Another glorious failure for “nearly” Bulldogs

Andrew Sutherland Roar Guru

By Andrew Sutherland, Andrew Sutherland is a Roar Guru


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    The Bulldogs host Collingwood in this NAB Challenge match. (Slattery Media)

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    I’ve always been fond of the Western Bulldogs. Any team that changes its name to that of Napoleon Bonaparte’s great-nephew and loses six preliminary finals in a short space of time deserves some affection.

    In 1880 they chose to become the Prince Imperials, in honour of the exiled French Prince Louie, who was killed in the Zulu War.

    Then one hundred years later it was as if they’d decided to get as close to making a grand final as often as possible without actually reaching one: losing the preliminary finals of 1985, 1997, 1998, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

    The words “nearly” and “almost” haunt the modern history of the poor Dogs.

    I really do wish they had made it,  just once.

    After nearly making the finals in 1984, they nearly got to the Grand Final the following year before nearly making the finals again in 1986, and 1987. They nearly merged with another club, nearly relocated to another State, and nearly became extinct.

    It took the club several years to gain entry into the VFL, in 1925, despite a sustained period of domination in the VFA. However the lack of success and exposure throughout much of its history has meant it might as well have been still playing in the VFA.

    The only true western suburbs side in the elite competition, it was once defined by poor performances and rough and ready supporters in lumber jackets standing around the Western Oval, with the south westerlies whistling through the gaps in their teeth.

    The arrival of David Smorgon in 1996 and coach Terry Wallace in 1997 sent the club into its modern era. With the change of name from Footscray to Western Bulldogs it became a genuine force, finishing third in Wallace’s first year, and second the following season.

    Its supporter base appeared to take on a more middle class appearance – dressing neatly and politely waving little flags.

    With an attractive blend of skill and aggression they also became many people’s second team. The reason they weren’t many people’s first choice is because we value not having ulcers. After wrapping up the 1997 Preliminary Final, they proceeded to unwrap it and hand it to Adelaide – the eventual Premiers – with a couple of minutes remaining.

    The following year they again lost to the Crows in the Preliminary Final but at least they didn’t offer false hope, getting thrashed by eleven goals.

    Under Rodney Eade, the Bulldogs became the most attractive side in the competition. Their highly skilled running and handball game was exhilarating to watch. Ultimately, though, finals are won by key position players and mongrel, the two factors that were missing from the outfit.

    The heartbreaking result was three successive preliminary final losses.

    They are in a rebuilding phase now. For the game against Collingwood, this modestly supported club implored their supporters to turn out for what they referred to as “mission possible”. And staying true to tradition they nearly succeeded.

    It’s often said children are gentle, caring and innocent creatures. Don’t believe a word of it. They are the purest expression of animal savagery. They will do anything to win, and if that’s not possible, they will do everything they can to be identified with winners.

    With my kids requiring a club to follow and a football jumper for Auskick I suggested they choose the Bulldogs. When asked why, I replied that I like them. When they again asked why, I said: “Because they’re the team that nearly made it”.

    One chose Geelong, and the other Collingwood.

    When I saw Eade in the box on Friday I briefly forgot he was no longer the coach of the Dogs. He’s the Football and Coaching Strategist now with the Magpies and I just wonder if he felt a tinge of sadness orchestrating the downfall of the club he almost took to three grand finals.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • Roar Guru

      May 6th 2012 @ 9:24am
      The Cattery said | May 6th 2012 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      Mick Malthouse got his first coaching stint with the Footscray, and he’s the one that took footscray to the finals in 1985, at the time it was their first top 3 finish in 24 years.

      He has said often that he is forever thankful for Footscray giving him that break, but that never stopped him, first with the Eagles, and then with the pies, in recording percentage boosting wins whenever they came across his old team.

      Now that the Swans and Lions have broken their ducks in the last decade, Footscray remains the team with the longest drought of premierships in the AFL, going all the way back to 1954, and odds on to make that a 60 year drought, and most probably a 70 year drought.

      Next comes Melbourne in 1964 and then St Kilda in 1966.

      As is often said, someone has to lose.

      • May 6th 2012 @ 11:10pm
        amazonfan said | May 6th 2012 @ 11:10pm | ! Report

        I don’t think you should include Lions as a team to have broken its premiership drought (IMO Brisbane Lions is simply Brisbane Bears with a name change with no connection to Fitzroy).

