One week on from a most unexpected premiership

Mister Football Roar Guru

By Mister Football, Mister Football is a Roar Guru

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    After a solid week of premiership celebrations, high fives, hearty hugs, back slapping, swapping texts with distant friends, celebratory drinks, special dinners with family, devouring everything written about the game and then some, what do Bulldogs fans do now?

    Speaking for myself, I don’t want the happiness to dip quite yet. I want to keep this high going for a little while longer, and having waited a lifetime like most ‘scraggers, who can blame me?

    I have watched my daily dose of grand final replays, and spent every last cent ordering everything I can find on the online Bulldogs Shop that is even remotely relevant to our premiership win.

    The only thing left was to write an article for The Roar, perhaps a series of articles. I might even be able to stretch this feeling out right across the off-season.

    Why not? Depending on the patience and goodwill of Roar editors, naturally.

    What occurs to me as I reflect on an incredible month of football, on the attainment of the impossible dream, on reaching the holy grail hitherto viewed as an impossibility, is that there are so many tales within this one mighty story.

    So I ask you, dear reader, to indulge me as I take you on a journey via a series of vignettes, exploring the many alley ways and side streets running through and around what was once considered unthinkable to the majority of Bulldog fans – winning the premiership.

    Let us begin our journey at the Footscray Cricket Ground, as it was officially known before the Footscray Football Club moved in circa 1883. The ground would become popularly known as the Western Oval, and then some 30 years ago it officially became the Whitten Oval (named after the original Mr Football).

    On a royal visit back in the 1970s, it was Prince Charles who first alerted us to the existence of another Foots Cray, in South East London, originally named after the Saxon landowner, Godwin Fot, and the River Cray.

    It’s worth noting this British link, because in its early days, the Footscray Football Club was very much a British club, those links still visible in the club colours and mascot (all features shared with another club with strong British links, Central Districts, in the SANFL).

    While the local area, and the Footscray Football Club itself, was always strongly working class, it’s important to note that it was originally a Protestant working class club, as opposed to a Catholic working class club, such as Collingwood, North Melbourne and Richmond.

    The Britishness of the whole area is also evident in the names of the early soccer clubs who played in the then British Football Association, such as Footscray Thistle and Imperials.

    I’ve given that little introduction because Footscray and surrounding suburbs has always been, and continues to be, a region which attracts the latest immigrant group due to its industry, and also because of its cheaper housing – although the latter is changing quickly.

    Footscray may have started off as a British club some 133 years ago, but it has had to adapt to changing demographics from the post-war period to the present day.

    bob-robert-murphy-easton-wood-western-bulldogs-afl-grand-final-2016

    The British first gave way to those newly arrived from Southern Europe: Italians, Greeks and Yugoslavs (predominantly from Serbia and Croatia). My family, as European immigrants, first moved into Footscray in the late 1960s, when remnants of British immigrants remained, many still working in the Footscray Ammunition Factory.

    The Serbian-backed Footscray JUST spent a few years in the NSL playing from its base on the Maribyrnong River, not too far out of central Footscray. JUST also used the Whitten Oval for one season as its home ground.

    Around 1980 a wave of Vietnamese migration commenced, and to this day, the centre of Footscray is most closely associated with this group, but further groups have continued to arrive in Footscray and nearby suburbs, including many from the Horn of Africa, the Indian sub-continent and China .

    In fact, just a short walk from the Whitten Oval, to the West Footscray shopping precinct on Barkly St, you will find no fewer than ten Indian restaurants and endless trendy cafes. This potpourri is attracting a new generation of young families into West Footscray.

    Times have changed, and the Footscray Football Club has had to keep up.

    I’m proud to say that we have managed to do precisely that, and I’m not just talking about our 40,000 members (which will surely rise to at least 45,000 next year).

    At the fan day last Sunday, with at least 20,000 sons and daughters of the ‘scray cramming into the Whitten Oval to get a glimpse of their football heroes and the holy grail, it was like a walk through Footscray’s immigrant past and present.

    The great-grandchildren of the British were there. The children and grandchildren of the continental Europeans were there. And more recent arrivals and their children, from Indo-China, from Africa, from India and from China – they were all there.

    Surely, this is the Footscray Football Club’s greatest achievement?

