Ahead of the season-opener, this article continues my occasional series on the best wins the Pies have had against each other club in my footy watching lifetime, which began as a toddler in the mid-1960s. Today, I look at the best 5 wins the Pies have had against Footscray/Western Bulldogs.
Three of these matches came from an incredible period in 2009/10, when both clubs were strong. Due to the vagaries of AFL scheduling the clubs clashed on 4 occasions in the home and away season between Round 15 2009 and Round 11, 2010 (a period spanning 19 home and away rounds) , all at Docklands, before meeting again at the G in the Qualifying Final 2010.
I reckon that the best win we have had against the Dogs was Round 1, 2010. This match carried a huge amount of hype, the Dogs entering the season proper as flag favourites with the bookies on the back of an excellent 2009 and wining the pre-season NAB Cup after acquiring the big-bodied forward they had waited years for, Big Bad Barry Hall. The hype was added to by Brad Johnson returning from pre-season injury to play his 350th game. The Pies welcomed the big-bodied ruckman they had waited years for, Darren Jolly, as well as Luke Ball, for their Pies debuts.
49,000 packed into Docklands on a steamy March Sunday afternoon on which Melbourne also hosted the F1 Grand Prix. They saw a typical Docklands game of frenetic end to end high scoring football. The Pies started brilliantly, kicking eight in the first quarter to lead by 30 points with Swanny bursting from clearances and manic forward pressure led by Leroy Brown, who few would have picked at this stage would become the cult hero he did.
After we stretched the lead to six goals, the Dogs hit back hard (as they had done in Round 15, 2009 –read on!) to reduce it to 9 points at the main break. They got to within two points during the third quarter before we kicked the last three goals of the quarter to boot away to a lead we never again looked like giving up, going on to win by 36 points. Our multi-pronged forward line featured four goals to Didak and Medhust, and Leon kicking three, with Swanny contributing the same number from the midfield. Heater and Harry/Heritier provided outstanding drive from defence and Leroy applied enormous forward pressure, had multiple score assists and nullified Lake, who had recorded Brownlow votes in both 2009 clashes.
This game was followed by one of the most-quoted statements of the season, if not the decade, after Dogs coach Rodney Eade labelled Will Minson as “the dumbest smart bloke in the AFL” after he ran through the mark to concede a 50 metre penalty and resultant goal to big Travis at a critical moment. Speaking of big Travis, as a lot of people inevitably are this week, this match was also memorable for the quirky statistic that he recorded the highest disposal efficiency of any player at 92%, which would have to be the only time in his career that has occurred.
Highlights of this game are at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9o5QaugscE. It was a great start to what turned out to be a magical season. I went home very happy even though we had all been drenched in rum and coke after someone behind us had a faulty carry tray that fell apart while being transported along the aisle and showered all within range. It wasn’t a big problem for me, but one of my nephews had to go straight to his Under-14 cricket presentation function and I don’t think it was that good a look/smell for him!
Sadly many of the veterans that featured in this game – Fraser, Lockyer, O’Bree, Leon, Presti and Medhurst didn’t make it to the big dance in October, and neither could Jack Anthony, who also played the season opener.
Number two on my list comes from Round 8 1978, when we trailed by 35 points and 34 points at half and ¾ times at the then Western Oval before storming home for a 4 point win. Admittedly the Dogs were on the bottom of the ladder, but we had experienced a very shaky start to the season, winning only 1 of our previous 5 games and there are not too many games you win when six goals behind at the last break. We kicked 8 in the last quarter after managing only 6 for the first 3 quarters, aided by the strong gale that blows straight down the ground at the Western/Whitten Oval.
Intriguingly, our goalkickers were led by former Bulldogs captain Laurie Sandilands, who kicked three, representing half of the goals he kicked in the 4 games of his Pies’ career. He later described leaving the Bulldogs as “the biggest single regret in my life”, adding that his father said ‘I’ll be buggered if I’m going to Victoria Park to watch you and be spat on.’
Ray Shaw, Craig Stewart and Fabulous Phil were our other multiple goalkickers. The Bulldogs team featured Ian Low, who played for the Pies in the ill-fated 1980 Grand Final, and Bruce Reid, father of Ben, and of course Sydney Swan Sam. It also featured a 19 year-old Tasmanian by the name of Wayne Fox, who made his debut, recorded no statistics and never played again.
Number three on the list comes from Round 15 2009, a game that was nearly a mirror image of the 1978 game, with the Pies hanging on to win by a solitary point after leading by 34 points at the last change. This finish nearly did those of us in who sat through the 1970, 1979 and 1981 Grand Finals and the 1973 Preliminary Finals in which we lost after having healthy leads. Our solitary goal in the last quarter to Daisy Thomas came within the last two minutes and looked like it would be enough. However the Dogs goaled again, leaving us defending grimly, with Beams taking a strong defensive mark before the relief of the final siren.
Leon kicked three and FPS’ Mick Ramsdale awarded the votes to Didak, Maxwell and Swanny. Some context for the recruitment of Jolly for the 2010 season comes in the hit-out statistics, with the Bulldogs’ duo of Minson and future Pie Ben Hudson eclipsing Josh Fraser and Leroy Brown 47-14, which was converted into a 45-27 clearances advantage to the Dogs. Grainy highlights of this game can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3TCzvi__YU .
Number four on the list is the 2010 Qualifying Final. After being the dominant team in the competition for the second half of the 2010 season, our form flattened a little over the last two weeks of the season, falling in against the Crows before losing to the Hawks, breaking an unbeaten streak of eleven. Despite the ordinary form of the Dogs in the latter weeks of the season, Pies fans experienced that heady mix of excitement and anxiety ahead of the first week of the finals. Had we peaked and flattened out? Could this year be the year?
Anxieties were relieved fairly early in a game we dominated from start to finish, winning every quarter to win by 62 points. Our three midfield stars led the way – Swanny reigned supreme with 39 possessions and three goals, Pendles had 30 possessions and two goals, and Daisy 32 possesions and a goal. 19 year-old Steele Sidebottom kicked three and Leroy Brown took a significant step towards cult status with a legendary chase down of Dogs midfielder Daniel Cross, as well as two goals.
Harry endeared himself to the faithful by bumping Big Bad Barry on to the seat of his pants in front of the cheer squad before engaging in a lively verbal stoush, which he amusingly reported went like this: ”He was just asking for some tips on how to get started with Twitter… I said it would suit him because you only have to use 120 characters. I don’t think he appreciated it.”
Interestingly in light of the 2009 game, our ruck combination of Jolly and Leroy were slaughtered in the hit-outs by Minson and Hudson even more convincingly than the Fraser-Leroy combination in 2009 (61-16) but the clearances went our way (44-40). Highlights of this game are at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F83jvq3pjuI
The last game on my list is the 1974 Elimination Final at Waverley, the first final between the clubs since 1956 and the Dogs’ first final since their 1961 Grand Final loss. The Dogs were coached by the great Bobby Rose, captained by Sandilands and their team contained three future Brownlow Medallists, Gary Dempsey, Barry Round and Bernie Quinlan, the latter two winning their Brownlows at other clubs.
Similarly to the qualifying final in 2010, this game was one-way traffic in the Pies’ direction. The Sharpshooter (Peter McKenna) kicked 7 as we led the Dogs a merry dance. Ronnie Wearmouth and Wayne Richardson led the way with 28 possessions and two goals apiece. 17 year-old Peter Moore enjoyed his first win for the Pies in his third game. Remarkably, despite having made the finals in each season, this was our first finals win since the second semi-final in 1970 and our first finals win at Waverley.
These were great times. Let’s hope we can add to this list very soon.