Contagious, emotional, loud: Inside the Wanderers’ march to Sydney derby

It’s 6:15pm on Saturday at The Crown on Church Street, Parramatta’s busiest strip of restaurants, bars and cafes.

For Western Sydney Wanderers fans, it’s time to march to Bankwest Stadium ahead of the first Sydney derby against fierce rivals Sydney FC.

The cross-city rivals have not squared off at the Wanderers spiritual Parramatta home since January 2016.

It is why this march toward Bankwest Stadium, one of the most important pre-game rituals for the club’s active support group, the Red and Black Bloc, carried special significance for lifelong Wanderers fan Sarah Hutchinson.

“This was probably the most emotional one,” said Hutchinson, who cannot count how many times she has made the 750-metre charge to the stadium.

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“And the most memorable. It just had that feeling and so many things came together because of it. The energy there was contagious,” Hutchinson told www.aleague.com.au.

While Hutchinson is a veteran of the Wanderers’ pre-game march, her friend, Lauren Dias, was in attendance for the very first time.

She could feel something special brewing as police arrived outside The Crown to clear the street, as a fan began to converge from all angles.

“I didn’t know what I was walking into,” she said. “I thought there would be some chanting here and there but that’s not what happened.

“It’s very contagious. The atmosphere is what really took you because there were so many people around you, it felt very easy to join in, march and sing with them. I felt very welcome and felt like I had been going for ages.” 

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Western Sydney is one of Australia’s most ethnically diverse region, as a quick glance at the Red and Black Bloc shuffling down Church Street on matchday would demonstrate.

There also supporters of all ages making their way to the stadium amid a conclave of noise and colour.

“It was incredible. Every person was singing their absolute loudest. There was no one there that was embarrassed or half singing. Everyone was singing, everyone was smiling, everyone was enjoying it,” said Dias.

“At times everyone was jumping, so I started jumping because everyone was. You just get swept up in it. You are around people that are smiling and happy and just enjoying it. It was pretty emotional.

“It was something I thought I would see in Europe but I didn’t expect to see it here in Sydney.”

GET TICKETS as the Wanderers host Brisbane Roar at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.

Wanderers fans

 

Wanderers fans

 

Wanderers fans


The carnival atmosphere outside the stadium continued inside, with the match living up to the pre-match hype and the players putting on a show worthy of Derby fare.

The constant noise and sea of Red and Black certainly inspired the Wanderers players, who gave their fans the perfect gift with a 1-0 win over the fierce foes.

Mitchell Duke’s first-half goal – and some ferocious last-ditch defending – was enough to hand the Wanderers just their second win in the last 17 derbies in the Hyundai A-League.

GET TICKETS as the Wanderers host Brisbane Roar at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.

But it wasn’t just the result that left a mark for newcomer Dias.

“Genuinely there wasn’t a time in the game where you didn’t hear someone singing. Whether it was the Wanderers fans or the Sydney fans, or whether it was at the same time, the stadium was loud the whole time,” she said.

“That comes down to Bankwest Stadium being such a great place to watch football in. Being so close to the action was insane. Watching the game live was totally different to watching it on TV and then the noise level just added to the derby.

“The whole experience made me aware that the active supporter groups are out and alive. I felt very welcome that I can easily go back and do it as many times as I want and be a part of it. The atmosphere, the fans and the stadium just topped everything off for me and it was a great game as well.”

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And for Hutchinson, the joy of victory was significant also, and not just for the fact of beating the club’s main rivals.

“It just feels like we’re onto something. It’s a new stage. I feel like we’ve come full circle and it’s a new start,” she said.

“It’s almost like it’s a new slate for us, new fans, new team, new attitude on and off the pitch. It’s exciting to go every week because that excitement is back.

“It’s not like ‘ok we’re competitive’, it’s ‘we’re going to win the league.’ It’s that sort of felling and momentum. We’ve won against Sydney and Victory and those are the clubs you want to be winning against.”

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