North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs
7:50pm, Friday, April 29
Etihad Stadium, Melbourne
I was there but I can’t exactly remember when I attended my first Bulldogs game but it would have been around 1977/1978. Back then I spent more time kicking my plastic footy at the base of the hill at the Barkly St end than actually watching the football, but this soon changed.
I was there at almost every home game at the then Western Oval where it was more like a family reunion. We would gather on the member’s side half forward flank. Mum, Dad, my sister, aunties, uncles, cousins & of course me.
I was there in 1978 when Kelvin Templeton kicked 15.9 as part of our then VFL record score of 33.15.213. Only two years later I was crushed when he left to join Melbourne. However I soon moved on. I had a new favourite player on the back of my duffel coat, Doug 7 Hawkins, he held that esteemed spot on my duffel coat for many years.
I was there at the 25 minute mark of many final quarters crouching inside the Western Oval boundary line, autograph book in hand getting ready to sprint to the Footscray player’s race as soon the final siren sounded.
I was there doing it tough as a Bulldog supporter in high school during the early years of the 1980’s. My mates supported more successful clubs but every Friday I would defend my beloved doggies often backing up my overconfidence with a small wager. Most Mondays either saw me paying out 50 cents or having to endure wearing an opposition jumper for the day but come the next Friday I would be backing my doggies yet again.
I was there on my birthday when ‘Gubby’ Allen kicked across the front of our goals only for ‘Beaser’ to take an intercept mark and kick the winning goal.
I was there when we held Carlton goalless until late in the final minute when a dubious free kick was paid against ‘Super’, oh how I wish they did not kick that goal.
I was there when Dougie injured his ACL.
I was there for Dougie’s comeback game.
I was there when Dougie broke EJ’s games record.
I stayed there always until the final siren no matter the score.
I was there one final time at Whitten Oval when Kritter, Southern and Ellis roughed up a young West Coast ruckman named Gardiner.
I had been there many times having consumed countless donuts from the van on the hill at the Geelong Rd end or bags of peanuts from the ‘peanut’ man (he really should be in the Hall of Fame!). During half time I threw money into the blanket being carried ahead of the Hyde St band.
I was there in 1989 rattling collection tins at Westfield shopping centre and on street corners to help save my Bulldogs from merging with Fitzroy.
I was there at Princes Park.
I was there at Docklands Stadium.
I was there when we returned to our true home, the Whitten Oval.
I was there when Chris Grant debuted.
I was there when Chris Grant retired.
I was there when The Bont debuted.
I was there in 1985, 1992. 1997, 1998, 2008, 2009 & 2010.
I wasn’t there on Friday April 29, 2016 for the first Bulldog Friday night game since the 2012 season. I was pumped all day to be in the crowd for our long overdue return to the big stage of Friday night footy. The injury depleted Bulldogs were to take on the undefeated Roos. I left work at 4:30pm to cycle home so I could change into my footy clothes and catch the train to Etihad Stadium. Unfortunately, on the way home I was hit by a car resulting in an ambulance trip to the emergency department at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. As a result of the collision I suffered some nasty facial injuries including 7 lost upper teeth and fractures to the upper jaw. Time passed quickly in my morphine-induced state. Really it was all a blur. Eventually I noticed a clock and saw the time to be just before 9:00pm. By my calculations it would be about half time at Etihad Stadium. My speech was quite compromised but as best I could I grunted to the nurse to pass me my Samsung S6. The nurse enquired if I needed her to contact someone. “No” I replied “I need to check the footy score!” I immediately went to the AFL app but to my disappointment my beloved doggies were being touched up by Norf (sic). “How is your team going” asked my nurse. “Not so good, it has not been a memorable Friday night”. Whilst suctioning some blood out of my mouth my concerned nurse asked “In your current condition how can you even think about the footy?” I replied “Surely you can see that I bleed red, white & blue!”
Note: I left the hospital two days later but with all the missing teeth looking more like a Collingwood supporter than a fine, upstanding Bullies man.
Western Bulldogs 2.1 3.4 6.6 6.9.45
North Melbourne 4.1 5.4 8.6 9.7.61
Western Bulldogs: Jong, Bontempelli, McLean, Dickson, Stevens, Dahlhaus
North Melbourne: Waite 4, Higgins, Brown, Ziebell, Thomas, Petrie
Adrian Whear’s best: N/A
I had suffered enough that night so decided not to watch the replay.
Post script: I was there on October 1, 2016….. BUT
He wasn’t there. My Dad had followed the Bulldogs ever since migrating to Australia from Malta in the late 1950’s. He passed away this year just after round 1, 2016 so he never did get to see his/our Bulldogs win a flag.
Check out the Doggies Almanac: