Grand Final 2016: A Premiership In Perspective – Swans v Dogs


Just four years ago – 2012 – the world was a little different. Barack Obama still sat in the White House,  but the British Prime Minister was David Campbell and Julia Gillard was PM in Australia. The film “Argo” won best picture at the Oscars and the music charts were dominated by One Direction, Florence & The Machine, Rihanna, Flo Rida and Carly Rae Jepsen.


The Sydney Swans won the premiership, their fifth including their South Melbourne days, and Essendon’s Jobe Watson won the Brownlow Medal.


The Swans will now attempt to chase their sixth flag in a world that hasn’t dramatically changed much since their last glorious day in the sun in 2012.


But a look at the Western Bulldogs world when they last won a flag is dramatically different – so much so that it represents a time capsule from another era. First of all, they were called Footscray. But that’s just the start.


Winston Churchill was British Prime Minister and at the same time, the man sitting in the White house was Dwight Eisenhower. Here in Australia, Sir Robert Menzies led the nation. The Melbourne Olympics were still two years away and the famous FJ Holden was THE car to buy. William Holden and Audrey Hepburn won Oscars for acting and the movie “From here To Eternity” took best picture. The music charts that year were dominated by Doris Day, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Bill Haley & The Comets.


Lou Richards was still Collingwood captain, Fitzroy were still called the Gorillas. The Essendon great John Coleman kicked 14 goals against the Gorillas then did his knee – never to play again. Sir Kenneth Luke had a vision for a new “home” for VFL football, which would later be VFL Park.  Hawthorn had yet to play in a finals match, much less win a premiership.


The two teams are now almost poles apart when it comes to the world surrounding their most recent premierships. Sydney’s most recent names to hold up the premiership cup are in many cases still there: Kieren Jack, Luke Parker, Jarrad McVeigh, Heath Grundy, Josh Kennedy, Nick Smith, Dan Hannebery. John Longmire is still coach.


But for the Bulldogs, many of their heroes have left us – luckily some still remain. Names like the great Ted Whitten, Charlie Sutton, Peter Box, Herb Henderson, Wally Donald, Jack Collins all played and are now either club legends, Hall Of Fame members or Brownlow Medal winners. They are all revered names at the Western Oval.


If the football loving world of the 1950’s was supplemented by Play-Dough, Barbie, Hula Hoops and Frisbees, then the equivalent free time occupations of the 2012 era included Instagram and Twitter, Halo and Mass Effect and mobile phones which do almost anything except make beds and wash dishes.  If the TV show “How I Met Your Mother” tried to paint a picture of the era surrounding 2012 as a backdrop to it’s characters, then “Happy Days” did the same for the mid 1950’s.


The worlds surrounding the most recent flags for both the Sydney Swans and Western Bulldogs transcend footy.  This weekend’s Grand Final offers two sets of fans driven to barrack and scream against a backdrop of history.


It makes the 2016 Grand Final one of the most fascinating clashes in recent memory, and may the best team win.

About Wesley Hull

Passionate lover of Australian Rules football. Have played and coached the game and now spend my time writing about the game I love and introducing young people to the game through school coaching. Will try and give back to the game what it has given me for more that 40 years.


  1. Great juxtaposition Wes, a very quirky way to consider the status, history and fortunes of the two GF combatants. For the record at GF time 1954, Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt) sat atop the Billboard charts with Hey There from The Pyjama Game. She took top spot from vocal group The Crew-cuts (named after the haircut) singing a doo-wop number (there’s a music genre from another time and planet) Sh-boom.


  2. Neil Anderson says

    Terrific research about our golden era…of 1954. Having lived through it myself, you were spot on with all those past-times before television screens and mobile phones. I think it might have been plasticine rather than play-dough and maybe it was just before barbie-dolls at least in Australia.. My sister had a celluloid doll which was her favourite. I attended a small rural school briefly near Warrnambool in the mid-1950’s and if we finished our sums before the others, we were allowed to play with plasticine. There were three kids in my class compared to about 50 at Footscray North Primary School.
    I am fascinated by the fact that you can write so passionately about Aussie Rules and not be aligned with a Club.

  3. Thanks Neil. Aligned, yes. Bomber since birth, as annointed by Dad and have the vaguest recollections of the ’68 Grand Final. Also aligned to my local club here in Cairns, Pyramid Power. They have black & white stripes in their history, as does the Clayton FC in suburban Melbourne who I first played for in 1971 (I only retired as a player this year).

    But my alignment, through writing and the sheer love of the game, is with the game itself. As a junior coach I am growing the game, not Essendon. Same for my School Ambassador role and my recent role as AFL Multicultural Community Ambassador. My roles are to develop a love for the game itself – people can then align themselves to a club through their own journeys. But the clues were there with reference to Coleman and Watson…!!

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