Friday preview: Plough’s last hurrah

by Dan Lonergan

I’ve followed the Western Bulldogs since I was six, which stretches back to 1975, when the new cool kid came to school in grade one. He barracked for Footscray and everyone wanted to be his friend, but maybe adopting his footy team was taking it too far.

At the time I was a Richmond fan and the Tigers of course had just come off winning the flag the previous year. Mind you, I only have scant memories of vaguely watching the final stages with my brothers and mother amongst all the timber and debris of our house, which was being renovated at the time.

Looking back, the jury is probably still out whether I made the right decision to switch clubs. The Tigers of course won another premiership and played in a grand final since then, but have been complete failures over the past 27 seasons.

The Dogs have actually made the finals nine times compared to the Tigers’ five during that period. However, there have been far too many cases of what ifs for the Doggies since I jumped on board all those years ago.

There were the virtually non competitive years between 1978 and 1982, with the only highlights being Brownlows to Gary Dempsey and Kelvin Templeton and breaking the record score at the Western Oval in round 13 1978 when Templeton kicked 15 goals nine.

Things improved a bit during the rest of the 80s, but there was the close shaves of missing finals in 1984 and 1987, especially 87 when they lost narrowly to St Kilda at Moorabbin when a Simon Beasley shot at goal seemed to be through, but was given a behind and then in the last round, they couldn’t close the deal at home against Melbourne allowing Robbie Flower to end his career with a finals campaign.

1985 though was more galling. At last we were in the finals with the best team talent wise in my opinion that the club has ever recruited. Every position on the field had quality from Brad Hardie in defence even though he was a bit loose, Jim Sewell, the Cordy brothers, the brilliant Doug Hawkins, who had his best year that season, a fine ruckman in Andrew Purser, Brian Royal and a forward line to die for, Les Bamblett, ‘Shorty’ Daniels, Jim Edmond and Simon Beasley.

The only area lacking, a quality centre half forward, with all due respects to Neil Peart and Robert Groenewegen. The dogs were blown away by Hawthorn in the first final only to easily beat North Melbourne in a semi final with ‘Dougie’ playing the perfect game.

We then seemed to have Hawthorn’s measure in the prelim, but Hardie in his quest to set up play up the ground allowed the great Leigh Matthews to land the killer blow and it was a case of what might have been as players from that team despite Essendon’s superiority in 1985 were confident the dogs could match them in the grand final after beating them earlier in the season.

Those near miss tales continued into the 90s after Ross Oakley tried to shut us down, with 1992 another preliminary final appearance, but as was the case in 85 we came up against a team we couldn’t beat Geelong in the preliminary final after having defeated the eventual premiers, West Coast during the season.

1997 though sticks in the craw. If ever our battling club was going to win a flag, this was the year. They had surprised everyone in making the finals and led Adelaide in yet another prelim. Even yours truly, who is one of the most pessimistic dogs fans was feeling pretty good at half time with a five goal lead and started to think about what a great week it was going to be.

However, as is the lost with the team I love, it didn’t work out and of course there were thousands of should haves and could haves like why did James Cook, who played his best game ever elbow an opponent  illegally when ‘Libba’ was running into an open goal in the third term, Romero also heading into the open goal at the start of the last should have handpassed to Cook but had a shot and missed and Cook missing a set shot from 30 after kicking everything all day.

However, it was Libba’s controversial goal not given a goal, which upsets me the most. I still think it was a goal and that would have been enough. As Tim Lane said in his commentary that day early in the last quarter, the dam wall is about to break, but unfortunately for the Western Bulldogs it was our wall that went bust.

There are many more examples of this heartache, with an inability to kick goals in the prelim last year, when Geelong was vulnerable and Brad Johnson’s miss last Friday also standing out.

Maybe sustained and ultimate success isn’t what the Dogs are about but do I regret my decision changing clubs back in 75? Not the way the Tigers are going!

Dan has added a few thoughts on tonight’s big match:

Friday night’s game against Richmond shapes as season defining for the Dogs with a chance to increase the gap from the chasing pack in the battle for the top four.

It’s a match the Dogs should win and want to win considering the history with outgoing Tigers coach, Terry Wallace, but if Richmond’s skilled midfielders like Ben Cousins and Trent Cotchin get going it will be tough. The practical side of my football interest says the Dogs win by 25, but the pessimistic Bulldog in me reckons Richmond could farewell Plough in style. However, I’ll be sensible and say Bulldogs by 25 to celebrate the 150th of Ryan ‘shaggy’ Hargrave, but gee I’m nervous!


  1. Dan – I reckon you’ll win by 125. Relax!

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