‘The Doggies Almanac’: A read all Bulldogs supporters can get behind

Mister Football Roar Guru

By Mister Football, Mister Football is a Roar Guru


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    The Doggies Almanac 2016 recounts the tale of a historic premiership. (Supplied)

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    The Doggies Almanac: The story of a magnificent premiership, edited by John Harms and Mandy Johnson, came out just in time for Christmas – not that a Dogs fan needed any further motivation to buy it.

    Harms would be well known to most Roarers as an occasional panellist on the popular ABC sports discussion show Offsiders.

    He also hosts The Footy Almanac website, where mostly amateur writers review games of footy, which are then bundled together to form The Footy Almanac for each premiership season (an NRL version is also produced).

    Harms has an eye for the poetic, for the transcendent character of sport, for its ability to rise from the mundane to the sublime, and thus it is no surprise that this season, it was decided to publish an almanac focusing exclusively on the Dogs’ memorable season.

    The other-worldliness of what the Dogs achieved in 2016 fits in well with Harms’ broader views on footy, that it “is a more glorious concept – an ongoing dream, a phantasmal reality, not necessarily tangible nor obviously real; and yet real.”

    I’d say most dogs fans felt like this throughout September, even if we weren’t able to express it as eloquently as Harms (on that note, I encourage all to read Jay Croucher’s excellent piece again).

    The book opens with a poem written by Bruce Dawe, ‘The High Mark’ “then the fall back to earth (guernseyed Icarus) to the whistle’s shrill tweet”.

    It continues with an introductory series of essays, which follow the theme of amazement and incredulity, with an obvious Dogs bent, often about the family aspect of being a Bulldogs supporter.

    Harms commences proceedings with a fantastic piece where he zeroes in on a key contest in the game, one of those make-or-break moments which decide and define premierships. He then talks of Luke Beveridge, what he has instilled in this young group, observing that he has taught them “not to fearfully not-lose the game”.

    There is a story recounted by Russel Griggs and Donna Hannan, newly arrived to Footscray from Brisbane, who unexpectedly got swept up by the over-whelmingly community spirit which grew with each Bulldog finals win, appropriately entitled ‘Resistance is futile’.

    No footy book is complete without a real life and death story. In this case, Rob, aged in his sixties, suffers a heart attack up in the stands, just as the Dogs are taking control of the match. By the time the siren sounds, he is in the hands of the paramedics, but manages a thumbs up as the 100,000 strong crowd erupts.

    The actual week-by-week matchday reports were written at earlier moments in the season, before the inexorable race to the flag from seventh position.

    Reading some of these reports, the prescience expressed is remarkable. For example, Andrew Gigagz writes after Round 1, “There will undoubtedly be tears along the way but I think Bevo and his boys are about to take us on one hell of a ride.”

    Saints supporter Yvette Wroby writes after Round 2, “For years, they have seemed about eighteen months ahead of the Saints in development. They can win the flag first because they’ve waited longer.”

    This is a book that supporters can really connect with, not just because we all went on that very same ride, but because if you come from the local area, you can relate to some of the stories and you are going to see a surname you recognise among the contributors.

    Neil Anderson writes of returning to the Western Oval the day after the win, not having visited his former haunt for many years. He includes a photo of his old milk bar: “It still operates to this day, only two Bernie Quinlan drop kicks down the road from our family home.”

    It’s that sort of book. No Bulldogs supporter can read it without wiping away a tear or two.

    As the back cover notes, “Ultimately, this is a story of love.”

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • Roar Guru

      December 30th 2016 @ 8:14pm
      Mister Football said | December 30th 2016 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

      Note to the eds.

      What has been quoted in the 3rd last para, is not actually a quote from the book. It was meant to be me saying that that was my milk bar, that it still operates to this day, only two Bernie Quinlan drop kicks down the road from our family home, i.e. I was pleasantly surprised to see a photo of what was also my old milk bar, not just Neil Anderson’s.

    • Roar Guru

      December 30th 2016 @ 8:18pm
      Mister Football said | December 30th 2016 @ 8:18pm | ! Report

      Otherwise, thanks for the links and also including a picture of the cover, very nice touch, good work.

