Every Dog Has It’s Day They say cliches are cliches for a reason and Saturday’s result was exactly that.It finally was the Bulldogs day. Again conflicting emotions for us. We wanted to see Sydney / New South Wales football do well, yet on the other hand I’ve been a Footscray / Western Bulldogs fan since 1984 and seen many highs and lows. Every year the only highlight at grand final week in Melbourne when the Dogs weren’t involved was their grand final luncheon at the Hilton Hotel in Melbourne. Maybe the odd Brownlow medal winner would soften another losing year, but deep in September hasn’t been a good time for the red, white and blue. The past few weeks has seen an epic change and it culminated big league on grand final day. I still find it hard to believe the Bulldogs are premiers. I have to constantly look at the Herald-Sun poster and realize it isn’t a dream it is real. And how good was it to partake in one of the great traditions football fans love to do at the MCG after the grand final. Purchasing one of those premiership posters by Mark Knight who carries on the tradition of the late great WEG. This time it wasn’t the Cats or the Hawks or the Lions or the Blues or the Bombers or the Eagles or the bloody Adelaide Crows, it was the Western Bulldogs and it’s a beauty.
In the middle of the biggest Western Bulldogs / Footscray story in 62 years. Wow, just Wow, the unbridled joy I witnessed was amazing. I thought last week’s win against the GWS Giants was the biggest story for the Western Bulldogs in 62 years. Well that was quickly dispatched, following the thrilling grand final win. I found myself in the middle of the biggest Western Bulldogs / Footscray story in 62 years. The Dogs rooms after the game were packed with hundreds of backslappers. Families, friends, staff, coaches, former players were all in and smiling widely. I spotted former players in Danny Southern, Simon Beasley, Barry Hall, Brad Johnson, Tony Liberatore, Rohan Smith and Chris Grant. The only way you could have removed the smiles off their faces would have been via surgery! All of those players have experienced heartache and deep, painful losses that would have haunted them over the years, yet this day seemed to remove all of those demons and it was a joyous occasion.And what about John Schultz? He was in the rooms last week at the Sydney Showgrounds, he’s been another spiritual leader. Like Bob Davis for the Geelong Cats in 2007 who handed over the cup to a flag starved team, John did the same and relished the chance to be bathed in the red, white and blue ticker tape streamers after the presentation.Coach Luke Beveridge was kind enough to give us a hug and a peck on the cheek and he said “You are the one who asks questions at the pressers right?” to which we said yes, and we wished him all the best and well done. Was a nice moment. Bob Murphy and Easton Wood carried in the infamous trophy which looked fab adorned in the red, white and blue. The cup was placed on the ground before all of the players who formed in a circle, linked arms and belted out a deafening version of Sons of The West. Easton Wood still had that fierce look, Bob Murphy grinned eternally, Marcus Bontempelli simply smiled. As we left the rooms, Jake Stringer was with some mates sharing a cold beer and said see you later. Attention to detail, he’d seen us up and close taking pics in the race over the past couple of seasons, was a nice gesture from the “Package”
Sydney Swans didn’t learn the lessons of 2014 and they need to drop the attitude On the other side of the equation it was a very bad day for Sydney.They did not learn from the pain of 2014. I’m sorry but I think the Swans lack of expressed revenge and hurt from that day versus Hawthorn was a wasted motivation point. The 2016 Grand final team had 13 players from that awful day against the Hawks and the stats for each player is remarkably the same give or take a few extras kicks and handballs. The Dogs readily grabbed a hold of the premiership drought angle and used it to their advantage. Yet Swans coach John Longmire and players told us throughout 2015 and 2016, we don’t really bother about the past. On this day maybe they should have. They were second to the ball, the Dogs had plenty of numbers and at nearly every contested possession the Dogs harassed, waved their arms, ran at the Swans and played complete pressure football.
John Longmire has to take some of the blame. The final minute of the second quarter was a tactical blunder. The runner was out in the area close to Heath Grundy who had the ball near the forward 50 metre arc and only needed to chip to to teammates near him to eat up clock. Yet the runner gestured to kick the ball forward to a contest. The Dogs got the ball and kicked a goal to narrow the gap to only 2 points instead of a possible 8. The Swans also have a serious attitude problem.At the post-game presser, Longmire congratulated the fans of the Western Bulldogs yet did he thank the Swans for turning up to the Grand Final? where it costs several hundred dollars and takes a lot of time and effort?. Did the Swans have a fan day after the grand final? no. The Melbourne Storm who lost the NRL grand final a day later did and whilst Longmire said he was disappointed for the fans, it wasn’t enough. We actually went up to him to offer our genuine condolences and were given a brusque response. In our opinion, Longmire seems to have a dictatorial approach to coaching similar to Mick Malthouse. You get the feeling it’s his way or no way. I wouldn’t envy someone who may have a dissenting view. He can be seen yelling on camera at his line coaches in the box when a play goes wrong during a game. Football Manager Tom Harley could assert a different approach, because the current system ‘aint working when push comes to shove.Winning 17 plus games yet fail at the grand final makes the season meaningless. You have to be a closer. Two grand finals in the past three years . Sydney are not closers.