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    The Crowd Says (35)

    • Roar Guru

      October 10th 2016 @ 8:32am
      Redb said | October 10th 2016 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      Good article mate, well worth a trip down memory lane and congrats once again. There is a surreal feeling as the ‘Premier’ for fans you just don’t want it to end. Your head will be in the Bulldog clouds and long may it stay there.

      Very much agree on the benefit to the game of Australian football of a Bulldogs win.

      Before the prelim final against the Giants, I commented several times on the Roar on the gifts granted to the Giants list and how it would be a much better outcome for the AFL for the Western Bulldogs to win. Western Melbourne like Western Sydney is booming with people from all over the world and in fact Australia migrating to there.

      Being in Melbourne the media is already talking about the game, but new arrivals need a connection to a club and there is nothing like success to galvanise that support and rust people on. It is exactly what a club like the Bulldogs need and they deserve to capitalise on being the club for the west of Melbourne. It is great timing for the club and the game.

      The Giants time will come but they need more time to grow their support levels, 2016 will help. When or if they win a flag, hopefully they can have a similar effect on Western Sydney, but I doubt it will ever be important as what the Bulldogs in Western Melbourne have achieved and will continue to achieve.

      • Roar Guru

        October 10th 2016 @ 8:41am
        Mister Football said | October 10th 2016 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        Thanks Redb, much appreciated, all very good points.

      • October 10th 2016 @ 6:05pm
        duecer said | October 10th 2016 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

        Redb – I have oft commented that the decline in RL in England and especially France was due to the wave of immigrants arriving in the areas RL was strongest and having no interest in the game, instead giving a huge fillip to Soccer . The PI wave of immigration to QLD and NSW has negated this trend here, but has the booming international arrivals in the west of Melbourne helped AFL there or has it been a similar situation to England?

        • Roar Guru

          October 10th 2016 @ 10:29pm
          Mister Football said | October 10th 2016 @ 10:29pm | ! Report

          It’s a mixed story.

          Plenty of famous Italian names in the AFL for decades now (going as far back as Barassi in the 1930s and Silvagni in the 1960s, now 3 generations of Silvagnis), slightly fewer Greek and Yugoslav names (although the Fremantle teams in the WAFL have a great tradition of producing players of Croatian background), but still there are famous names such as Christou, Koutafides, Daicos, Sumich, Jakovich and Pavlich.

          Curiously, while Foschini played VFL footy as a 2nd generation Italo-Australian, his son played a couple of seasons with the Victory in the A-League.

          I’m not aware of any footballer making the grade who is of Vietnamese background (but that goes for both soccer and Australian Football).

          Some Sudanese are starting to come through, but their first love is likely to be soccer.

          Not too many making the grade of Indian and Chinese background, as in children of recent arrivals, (the bulldogs’ Lin Jong is Taiwanese/Timorese parentage).

          No doubt that the bulk of the newest migrant groups to Australia are likely to be more familiar with soccer than any other sport (broadly speaking).

          But – history shows that while their children are likely to play soccer, there are always plenty of exceptions, and those exceptions often excel at Australian Football.

          In the case of the Sudanese, they have wonderful physiques for Australian Football, we’d certainly love to see more of them making the grade.

          • October 10th 2016 @ 11:27pm
            duecer said | October 10th 2016 @ 11:27pm | ! Report

            Of course with it’s global reach, Soccer will always have the advantage, but as you say many Italian names, so your theory holds water, although that wave was many moons ago. The Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese wave may not influence the balance too much either way, except for Cricket. Will be interesting to see if the Sudanese make further inroads, for a while they were the fastest growing group of Australians born overseas. It sounds like AFL has not been dramatically impacted with the different waves of immigration, unlike RL in England.

          • October 11th 2016 @ 4:43pm
            Liam D said | October 11th 2016 @ 4:43pm | ! Report

            Danny Seow – Collingwood – Vietnamese

            • Roar Guru

              October 11th 2016 @ 6:55pm
              Mister Football said | October 11th 2016 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

              Hi Liam

              In fact Danny played for both the pies and dees. Seow sounds more like a Chinese name. This demons website says he was born in Singapore, and moved to Shanghai after his AFL career.

              http://demonwiki.org/tiki-index.php?page=Dannie%20Seow

              Interestingly, in between playing for the pies and dees, he actually tired out as a wide receiver for the Uni of North Carolina. Some of the info on this site contradicts what is in another pies site, but it doesn’t look like he was Vietnamese.

