On 1 April, 1995, captain Ben Allan led the Fremantle Dockers out onto the MCG to play Richmond in the club’s first official AFL game.
This Saturday, 18 August at Patersons Stadium, against the same opponent, the club reaches a significant milestone in its history when it plays its 400th official match.
Among our 164 wins was the first Derby success over the West Coast Eagles in round 16, 1999.
A first appearance in the finals came in 2003, when a young Freo side was defeated by a James Hird inspired Essendon at Subiaco Oval.
After a top four finish in 2006, club great Peter Bell captained the side to its first win in a final with victory over Melbourne in front of a joyous Subiaco Oval crowd.
A week later, Freo fell short of an historic berth in the AFL Grand Final when the Sydney Swans beat it in a Preliminary Final at ANZ Stadium in what still stands as a record crowd of 61,373 for games involving Fremantle.
Fremantle’s greatest player, Matthew Pavlich, qualifies for AFL Life Membership this Saturday when he runs out for his 300th official game against Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.
Ironically, he made his AFL debut against the Demons in round 5, 2000, after being drafted from South Australian club Woodville-West Torrens.
Pavlich has played 270 premiership games, 25 pre-season games, one state of origin game and three International rules matches.
The Freo legend has won a peerless six Doig Medals and is enjoying a brilliant run of form up forward this season.
He becomes the first person in the club’s history to reach AFL Life Membership with his on-field service completed entirely with Fremantle.
Pavlich said it was a big thrill to qualify for AFL Life Membership.
As his 300th official match as a player and coach approaches, Ross Lyon says it’s the love for the game that has kept him involved in the system for so long.
This Saturday against Collingwood at the MCG, the Fremantle senior coach qualifies for AFL Life Membership for a career comprising 129 home and away matches as a player for Fitzroy and the Brisbane Bears, 17 pre-season matches as a player for Fitzroy, one State of Origin match, 133 premiership and 19 pre-season matches as a coach for St Kilda and Fremantle.
“Fundamentally, if you don’t love football you couldn’t work in a manner to keep you involved,” Lyon said.
“It’s something you have to work hard every day to be a part of and I’m really respectful and grateful of the opportunities the game has given me.”
Lyon said he had never taken his position in the game for granted and felt “privileged” to have an honour such as AFL Life Membership bestowed upon him.
Fremantle defender Luke McPharlin was initially hesitant about pursuing an AFL career, and he has some persistent recruiters to thank for what will become a 200-game career on Saturday night.
McPharlin, who will enter his milestone game against Essendon at Patersons Stadium in close to career best form, reflected this week on his recruitment by Hawthorn almost 13 years ago.
There are tales of “skulduggery” around the 1999 National Draft, with suggestions the Hawks hid the talented youngster from view in the lead-up.
But the 30-year-old said that was not the case, and he had simply been “unorganised” in his preparation for a career in the AFL.
“I wasn’t playing any footy at district level or state level, I was just playing for my high school and a few talent scouts had encouraged me to play a single colts game so that I could be eligible to nominate for the draft,” McPharlin said.
Originally an East Fremantle boy, Luke McPharlin was recruited by Hawthorn as the 10th overall pick in the 1999 AFL Draft – a draft that saw the Fremantle Dockers select fellow Shark Paul Hasleby with the second pick and Matthew Pavlich with the fourth.
McPharlin debuted at Football Park in round 5, 2000, where he had just two disposals but kicked a goal in a big Hawthorn win.
After two injury interrupted seasons, which saw him manage 12 games with the Hawks, McPharlin was traded to Freo in the 2001 National Draft for picks 1, 20 and 36.
Back home at the port club, a 21-year-old McPharlin had to wait until round 12, 2002, to play his first game as a Freo Docker because of injury.
He had nine disposals and five marks in a memorable 11-point win over Collingwood.
After initially playing as a defender at Freo, McPharlin was swung into attack in 2005 and finished with 34 goals, including the Mark of the Year for a spectacular grab against the West Coast Eagles in round 3.
Fremantle star David Mundy will become eligible for Life Membership of the club when he runs out for his 150th AFL game this Saturday at Patersons Stadium against Adelaide.
The 26-year-old midfielder said the milestone was an achievement he was honoured to reach.
“It’s a big accolade,” he said.
“All footballers say milestones are something you reflect back on at the end of your days and be really proud of.
“I’m proud to have played my whole career to date at Fremantle.”
After playing 124 consecutive games since his debut in 2005, Mundy missed a match in round 17, 2010 because of food poisoning.
Injuries in 2011 also hampered his progress to 150 games.
“I was looking at it last year, if I had played all the games I would have got to 150,” he said.
Paul Duffield, who is set to play his 100th AFL game this Saturday, credits a full pre-season and a settled role for his solid form in 2012.
The 27-year-old said reaching the 100-game milestone was an achievement he was very pleased with.
“When you’re growing up, to play one game of football is a dream come true,” he said.
“So to come off the rookie list and take two or three years to work my way into playing some games of AFL football, and get my name on the locker, is something I’m really, really proud of.
“I’ll look back on it when I’m finished and be really proud of that achievement.”
Duffield admitted that a compromised pre-season last year left him doubting his own abilities as the game of AFL picked up a level in 2011.
“I didn’t have such a great pre-season last year, and in my mind I wasn’t able to compete to the level I wanted to,” he said.
Fremantle looms large as the new club of choice for out-of-contract Brisbane forward Mitch Clark.
Provided a suitable trade is orchestrated between the two clubs next month, Clark is poised to join the Dockers in a lucrative, multi-year contract.
But his future will become clearer within the next fortnight when he is expected to inform the Lions of his plans, after six seasons in Brisbane.
The Dockers, who have flat out rejected recruiting Brendan Fevola but are in need of a quality key forward, have expressed a keen interest in Clark for the second year in a row.
Clark seriously contemplated a move home to Western Australia last year to join Fremantle, if the Lions’ stretched salary cap continued to be an issue.
The Dockers have room in their salary cap to accommodate Clark, whose management is seeking remuneration of more than $500,000 a season in his next deal.
Veteran Fremantle defender Antoni Grover will play his 200th AFL match against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
Grover will become the fifth player to reach the milestone for Fremantle – following Shane Parker, Shaun McManus, Paul Hasleby and Matthew Pavlich – and the first Indigenous player to notch 200 games in the club’s 17 seasons.
The 31-year-old said his passion and competitive nature had allowed him to achieve longevity in the game after being recruited as a rookie in 1999.
“I never like to be beaten but I like to give my all for the club and for me personally,” he said. “I guess that’s something that comes from within.
“I don’t enjoy losing, so the last month hasn’t been as enjoyable, but I enjoy coming down to the club and walking through the doors every day. That’s the main thing.”
Freo Docker Luke McPharlin has been inducted into the WA 200 Club for player, coach and umpiring categories at an official function on Wednesday night 3 August.
The other inductees included current WAFL players Steven Armstrong, Brent LeCras and Alistair Pickett, retired Subiaco premiership player Marc Webb, former WAFL player and coach Ian McCulloch and WAFL and AFL umpire Todd Keating.
The new inductees take the WA 200 Club total to over 40 umpires and more than 350 players and coaches who have participated in a minimum of 200 senior games in senior Australian state football league competitions.
Each 2011 inductee was presented with a framed certificate and official 200 Club tie on the night.
East Fremantle 2002-2003 6 games
Hawthorn 2000-2001 12 games
Fremantle 2002-2011 172 games
Box Hill Hawks (VFL) 2000-2001 14 games
Total 204 senior games