We’ll always have Paris: The 2017 Western Bulldogs

We’ll always have Paris

Neil Anderson

 

From top-dogs to underdogs. That old feeling is back. Barracking for Footscray when we endured many a flogging during the season then hoping to beat some of the top teams towards the end of the season, particularly out at the Western Oval. Flickers of hope for the following year if we won the last few, but in reality false hope that went on for 62 years.

 

Now there’s no Western Oval home-ground advantage and instead of the usual top teams to knock over and give the fans hope, we have 17 teams to contend with. The AFL draft-socialism has kicked in and suddenly we’ve reached the point where any team can win on any given Sunday. Good for commentators and neutrals to salivate about, but not so good for any losing teams in this brave new world.

 

It feels like the footy-gods have let this one slip. Heads are sure to roll. Those righteous ones won’t name names because they take the heavenly higher ground. But when the chronicles are checked, they’ll discover it was supposed to be Sydney or Hawthorn (again) or West Coast that was meant to take out the premiership. Not Footscray. We can only hope there’ll be one less footy-god to mess with our goal-kicking and determine which star player will be injured on the weekend.

 

Nine months after the Bulldogs achieved the impossible by winning four finals including the grand-final from seventh place on the ladder, the critics are out in force after two bad losses. Even the Bulldog supporters who revelled in the grand-final win are starting to question their premiership heroes. A classic example involves Jason Johannisen with supporters desperate to extend his contract at the Dogs just two weeks ago. Now there are posts on social-media saying he is just a turn-coat and he seems disinterested, so he might as well go back to the west. Such is the fickle nature of fans when their team is not winning.

 

Then the rumours start about disharmony at the club. Probably untrue but worrying for those of us outside the inner-sanctum. It reminds me of that dark day in 1996 when the senior players lost faith in their coach and brought matters to a head. Fortunately, it turned out OK when Terry Wallace took over and coached the team to a preliminary final the following year. The details were documented in the Year Of The Dog film, but at the time all we saw was the press descending on the club for all the wrong reasons.

 

Our saviour Luke Beveridge is being questioned about so many changes to the team each week. We have gone from having one of the best lists in the AFL to being criticised for using too many of those same reserve players when injuries occur or if players in the main team are down on form. We enjoyed the close scrutiny from the press during the final’s campaign last year, but feel suffocated by the attention this year when we are struggling.

 

Most Bulldog supporters had a feeling of contentment and pure relief to see a premiership last year, but only the most optimistic would have expected them to be back to back winners in this ruthless eighteen team competition. But none of us considered that the team would drop away so dramatically and possibly miss out on the final eight. We have gone from the ‘why not us’ mantra to being full of doubt about our future once again.

 

In the famous closing scene in Casablanca, Rick reminds Ilsa that “We’ll always have Paris,” after they embrace in the foggy gloom of the airport. ‘Paris’ for die-hard Bulldog supporters was of course the premiership last year. All we want to do now is experience that same euphoria at least one more time in the near future.

 

Of all the clubs in all the towns in all the world I had to pick Footscray to be my club. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

To relive the joys of 2016 for the Western Bulldogs, check out the Doggies Almanac 2016. http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/presenting-the-doggies-almanac-2016/ 

 

 

 

About Neil Anderson

Enjoys reading and writing about the Western Bulldogs. Instead of wondering if the second premiership will ever happen, he can now bask in the glory of the 2016 win.

Comments

  1. Les Currie says:

    Well said Neil. We don’t want the boys to fall away and I’m sure they will fight back. They are under enormous pressure. Every side has had its ups and downs e.g. the Cats before the went back to the cattery and they fell again last weekend. We have to show faith. After all, Casablanca is a classic and has been repeated ad-finitum. So will the Dogs of 2016 be in our hearts forever. And the Dogs of 54, 61, 98 and 2017 and all the years before and after.

  2. Stephen Alomes says:

    What a wonderful ‘last quarter’ in Neil’s tale!

  3. Yvette Wroby says:

    Treat it all as white noise and just let go. We have no control of the footy ups and downs and 2016 was the year of the dogs. This year it may be someone else but those of us who still live in hope don’t want any repeats or three peats. We all want the top prize for our beloved teams. Maybe this year it will be Melbourne or Richmond and next year the Saints? At least we are all in the same boat. The ship of dreams.

