AFL 1997 – Twenty Years On: Western Bulldogs (3rd)

The rebadged 1997 Team of the Mighty West fell agonizingly short of a shot at a long-awaited flag, after their well-documented dog of a year in 1996.

They were riding high with 10W-4L before a month of losses was reversed by a month of wins, landing them third place.

Their recent shellacking by Sydney (a 97 point loss) was avenged in the first week of the finals due to an incredible 9 goals (to none from the Swans) in the first quarter, a 35 point win sending the ‘Scrays into their first Prelim since forever.

A fortnight later the combination of a sprayed Liberatore snap a blind goal umpire Goodwin to Johnson to Jarman ended the Bullies’ thrilling revival. Success was surely imminent.

Jim Plunkett didn’t have too many good weekends that year. Brad Wira kept a tight hold on his spot in the side for most of the year.

Some of these mugs(hots) (thanks to the Football Record) are still prominent in AFL ranks today, some went on to other clubs, some went back to grass roots footy.

Twenty years later, what are your memories?


List Management


AFL Debuts 1997: Nathan Brown, Adam Contessa, Brett Montgomery, Stephen Powell, David Round

Players Kept Under Wraps 1997: Shaun Baxter, Paul Dooley, Steven Pitt, Jim Plunkett, Hugh Reimers, Jacob Rhodes

Never Heard of Him: Scott Allen

Delistings/Retirements end 1997: Scott Allen, Shaun Baxter, Nigel Kellett, Steven Pitt, Hugh Reimers, David Round


You can review all of the AFL 1997 lists here

About Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt

Saw my first SANFL game in 1967 - Dogs v Peckers. Have only ever seen the Dogs win 1 final in the flesh (1972 1st Semi) Mediocre forward pocket for the AUFC Blacks (1982-89) Life member - Ormond Netball Club -That's me on the right


  1. A few of those chaps did well.

    Brad Johnson, probably the best player to wear the tricolours,

    Scott Wynd, Tony Liberatore, Chris Grant all Brownlow winners, though the latter didn’t take it home.

    Nathan Brown, Luke Darcy, doing well in the electronic media.

    Leon Cameron, a chance to coach a flag winning team.

    Jacob Rhodes : where’d he finish up ?


  2. Neil Anderson says

    Jacob Rhodes ended up back here in Warrnambool playing and then coaching I think Glen. I went to check in the AFL bible and couldn’t find his name. He must not have cracked it for one senior game. I thought he did because I was looking out for him to debut after meeting his father who was a school teacher.
    I was dreading Swish’s ‘where did the Bulldogs finish’ story because of the unhappy ending. As Kerrie says it was the match we dare not speak it’s name.

  3. Warren Tapner says

    Ah, yes – who could forget “Captain” Cook? A stormy petrel at Carlton, Western Bulldogs and Melbourne 1994 to 2000. 77 games all up, for 139 goals.
    In 2006, David Parkin was asked who was the most difficult player he had encountered in his long career. “James Cook,” he replied. “On a coachability scale of one to a hundred, I’d give him a two.”

  4. Neil Anderson says

    Just who was doing the Bulldogs recruiting when they selected ‘The Captain’? They couldn’t have talked to David Parkin unless he told them a porky.

  5. Dave Brown says

    Steven Pitt played in the Redlegs’ 1997 premiership, so must’ve left before the end of the season.

    Simon Cox was in my year at school – had come up from the country (Keith I think) while playing for Glenelg’s juniors. Think after a stint at Hawthorn he headed back down to the southeast and is still playing footy at Naracoorte.

  6. Warren Tapner says

    I remember watching a Bulldogs game on TV one afternoon, and the camera panned to the bench. Adam Contessa was hobbling around without a sock or boot on one leg, and Dennis Cometti remarked, “there he is, the barefoot Contessa.” I got it – and always wondered how many others did.

  7. Charlie Brown says

    Is Simon Minton-Connell the only footballer with a toffy sounding hyphenated name to represent the western suburbs of Melbourne?

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Thanks all.

    Glen/Warren (per your other article) – I don’t know how Nathan Brown (or for that matter Matthew Campbell) sleeps at night.

    Neil – sorry, but you knew it was coming.

    Dave – a couple of good gets there

    Warren (again) – we all miss Dennis

    Charlie – they did have Tony Bloody-Liberatore

  9. Warren Tapner says

    One more for you, Swish.
    Jimmy Plunkett went on to play 10 games for the Dogs, then another 37 for Carlton. But his main claim to fame came as the cheeky little red-headed kid in the Aerogard TV commercials with Max Walker. “Have a good weekend, Mr Walker.”

  10. Carl Rayson says

    We’ve got a double barrelled surname on the list now. Nathan somebody-something else.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Well spotted Warren – that’s why I mentioned his 1997 weekends as they didn’t include any games in the Ones

    Carl – I wasn’t aware of Nathan Mullenger-McHugh until you mentioned him, thanks.

