A few things I’ve learnt since leaving Essendon for the Bulldogs

None of my Essendon supporting mates, and they are legion, are going to leave the club over injections, mystery potions, the cult of Hird, whatever it takes, hard-right Liberals or any other moral/ethical issues.

Many neutral mates also think I have done a very stupid thing. To quote one St Kilda fan “you just don’t change teams after you’re about 7 years old.”

Bob Murphy is not just a small-town intellectual, he’s also a very, very good footballer.

My new Bulldog comrades are a warm, world weary, generous bunch of people who’ve done things like: take me into their homes and bought me pizza and beers after knowing me for two hours, given badges, toys and memberships to my kids, arranged for me to hoist the banner and get into the rooms after the game and generally taught me how to face up to the footy every week knowing that your team is probably doomed to some kind of ritual humiliation.

Watching Footscray at the Whitten Oval after a short train ride, with a cold can and a huge bag of chips, and change from 10 bucks, is a good way to start a weekend.

If Jake Stringer was the size of Tom Hawkins we’d be in the finals.

When the Bulldogs win their next flag it will mean more than I’ll ever really comprehend as someone who hasn’t lived it their whole life. But it’ll still mean a lot to me.

You can watch a whole season of AFL and not visit the MCG. But it’s not good for your soul.

Even some Bulldog fans think my decision is incomprehensible “Look, basically, if the Bulldogs decided to hire Rolf Harris as their coach next year, I’d find some way of justifying it. If Tom Liberatore spent the off-season in Iraq, fighting with the ISIS, I’d think, he must have his reasons. You just don’t change teams.”

If Jake Stringer took that chest mark against GWS we might have missed the draft pick we need to help Jake Stringer up forward

The Western Bulldogs should be called Footscray. I live in Sunshine, but I understand that the Bulldogs are the “team of the mighty West”. New arrivals to this massive growth corridor would work it out too, give people more credit. History and heritage matter.

4:40 on a Sunday is a time you make a club regularly play footy only if have something against them.

The Bulldogs are an open, honest, community-engaged footy club, led by a Coach and a President who are genuinely good and principled people. They have a long way to go to get the players and the belief to win another flag. The future can be bright, but it must be fought for.

Essendon is…a nationally recognised corporate brand…good at winning games of footy…the team my Dad barracked for…a huge pile of fond memories…morally bankrupt…that ex I’ll probably never really get over.

Jake Stringer is my new favourite player, but I’ll always love Jobe.

There’s a bloke I met just last week who’s been a Bulldog all his life. His Mum always told him he’d see plenty of flags in his time. On the day she died in 1989 he walked out of the hospital and turned on the car radio, and heard the Bulldogs were going to have to merge or fold. He went to the pub, and stayed there a long time.

Whether James Hird has one hand on Essendon’s next Premiership cup or not, I’ll be barracking for the Scraggers.


  1. Ripper of a piece. It must be easy to follow a club that lists their flags on stubby holders like overseas telephone numbers, it’s easy to begin following them, they are the ‘every child gets a trophy’ mob.
    The scraggers mirror life, it’s bloody hard, punctuated with moments of pure joy.My 53 years have failed to see a GF, but i’ve seen Whitten and Schultz, Templeton and Hawkins and now Bontempelli and Stringer, and i wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
    As for ‘Western’ I detest it, we were, are, and will forever be Footscray

  2. Neil Anderson says

    If you saw the Bulldogs versus Williamstown match on Sunday you would have had a taste of the good old days at Whitten Oval. Complete with the Footscray …Clap Clap Clap sound coming from the E J Whitten stand and the official welcome from Dougy Hawkins.
    Such a shame about the match at Etihad. All part of your education to understand the Footy Gods don’t always allow us to have two wins on the one day. That would be greedy.
    Liked your comment about finishing one rung lower to get a slightly better draft pick to help Jake Stringer mark and kick even more goals. Keep up your sense of humor. It’s part of the essential armor to get you through barracking for the Bulldogs.

  3. Great piece. Living a stone’s throw from the Western Oval (still feels weird to call it the Whitten Oval, no disrespect to Ted intended) I love the passion that the Bulldogs bring to this area. I love hearing the roar of the VFL crowds from the backyard if I’m not able to go to the game. They are a great club with a good heart.

    And don’t believe people who tell you that you can’t change clubs. You can. It’s just not very common. I changed from Richmond to North Melbourne about 6 years ago, spurred on by a desire to help keep North south, and finally fed up with Richmond’s sclerotic club culture. Not the lack of wins, I mean the bad, bad culture that accepted mediocrity, that celebrated making the occasional rare final as if it was a premiership, the culture that was bred of success and became bloated, lazy and disrespectful of itself and its opponents. North supporters cherish the highs and anguish the lows, and turn up in big numbers (compared to our supporter base) even when North aren’t playing well. We don’t turn on our own and abuse them like Tigers fans do. We hold our heads up and revel in the spirit that a tight-knit club can bring.

  4. Keiran Croker says

    Good on you for having the courage to follow your principles. Good luck with the ride. I hope the Doggies can get back into the finals sooner rather than later.

  5. Funny, you think the people who’d have the most to complain about their treatment, would be the players, yet they are re-signing, so I don’t know where you get your “morally bankrupt” from.
    Sorry to shock you, but your lovey-dovey story on how great the supporters are, happens with all teams in one form or another.
    Interesting comment from cowshedend about how its been great following a few champions over his 53 years with not one gf.
    It was great watching Essendon win their gfs in 84 and 85 after struggling for years, and watching champions like Daniher, Madden, Watson, Lloyd, Hird, Wanganeen, Long and Fletcher just to name a few.
    Absence makes the heart grow fonder as they say, and after 15 years of being in the wilderness, we look forward to getting back into the finals

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