  4. Len Rodwell says:

    While rumours of disharmony are disturbing, I note that this has been raised by David Shwarz who, if I recall correctly, said last year the the Dogs did not include Lin Jong in the team for the Preliminary Final because he was leaving for Collingwood.
    A win this week against North will do wonders for the soul.

  5. Neil Anderson says:

    Thanks Les. Enjoying your dispatches from the front-line about the Dogs this year while I take time-out in the bunker. I thought you might appreciate the Casablanca reference even if the younger folk have to google it.
    Not sure about the ‘last quarter’ reference Stephen, but if it’s a compliment, I’ll take it.
    I thought I would be more than satisfied with last year’s flag Yvette, but after that taste of glory, I want more. The Dogs have such a strong list it doesn’t make sense that they should drop away suddenly. You’re right about the ‘ ship of dreams’. It’s what sustains us during the down times.
    Yes Len, we can blame the Ox and the white-noise brigade to keep the rumour-mill going. Let’s hope the whole team suddenly clicks on Saturday night and we can be a bit more positive again. It will do wonders for the soul.

  6. G’day Neil,

    Your beloved Bulldogs got much energy and motivated to overcome curses and tough times (no matter it was called) when Griffin requested to be treated and McCartny resigned as a senior coach at the end of 2014. Then Bevo and Murph worked hard to form a strong team and all played with hungry spirits.

    Then winning the flag brought and boys seem to be fulfilled. That can be premiership hangover. Strategy is being motivated again for your Bulldogs. I guess establishing a strong team with attractive attacking footy would be good.

    And I agree with Yvette and Len. The Ox just cares his ‘Evils’ to win and wants his Demons to get better than other clubs. Crying over the first game against my Saints at Etihad Stadium is the proof. He shouldn’t have wasted his talents with such comments. I like him because he is so funny on the Run Home programme.

    And yes Yvette, our Saints are chasing the same dream as Footscray. I think we need Riewoldt to achieve the dream.

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  7. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says:

    You’ve accounted for the see saw of 2017 beautiful Neil. I sometimes wonder if we simply turned the volume down on everything except the sound of boot on ball, if we wouldn’t get a more accurate and tender sense of what is going on for teams. All the ‘white noise’ as Yvette so rightly calls it, is driving me a little crazy this year. Too many commentators in a media landscape which values a kind of branded ‘in’ conformity , being paid too much not to have anything to say – so it ends up being obvious, trivial or ignorantly speculative.
    The Dogs’ season must be full of so many things: sated hunger, the incredible effort of going again when the summit has been seen, wanting the summit again on an even clearer day, the nervous ins and outs of Bob, the nervous form or formlessness of those who have been the glue, the brittle confidence of a somehow success and the bigger picture doubt that you so beautifully describe. Gee I wish these things would get talked about with some complexity rather than it all being condensed into ‘premiership hangover’.
    But then again, I guess you just did.
    Thanks.

    Oh, and you’ll always have Paris in your Tricolor. En marche!

  8. Stephen Alomes says:

    Neil
    It was a generous compliment, an appreciation of your artful last pars in the piece, a footy metaphor for what some would have once called your ‘final stanza’, even though we all understand the Doggies need goals more than metaphors!
    Stephen

  9. Neil Anderson says:

    Thanks for commenting as always Yoshi. Perhaps the team has been feeling fulfilled but old battled-scarred fans like me still want more of the glory. When Murphy comes back surely the rest of the team will try their guts out to give him a chance at final’s football.
    Mathilde, I always appreciate anyone who comments on an article I have written. When I see your name attached to a comment I am particularly chuffed. With your skills you have summed up my three-page article in seven lines beginning with “The Dog’s season must be full of so many things”… I’m sure the ‘Paris’ reference caught your eye.
    Thanks for the explanation Stephen. And yes, the Dog’s definitely need more goals. Someone up forward to mark the ball first would be a good start.

  10. Luke Reynolds says:

    Well summed up Neil. I’ve been lucky to see my team win two premierships, but you always want more. The feeling is that good. The expectations are heightened. Every flag winning team gets talked about as entering a period of domination. Of course it doesn’t always work like that.
    Hope the Dogs can get another one for you, and Bob, soon.

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