    • Roar Guru

      December 30th 2016 @ 8:23pm
      Mister Football said | December 30th 2016 @ 8:23pm | ! Report

      I now realise I should have perhaps made a special mention of the front cover, which you can see above.

      All dogs fans would no doubt recognise the leap of Picken junior, rising high, a fraction early, hanging, then reaching for, and clasping the footy on the way back down.

      Note on the Cover Art: Jim Pavlidis is a Melbourne genius. He is a fair dinkum Doggie. This was an enormous year for him. You can peer into his mind at http://www.jimpavlidis.com.

    • January 15th 2017 @ 6:53pm
      Bob Speechley said | January 15th 2017 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

      The Doggies Almanac recounts the 2016 AFL season into an extraordinary account for young an old Dogs to savour. Contests written by some who witnessed the 1954 Grand Final and in one instance dedicated to a new-born fan whose only game on the planet to date is the 2016 Victory which she will undoubtedly be reminded of and recollect forever. A vivid profile of a young side under an inspirational coaching panel who all stood tall when it mattered.

      • Roar Guru

        January 16th 2017 @ 10:15am
        Mister Football said | January 16th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        Hi Bob

        One of the elements I enjoyed about the Almanac is that contributors often introduce how they became dogs supporters, and the stories are quite varied.

        Yours is as unique as they come.

        I like these words: “I grew up in a household that had come from New South Wales and hen ce didn’t have, as Bruce Dawe refelects, the team colours fixed to my bassinet on arrival. ”

        Congrats on your place in the Almanac.

    • January 16th 2017 @ 7:16am
      John Harms said | January 16th 2017 @ 7:16am | ! Report

      Dear Mister Football and friends at The Roar,

      Thank you for this wonderful review. It’s always a buzz when someone really finds the wavelength of a book – which you have done.

      The Doggies Almanac has been a fantastic project to work on. The writing is, as you say, so heartfelt and honest that Bulldogs fans will shed a tear or two. As will anyone who loves life.

      The book was released in early December and is making its way into bookshops. More information about the book can be found at http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/presenting-the-doggies-almanac-2016/

      Again, thanks Mister Football.

      Go Doggies (and Cats)

      • Roar Guru

        January 16th 2017 @ 9:45am
        Mister Football said | January 16th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Hi John

        Thanks for the kind words.

        Also, thanks for all those signed copies of previous Almanacs, as well as the current one (needless to say, it’s my favourite of them all).

    • January 16th 2017 @ 9:16am
      Peter Zitterschlager said | January 16th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      Now with a name like Mr Football, you’ve just got to be a Doggie yourself (?)

      As John said, you’ve tuned into a crystal clear reception of the book’s wavelength. And it is indeed a warm, analogue signal, as you’ve described.

      • Roar Guru

        January 16th 2017 @ 10:09am
        Mister Football said | January 16th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Hi Peter

        As I say on my twitter handle: True son of the scray – thanks for the kind words.

        I am a little bit embarassed because as is often the case with these things, looking back over it, I felt I could have done better.

        Of course I recognise your name as a contributor to the Almanac – congratulations on being part of what will always be a memborable project for you, I’m sure.

        I’d say we are of a similar generation (if you are mates with Andrew Gigacz, I’m pretty sure I know him from another life, long ago).

        When you wrote: “Going to the Western Oval in the late ’70s and early ’80s was a bleak experience for Dogs fans…” – you’re speaking for me and thousands of dogs fans of our generation.

        By the way: do you reckon Tom Boyd deserves to be paid more? 🙂

        • January 16th 2017 @ 1:53pm
          Peter Z said | January 16th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

          Big Tom earnt his 6 mill in one day. I couldn’t be happier for him. Fairdinkum, he was the difference in this campaign. The cream rose when it was supposed to. If we’d had a thoroughbred like him in all those heartbreaking prelim final losses preceding this, it probably would have been a different story for those gallant teams. Kudos to Peter Gordon for the audacious recruitment of BT (Big Tom). It proved to be visionary.

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