              This collingwood website says that his father was Chinese and his mother had a SCottish/Irish/Spanish background. This site actually says that Seow did play with the Uni of Virginia.

              http://forever.collingwoodfc.com.au/players/dannie-seow/

              Anyway, nice pick up nevertheless. I can recall the Coodabeens making a team of the best footballers of Chinese origin, with one famous name going all the way back to the early 1900s. I reckon Seow made that team (as did Sam Pang, which suggests they didn’t have big numbers to choose from).

    • October 10th 2016 @ 8:45am
      andyl12 said | October 10th 2016 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      If you’re a Bulldogs fan and you’re wondering what to do now then the answer is easy- spend the whole summer wearing your merchandise as often as possible and feeling that happiness that only comes after reaching the top. As a Hawthorn fan I can tell you that no matter what anyone says about you, it is OK to remind everyone that you’re the best and that they’re not.

      • October 10th 2016 @ 9:16am
        Gecko said | October 10th 2016 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        And when other fans become sick of you, like we’re sick of the Hawks, then you’ll know you’ve got a successful club!

      • Roar Guru

        October 10th 2016 @ 9:26am
        Mister Football said | October 10th 2016 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        andy

        waiting for a heap of new gear to come in (as in premiership related merchandise, geez, even that has a double meaning), in the meantime, I have a heap of old gear I’m wearing every day.

        About to go out with my favourite bulldogs hoodie on.

        • October 10th 2016 @ 9:28am
          andyl12 said | October 10th 2016 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          MF- Do it. And if you see anyone else in Bulldogs gear it’s compulsory to give them a high five. You will never get sick of it.

        • October 11th 2016 @ 12:51pm
          Penster said | October 11th 2016 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

          My Bulldogs rello’s look on sadly, perhaps a little jealously on Xmas Day as I unwrap the latest Hawks (often) premiership gear “Oh look a new 3-peat coffee mug, the DVD box set and a framed Weg poster, this lot is going STRAIGHT to the pool room!”, and give me 10 minutes to gloat, and describe the euphoria of being born with a brown and gold spoon in my mouth and yet another flag. This year, I’ll give them a full hour, for who knows, it might have to tide them over 50 years ……… and the box set!

          • Roar Guru

            October 11th 2016 @ 1:34pm
            Mister Football said | October 11th 2016 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

            Looks like you’ve had few good recent christmases!

          • Roar Guru

            October 11th 2016 @ 3:34pm
            Pumping Dougie said | October 11th 2016 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

            Maybe you could bring the 2016 GF DVD and suggest everyone watches it at your xmas catch-up. Or even the final against Hawthorn. That would make your Doggies relatives happy!

      • Roar Guru

        October 10th 2016 @ 10:40am
        Paul D said | October 10th 2016 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        It is a great feeling. Back in my NRL days I was a Wests Tigers fan and I remember going up to Townsville with a bunch of Sydney based supporters in 2006 for the grand final rematch against the Cowboys. We lost on a rainy night in Townsville but it was worth it for marching through Townsville CBD before the game bellowing “EVERYONE BOW DOWN THE PREMIERS ARE IN TOWN” – we were lucky to only have a few cans thrown at us I reckon, haha.

        Great article MF.

        • Roar Guru

          October 10th 2016 @ 11:12am
          Mister Football said | October 10th 2016 @ 11:12am | ! Report

          Thanks PD, great hearing about what others can recall from their premiership wins as well.

    • October 10th 2016 @ 8:52am
      Birdman said | October 10th 2016 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      I know it was 54 years between flags but it seems to me the 2016 premiership came a bit early in the development of this particular player group – a bit like the 2008 Hawks.

      Capt Obvious call but Bevo will need to keep them hungry if they are to maximise this early success.

      • Roar Guru

        October 10th 2016 @ 9:24am
        Mister Football said | October 10th 2016 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        Birdman

        It’s actually 62 years between drinks!

        On the keeping them hungry theme – it’s one I’m tossing around as one of my vignettes.