    • Roar Guru

      May 6th 2012 @ 12:02pm
      Andrew Sutherland said | May 6th 2012 @ 12:02pm | ! Report


      I saw a photo recently of Malthouse with his ’80’s loafers and hessian belt singing the song with his Footscray boys.

    • May 6th 2012 @ 9:41pm
      Kevin said | May 6th 2012 @ 9:41pm | ! Report

      Andrew , nice piece, I’m in tears..

      Maybe someone can shed light on this,
      Apparantley Peter box belted a bloke in a wheel chair in the late 50’s , and we’ve been cursed ever since….

      Any thoughts,
      Go dogs

      • Roar Guru

        May 7th 2012 @ 11:55am
        Andrew Sutherland said | May 7th 2012 @ 11:55am | ! Report

        Kevin,I’m not sure about Peter Box but before Geelong’s rise to prominence I used to think wearing hoops was closely linked to failure, and your chaps used to have a couple around the midriff and the socks. You improved after replacing them with a bulldog (which, by the way, looked like Brad Johnson in profile) but I see you’ve adopted the hoops again.

        • Roar Guru

          May 7th 2012 @ 12:28pm
          The Cattery said | May 7th 2012 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

          Even with the bulldog motif, there were hoops of sorts.

          In soccer comps overseas, there are great studies about red shirts versus blue shirts (in terms of success), and certainly in the Premier League, the red shirts have generally come out on top.

          In the VFL/AFL, from 1965 to 1996 it was a case of vertical stripes and sashes winning flags, with also the block colour and monograph of Carlton, and of course the Eagles had to introduce their funny jumper and club song in 1992.

          The big breakthrough for hoops came with the Crows in 1997 and 1998, but note this: they had the luxury of meeting in the prelim in both years the flakiest hooped team in history, the bulldogs, the subject of this well researched article.

          The Crows’ theme song became annoying in those years, but at least we can say that it’s the best club song of all the expansion clubs (not that that’s saying a lot).

    • May 7th 2012 @ 6:22am
      amazonfan said | May 7th 2012 @ 6:22am | ! Report

      Really good article Andrew. I particularly loved the part about your children! This is why I love kids. 😀

      • Roar Guru

        May 7th 2012 @ 11:59am
        Andrew Sutherland said | May 7th 2012 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        Thanks amazon.

        To be fair, one of them is considering changing to Richmond b/c a friend barracks for them – sacrificing success for friendship!

    • May 7th 2012 @ 8:08am
      brendan said | May 7th 2012 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Andrew yr parenting skills would have been tested at last years grand final.There is a dry cleaners on Williamstown Road that still has memoraillia from the 54 flag displayed in the window.Many doggies supporters live in hope but are very proud they still have a side to support in its own right .One of my best mates comes from a long line of doggies supporters and given he was born in late June 1955 feels it his birthright to see them win a flag.

      • Roar Guru

        May 7th 2012 @ 8:21am
        The Cattery said | May 7th 2012 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        Which part of Williamstoan Road? Around the Seddon end, or closer to Willy? I’ll have to check it out next time I’m in the neighbourhood.

        • May 7th 2012 @ 8:30am
          brendan said | May 7th 2012 @ 8:30am | ! Report

          Corner of Francis Street and Williamstown road Yarraville.

          • Roar Guru

            May 7th 2012 @ 12:09pm
            Andrew Sutherland said | May 7th 2012 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

            Brendan, a dry cleaners?

            • May 7th 2012 @ 4:45pm
              brendan said | May 7th 2012 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

              Yeah Andrew for many years while driving my truck i’d sit at the lights and look at the kewpie dolla , the team photos etch in the window.It symbolised the Bulldog supporter just proud there doggies are still barking in the big league and anything beyond that is a bonus.

          • Roar Guru

            May 7th 2012 @ 12:36pm
            The Cattery said | May 7th 2012 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

            Does Yarraville still have a Trugo Club and the mouth organ headquarters?

            • May 7th 2012 @ 4:52pm
              brendan said | May 7th 2012 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

              From memory it still has a trugo club i vaguely remember seeing it whilst doing deliveries .I dont know about the mouth organ headquarters but if the Hyde Street band still gets a gig i’d say the mouth organ headquarters is still there.

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