The selection of Callum Mills and Jarrad McVeigh proved to be a big mistake. We were scratching our heads about Dean Towers who had played some good minutes in 2016, especially at Geelong. Why he didn’t play is a mystery. Mills clearly wasn’t match hardened and was caught out when placed under pressure. Kurt Tippett is proving to be a one hit wonder when it comes to big finals games. The curse of unlimited potential is well and truly on his shoulders.
During grand final week the Swans looked like they were again going through the motions of training and it was a case of simply hopping on a plane and heading off to Melbourne to pick up the grand final cup. They should have ignored the “sentimental” element that existed for the Dogs. The pain of 2014 didn’t matter and another loss was chalked up. I don’t think Sydney can return to another grand final anytime soon. The list is getting older and the ability to keep winning is a tough ask. It was just like 2014, another wasted year. I felt sorry for Josh Kennedy and Lance Franklin who despite injuries worked their proverbial butts off to try and keep their team in the game. Yes the umpiring was awful and it did hamper many Swans plays, yet the pain and hurt of losing the 2014 Grand Finals did nothing. The Swans failed to learn their lesson and again were outplayed by a side that had more desire and hunger. The major positive for the year was the development of younger players in Tom Papley, Callum Mills, George Hewett, Isaac Heeney and the emergence of Allir Aliir. Whether that nucleus of new talent can bring Sydney back to the grand final remains questionable.
The “SOS Message” In The Western Bulldogs Bottle of 1989 Was Finally Answered Sting was a good choice for the grand final entertainment I actually thought he was taller.It has been been alleged he was paid $1 million. He put in a good set from what we could see and added to the carnival atmosphere and pretty relaxed vibe prior to the game. That struck us just how relaxed the crowd were. It was like a picnic outing, there wasn’t a nervous murmur, people soaked up the music. Just on the “Message in a Bottle, sending out an SOS” line, in 1989 the Western Bulldogs were gone in the eyes of the AFL. They would be merged with Fitzroy. Up stepped Peter Gordon and an army of determined fans. There were the infamous ‘Up Yours Oakley” car stickers that sold in their thousands (aimed at the then AFL supremo Ross Oakley)The passion and determination of the Footscray fans ensured that enough money was raised to keep the club alive and stand alone and whilst it took 27 years, the fight was bloody well worth it. You can see the merger jumper in the fabulous Bulldogs museum at the Whitten Oval, it’s a sobering reminder of just how close the Dogs were to extinction. Thank god for the efforts of the faithful in those emotional and heady days of 1989.
Behind the scenes at the MCG Media Box It was obviously a busy media box at the ‘G on Grand Final day. The bloke who oversaw anything and everything inside the door was busy studying the form guide at a table which was re-assuring. We said hello to folks we bump into during the normal season. Rex Hunt said g’day. As did Tony Shaw. I managed to have a brief word with the 1985 Brownlow medalist and former Footscray player in Brad Hardie. Brad was supremely confident the Doggies could win. We also spoke with Carlton legend and premiership player in Mark “Sellers” McClure. We saw him play in the infamous 1979 grand final where Collingwood backmen Billy Picken gave him a nice jab to the solar plexis.We asked him could he remember the day and that incident which he quipped, no he didn’t, but then quickly said he was joking. Mark also thought the Dogs would win.
The real highlight for me was when I managed to bump into Dennis Cometti in a surprisingly quiet Ron Casey media centre corridor about half an hour after his last call of AFL football. I asked how his day went and he said he was pleased with how things went. I remarked to him what about the game, saying it was a perfect bookend to his footy calling career considering he played for the Bulldogs reserve team in the late 1960’s. We told him we’d miss him and he was really appreciative of our comments. Dennis would always say hello to us whenever we would see him at games in Sydney. A true gentleman and we wish him the best. After speaking with Dennis we did see Bruce McAvaney heading down the elevator and I asked him how the day went, Bruce said it was an extraordinary game. We asked him about Dennis’s last call and he said Dennis would be missed. Bruce is another thorough gentleman who always says hello to us. He always has time to have a word, it’s always a pleasure to say hello to him. Finally how we got there is down to the superb work of one Patrick Keane Head of AFL Media. There are hundreds of folks and issues he deals with and he somehow manages to look after us. We really, really appreciate your help over the past 2016 season Patrick. Your attention to detail shows you to be the true professional that you are. We hope you have a great off-season. We hope we have contributed to the profile of AFL football in the grand city that is Sydney Australia!
Good Luck Charm “The Creation of Adam” or “Bob” Photo. After the early chaos inside the Bulldogs rooms I did manage to catch up with Bob Murphy who was happy as Larry. He was blissfully high on the win. A week later things were very different. We gave Bulldogs media supremo Denis Bicer copies of a photo of Bob Murphy playing in the 2015 away game against the Sydney Swans at the SCG to pass on to Bob Murphy.It was a thriller with the Dogs winning by 4 points. I call it the “Creation of Adam” or “Bob” photo (refer to the above) because of the way the players were reaching out with their fingers to touch the ball. Anyhow we bumped into Denis & Murph a hour before the big game against the GWS Giants under the stands. I asked him did he like the picture? to which he said it was a ripper. I asked him if he thought they could win and he said he was nervous. Fast forward to the Grand Final and I said to Bob, hey the pic I gave you was a good luck charm, he grinned at us and gave us the thumbs up!