        • October 10th 2016 @ 9:31am
          Birdman said | October 10th 2016 @ 9:31am | ! Report

          thanks for the correction Mr F – I have to keep reminding myself that Aust Rules existed before 1961!

          • Roar Guru

            October 10th 2016 @ 9:37am
            Mister Football said | October 10th 2016 @ 9:37am | ! Report

            No probs, I think you might have had 54 in the back of your mind because that was the actual year of the last premiership. 🙂

          • October 10th 2016 @ 1:43pm
            Maxirius said | October 10th 2016 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

            God I hope that Hawthorn drop into a malaise now.

    • October 10th 2016 @ 11:44am
      BigAl said | October 10th 2016 @ 11:44am | ! Report

      Great piece Mister, and my advice to all doggie fans is to not stress too much about next year and just-savour-this-flag!!!
      The occasion won’t happen again for another 62 years – if ever ??

      Also, there may be another Footscray in England but I bet there isn’t a Footascray !!

      • Roar Guru

        October 10th 2016 @ 12:17pm
        Mister Football said | October 10th 2016 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

        BigAl

        I’m pretty confident most dogs fans would be thinking at this point: doesn’t matter what happens from here to eternity – we finally saw a flag!

    • Roar Guru

      October 10th 2016 @ 12:23pm
      Pumping Dougie said | October 10th 2016 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

      Interesting history lesson Mr F (or can we just call you Teddy?). Enjoyed the article – well done.

      I still can’t get used to being Premiers. We’ve had a lifetime of opposition supporters ridiculing us and now we’re apparently the confirmed best team in the league!

      The manner in which we achieved it – the injuries (we were still missing 4 to 5 of our best 22 in the GF team!), the run of form across the finals, the style of play, the collective performances of so many contributors – was amazing. Can’t be topped.

      Naturally, I hope we continue to challenge for the flag over the next few years and be a serious contender. But I hope we never become arrogant supporters. It’s okay to jest in fun at other clubs (particularly Carlton supporters, ever since their fearless leader’s John Elliott’s comments) but I don’t think an unexpectedly early premiership should convert us into arrogant supporters, after a lifetime of being the underdog. Beveridge is right, if we get to a stage where we’re envied, then we’re obviously going well, but we don’t need to be despised. It was great to have so much support during this season from neutrals.

      • Roar Guru

        October 10th 2016 @ 12:35pm
        Mister Football said | October 10th 2016 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

        PD

        There’s only one Teddy! By the way, when I was a small kid, must have been in his final year of coaching at Footscray in 1971, I actually got his autograph (don’t have it anymore). Also, he actually worked for a few years as a real estate agent, and if I’m to believe my parents, we bought our Footscray home off him (which is still in the family).

        Our route to a premiership is simply unbelievable, staggering, it still seems absolutely crazy.

        We are unlikely to become the sort of fans you describe, equally, never again can we expect the neutral support we got right through September – sorry mate – that can only ever happen once per lifetime!

    • October 10th 2016 @ 1:15pm
      mattyb said | October 10th 2016 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

      While the premiership victory still feels very strange I must say the whole finals series was very enjoyable and the Prelim victory standing out as much as the GF. I was still confident after 2014 and thought some of the things that happened very necessary. I was always confident we had some excellent young players and some are proving to be better than I could only dream. I’m really looking forward to the next couple of seasons to see how we go. I definitely think this was one of the greatest runs in history especially under such adversity which is cool and I always knew that when the flag came it would be out of the box and a bit different and special,we certainly did that.

      • Roar Guru

        October 10th 2016 @ 3:38pm
        Mister Football said | October 10th 2016 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

        matty

        The semi against Hawthorn was the big one for me, it was the first time in the finals series that all dogs fans had had a chance to congregate, and we did in huge numbers for that game. The joy expressed by fans that night was right up there in terms of a lifetime of following the dogs (and it was obviously surpassed the following week and then the week after).

        • October 10th 2016 @ 3:51pm
          mattyb said | October 10th 2016 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

          Yep,that was a big one to. Like I said all the finals hold a special place in so many ways. The Eagles win was obviously huge and gave us some real self belief. I thought the finals seemed to open up for us after that and with the fact we wouldn’t have to play Geelong. I was confident we could beat Hawthorn and we did. We played so well to and it was a great victory and will always be remembered fondly.

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