  12. Tom Riordan says

    Great reflection, Swish.

    I became so engrossed in studying this list that I noticed Rohan Smith is the only one born in May.

  13. Carl Rayson says

    Nathan is a gun intercept mark. . He’s the reason we aren’t that stressed about missing out on Jake Lever.

    I’m channeling my inner child in saying he will be a gun.

  14. Carl Rayson says

    I’m interested in whether other bulldog supporters think that 2016 eased the pain of 1997 (in particular) and the other prelim final disasters through the years? It has for me. I’m not saying I’m happy that we waited all those years but a premiership now allows me to look back and process a lot of stuff I just couldn’t deal with before!

    I know it’s a deep question to spring on everyone out of the blue but I’m interested if otters feel a bit the same as I do?

  15. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Did Minton-Connell get injured or lose form in ’97? He had 39 goals after Rd 11, had 18 disposals/4 goals in the remaining 6 games that he played (Rd 18 was his last).

  16. Warren, re the Aerogard commercials: the maths are wrong for the kid to have been Jimmy. Max was still playing when those ads were shown. He retired from cricket in 1981.The kid that tells him to ‘aveagoodweekend’ would have been eight or nine years old at a mimimum. Jim Plunkett was born in 1977.

    Good urban myth, but an UM nonetheless.

  17. Susan Jones says

    Wow, thanks for the memories. Wynd my favourite player.

    Weird, cleaning out old files and came across my 1997 membership card today. Finals clipped W1 and PF. Reserve seat at Optus Oval.

    After that season I didn’t ever think I would see my beloved bullies in a GF so 2016 was sweet.

  18. Mick Jeffrey says

    With regards to the recruitment of Cook, blame the same guy who recruited Allen Jakovich 12 months earlier.

    The Hyphen lost form pretty much after the Origin game he played for the Allies where he got 1 kick.

  19. Charlie Brown: “Is Simon Minton-Connell the only footballer with a toffy sounding hyphenated name to represent the western suburbs of Melbourne?”

    Cameron McKenzie-McHarg was on the list a couple of years later. Surely a good Scotch boy!

  20. Carl Rayson says

    From memory Simon M-C was injured playing in the State of Origin game for the Allies and then there we started playing James Cook more often and it seemed to affect M-C’s confidence. Another problem was his inability to take an overhead mark. He was a lovely chest mark on the long lead but taking it overhead was a different story.

  21. G’day Carl where did Minton-Connell finish up. He had the Rathdowne Tavern hotel in Carlton for a few years, but that stopped trading circa a decade ago.

    Do you know if he returned to Tasmania, or got a pub out of Melbourne ?


  22. Glen.

    SMC was CEO at Fitzroy Stars as recently as last year.

    I think.


  23. Ta Mic. Goodness three entries in a row of Carl, you and i, it’s like reliving watching Footscray in the district cricket in the days of Barry Watson and Tony Paone. It’s an interesting symmetry.

    All that’s missing is Mr James’s trumpet !


  24. Carl Rayson says

    Was SMC involved with Doutta Stars as well Mic?

    It’s turning into an online Aisle 31 here!

  25. Carl Rayson says

    Geez, district cricket at Whitten oval brings back some memories. Buying raffle tickets off of Dan Hannebery’s old man for the end of season trip (in Febuary, we had well organised if not terribly good footballers) , Stacky hating a six that went between the grandstands, trying to work out how the scoreboard worked. Great days.

  26. I looked up Minton-Connells post afl career for you Glen.

    He played early 2000s with Aberfeldie and kicked 3 tons and then with Moonee Valee.

  27. G’day Carl, it was the Western Oval in that period.

    Yep seeing Footscray winning their first flag in 1979-80 was great. This was after the amazing semi final win over Collingwood emphasised by Gums chasing the players with a bottle of spumante.


  28. 1979-80 and the great escape from the Lake Oval before they could find a ball!

    And you are right to chide me Glen, it was most certainly the Western Oval back then. How quickly we forget.

  29. G’day Carl.

    I reckon the Lake Oval episode was a few years later.

    Mic, what season was it ?


  30. You might be right Glen. I think I am conflating two different events. In fact I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even there the day of the great escape but have heard the story so many times that I’ve convinced myself I was there.

  31. G’day Carl, Mic wrote an article on it. I have a feeling it was a Labour Day weekend, circa 1981 to 1983.

    I recall a Labour Day weekend where Footscray played Richmond at a sodden Punt Road, with the Tigers triumphing, putting Footscray out of the finals.

    As always i’ll defer to Mic, as he’s the most cognisant on this topic.


  32. I must have been wasting my time playing cricket while you guys were having these adventures!

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