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Getting no freebies made Fremantle stronger

Fremantle players celebrate the teams' first AFL win after the 1995 round three AFL match between the Fitzroy Lions and the Fremantle Dockers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Early success was hard earned and much enjoyed at Fremantle
We had to pull ourselves up and stand on our own two feet without support
Fremantle president Steve Harris
FREMANTLE president Steve Harris believes if the Dockers had their time again, and had the option of greater draft and financial assistance from the AFL in their inception in 1994, they wouldn't have taken it.

Speaking at the launch of Les Everett's new book Fremantle Dockers: An Illustrated History, which was commissioned by Fremantle to tell the story of the club in the year of its 20th anniversary, Harris said the fabric of the club was built on the initial hard times.

"What struck me most when I read it was the difference between the club now and 20 years ago, and compared to some of the newer clubs in the AFL, the assistance and support they've had from the AFL and the clubs in the AFL to get off the ground," Harris said.  

"I certainly think why the newer clubs have had the assistance and support is because of the lessons learned out of Fremantle."

The Dockers achieved initial playing success in their first three seasons, winning eight, seven and 10 games respectively between 1995 and 1997. But the club regressed in its on field performance, culminating in a disastrous 2001 season where it won just two games.

It took until 2003 to play finals and until 2013 to make a Grand Final, but Harris said he would not change a thing.

"I think one of the things that's made Fremantle the club that it is today, and makes the supporters and members and the players and people that work here resilient and strong, is the history of the club and the way we started," Harris said.

"We had to pull ourselves up and stand on our own two feet without support, and that hardship has helped define the personality of who we are today."

Ben Allan, the club's inaugural captain, former caretaker coach and now a club director, said the early days were some of his best experiences in football, sitting alongside the premiership he achieved with Hawthorn in 1991.

"When you look at the conditions in the early pages of Les' book in black and white, and when you do compare them to GWS and Gold Coast, it's even more remarkable that a group of really young WAFL guys with a sprinkling of guys that had been in the AFL for a little bit, came together and had a pretty big impact," Allan said.

"It was exciting times and that's part of the reason why having those early wins was one of my proudest footy playing memories.

"I think those tough starts, there was a resilience through the coaching staff and the administration and the playing group and I think that's transferred to the Purple Army. And I think when you see the Purple Army out there today watching our team run around, I think most of our members were around then and remember how tough it was early. I think we're all better off for it."