This piece was originally published on April 28, 2017.
Rivalries are rife throughout the AFL — think Carlton, Essendon, Collingwood and Richmond.
But there are few bigger than the Western Derby between Fremantle and West Coast.
There have been some fiery encounters between the pair and none more so than the adequately termed ‘Demolition Derby’ in Round 21, 2000.
Each week, Aflplayers.com.au will bring to light the perspective of someone at the heart of a memorable moment from a game played between two sides before their upcoming clash.
Two weeks before the conclusion of the 2000 home and away season the Eagles and Dockers were struggling.
Sitting in the middle of the bottom eight, both sides had amassed only seven victories from 20 games and a finals berth was out of reach.
But the build-up to Derby number 12 was a different one, with West Coast defender Daniel Metropolis recalling words out of Fremantle were alluding to something big following a 117-point smashing by the Eagles earlier in the year.
“There was almost a line drawn in the sand during the week with what was coming out of the Fremantle camp — they were saying it was time to stand up,” Metropolis told Aflplayers.com.au.
“I think Clive Waterhouse was interviewed and he said blood was going to be spilled, so I think their mindset was enough is enough and we were ready for that but what actually panned out was different to what we expected.”
The Dockers had previously won only one of 10 matches between the two sides and despite being down by 23 and 32 points at quarter and half time, Fremantle’s intent had changed since their earlier encounter.
“They were a different side mentally, I can’t remember the personnel but the build-up felt like the Derby was their Grand Final and if that meant standing up and letting a few go then so be it. It was on before the first bounce with Michael Gardiner and Matthew Pavlich having a go,” Metropolis said.
Not long into the game, the melee that would remain in footy fans’ memories for years to come occurred, with four players being suspended for 15 matches in total afterwards.
“Ashley Prescott and I dived on the ground and were fighting for the ball and a few guys were standing over us and it just started happening,” Metropolis added.
“So we stood up and ran back to our positions in the other direction. Sure enough, we turn around and it was on. It was quite a sight to see full-on punches being thrown during a game of footy it just didn’t happen very often.
“It can be quite daunting when you’re playing a game against blokes who are prepared to let a few go but I’m glad I didn’t get involved in any of the melees.
“Before having a really good think about it, I couldn’t remember how close the game actually was — I, like everyone else, just remember the fights and Phil Read coming off the ground looking like he’d done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.
“Crowds love that stuff. But when we looked at it afterwards, we didn’t think it was that flash.”
Now part of West Australian footy folklore, the Demolition Derby was also an incredible contest.
Other than the quality of football and on-field brawls, the match also included a heavy clash of bodies between a leading Phillip Matera and umpire Steven Hanley, who collided while the ball was in play.
After bringing the margin back to three goals at three-quarter time, the Dockers kicked six goals to three in the final term to skip ahead by two points, before a bouncing ball evaded a loose Darren Glass in the forward pocket and hit the post to separate the sides by a single point and the siren sounded not long after to signal an historic Fremantle victory.
“Games go in ebbs and flows and Fremantle had certainly improved their quality of football from the last time we played them. You could see a steel in Fremantle that day, they were never going to give up.
“It wasn’t just the brawl that helped them improve. Their intent was different, they tackled hard and everything had a harder edge to it from them. We didn’t relax or anything like that but they took their opportunities to fight their way back.
“I got touched up by Clive Waterhouse that day, he was on fire, and he certainly turned the game for them. It could have gone either way right at the end and they fell over the line by a point and it was almost a defining moment for Fremantle and their history.
“The Derby matches had been pretty one-sided up until then and they certainly made a statement.”
Kicking seven goals in a best-on-ground effort, former number one draft pick Clive Waterhouse put in a career-best performance.
Matching up against the enigmatic forward, Metropolis remembers a few moments where Waterhouse stamped his authority on the game.
“I played on Clive Waterhouse throughout parts of the game. He kicked a few on me and he was in rare form. He was one of the hardest guys to match up on because he was just so fast.
“Earlier in the year when we had a good win, I played well on him but he showed what a match-winner he could be that day. All opponents are tough but he had such incredible leg speed.
“There was a passage of play where we were one out at centre half-forward and I was a bit late with a spoil over the top and he looked at me and took off. I remember him quickly glancing at me and turning the jets on — I knew I was gone.
“He ended up kicking the goal and turned and said something to me along the lines of ‘have a look at that.’ When you let an opponent who’s that fast get behind you, it’s an almighty mistake.
“To top it off, I did a hamstring chasing Clive with a few minutes to go, so I came off the ground. It was the second-last game for the year for us and it ended up being my last game for West Coast.”
Despite the imminent suspensions, the 12th Derby was a success for the Dockers, although both teams failed the following week to finish off the 2000 season.
“It was a sobering moment after the game because I knew my season was over. It was a disappointing year for us, we started the year so well but just ran out of gas by the end,” Metropolis said.
“It was a season of lost opportunities for the Eagles — it was the first time we’d missed the finals for a decade.
“After the match, Ken Judge was disappointed that we lost but he wasn’t angry — it was one of the few times where he wasn’t angry with us and he was a fairly fiery coach — but he said he was proud of the way we handled ourselves that day.”