takes some time to collect his thoughts about what Freo means to him (and to knock off another piece of beautifully cooked morsel of chicken) begins with:

"The place is like a smorgasbord of potential good times. Just help yourself! Sure, you can shop or have a meal, just like you can in the city or at Hillarys, but you can also visit galleries, beaches, bars of all shapes and sizes, cinemas, quiet side streets with hundred-year-old cottages; there are museums, bookshops, lovely old civic buildings, grand residences perched on the hills, a famous Arts Centre, footy ovals, even a university and thriving harbours full of ships. Culture flourishes here. The number of good bands/musos around Fremantle is astonishing. Recently I read that Fremantle has the one of highest concentrations of artists in the entire country. Nowhere else in the state can boast of having anywhere near as much in the one place."

Gathering his thoughts, a slight grimace emerges on his face and I begin to guess where he is headed.

"Of course, you can make a case for Fremantle being a bit of an underperformer right now, despite the bajillions of good things it’s got going for it. I sympathise to some degree. Wouldn’t it be so much better if the place were several shades safer, especially at night? People who step off the train are greeted with a mess of buses and snarling cars. Businesses look like they’re having a tough time. There are vacant shops all over the place, which, like it or not, makes Fremantle feel like a wheatbelt town that’s long past its best days."

He doesn't linger too long on the negatives before he begins moving back to what he believes can be done to help Freo.

"But it’s people that are players in our memories and our futures.  Places are just the stage. And while the stage needs much work to bring it to its full potential – for example some extra greenery; some free, family-friendly, Council sponsored activities to brighten up the tired squares; and how about a major facelift to the train station to town hall route that guides visitors into the heart of town – the people you can meet in Freo are amazing. That’s why Fremantle means a lot to me and my family."

It's time for a little dessert and before we know it we’ve moved onto the topic of Will’s next promotional event for his book and the latest favourite cartoon character of his two young daughters.


To find out more and to enjoy reading about his different stunts check out his website.
* Whilst holidaying in Germany with his wife's family, Will enjoyed a brief moment of notoriety as 'Autobahn Mann', when he found himself asked by several policemen to please stop cycling on the autobahn. Unluckily for both Will and Australia's international reputation as sophisticated cosmopolitans, there was a news crew close by who captured the whole thing on camera, and the German media had a happy twenty four hours chuckling into their beer steins. This is the sort of thing that seems to happen routinely to Will; I'm hoping that in between the next few installments of The Wolf Letters, he might write a few of them down for The Fremantle Doctor.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Freo Doctor Blog celebrates first birthday!

A busy couple of weeks culminated on Sunday afternoon with a French inspired Fathers Day lunch – roast chicken, gratin dauphinois, ratatouille and delicious cheese plate – and an afternoon wrestling session with my four year old nephew Byron (formerly known as Bubba).

I find wrestling with Byron really clears the mind. It could be to do with Byron pile driving my stomach with his rear end, and then bouncing off and lodging his head under my chin and going dead weight. So, it wasn’t until my post-lunch wrestling session with Byron that it struck me that the old blog has been around for a year. (Maybe I was thinking that there is no way he would be kicking my backside this easily as a three year old.)

Reflecting on the past year of blogging, I don’t feel that I hit my straps until my Three Singing Butchers post – it remains my favourite. I’ve developed a soft spot for Thwaites and Wilberforce and thoroughly enjoyed writing about Byron’s adventures in Freo. The musings of the Cool Melbourne Guy (aka Dean ‘Crackers’ Cracknell) has also been a highlight. Finally, I couldn’t not mention my posts describing the delights of Byron’s backyard and documenting the placemaking lessons I learnt from our weiros, Spiro and Pearl.

It’s been an interesting and enjoyable first year of blogging. Thanks to all Freo Doctor Blog readers for their support over the past 12 months.