AFL Round 21 – Western Bulldogs v Adelaide: From bleak house to great expectations

Bulldogs versus Crows. Everyone with red, white and blue blood in their veins remembers the 1997 Preliminary Final. They also remember what the Club has achieved after 1996.

The 1996 Bulldogs were documented and recorded on film ironically called ‘The Year Of The Dog’. After living through it, most supporters would have labelled it ‘A Dog Of A Year’. Second last to Fitzroy who were playing in their final year, a change of coach after a player’s revolt and Chris Grant missing the first of his Brownlow medals by one vote to Voss and Hird.

With hindsight the new coach Terry Wallace was the right choice after almost getting the Club into a grand-final the following year.

In the meantime the documentary took us into the change-rooms after yet another defeat and we listened to Terry Wallace rip into his downcast players. “ If  I hear someone say we played really well today because we only lost by a few points…I’ll spew!” Later on we saw a psychologist come on board to introduce positive thinking to the players showing them the negative headlines which referred to them as ‘battlers’ and ‘under-dogs’.

It was all new stuff for most of us to go behind the scenes of a club whereas today there are cameras everywhere. So we were surprised to see just how basic the facilities were. Not much different to local footy-clubs in the country.  The problem was we just meekly accepted that rich clubs had all the good stuff like plunge-pools etc.  That was the way it was. But not any more.

1997. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Our home-ground was Princes Park and I convinced myself it was the start of a new era with a new administration and a new name; The Western Bulldogs. We were playing new team Fremantle Dockers and with all the hype from the Whitten Oval, I wanted to see just how good these new Bulldogs were.

I remember seeing ‘Gentleman’ Chris Grant quietly taking his turn to go through the ‘Member’s Only’ turnstiles, patiently talking to his adoring fans. This was right in the middle of  King Carey of Arden Street  reign and I thought to myself, no wonder I love this bloody Club when there’s guys like Chris Grant playing for them.

Maybe it was the Carlton ground or my risky 500 kilometre round trip hoping to see them win, but the Bulldogs lost after  a mongrel kick from Scott Chisholm dribbled through the goals right on the final siren. But I think it was after that match the Bulldogs started a run of wins and surprized everyone by heading to the finals. If I am wrong with some of these details, please be gentle with me pedants. I am of a certain age.

Suddenly it was the best of times with Bulldog memorabilia coming out of moth-balls and enquiries made about how to get final’s tickets. I discovered much to my delight that you no longer had to queue at the Myer’s Bass ticket outlet in the early hours of the morning or go out to Waverley Park. All I had to do was go into the Warrnambool Performing Arts Centre  booking –office. I should have realized there would be no queue because it was the Bulldogs playing Adelaide, not Collingwood playing Carlton.

I will not dwell on the devastating end to the season after our hopes and expectations were raised so high. Suffice to say Adelaide won by two points after the Bulldogs were twenty points up at three quarter time before being destroyed by a Darren Jarman onslaught. I did have an inkling at the start of the last quarter that the Bulldogs were not quite home when Shaun Rehn had this manic look in his eye and ripped off that big black mattress he had strapped around his knee.  He had a sort of ‘it’s now or never’ look about him as he dominated the ruck.

If you add former Carlton player and AFL official Ian Collins over-riding umpires to ensure that Chris Grant was charged and therefore missed his second chance for a Brownlow, the year ended as the worst of times.

So what’s different today sixteen years later as the teams run out again today? The Bulldogs have got their plunge-pools and state of the art training facilities, so no excuses there. Adelaide is making a late charge for the finals while the Bulldogs want to continue showing fans just how good they can be next year. The pressure’s more on Adelaide today compared to the 1997 Preliminary Final. And there’s no Jarman, McLeod or Rehn to worry about.

The Bulldogs have been put through the Swan’s ‘audit’ and passed with flying colours so I am tipping them to win today.

Cooney’s 200 is the first good omen. I hope he stays with the Bulldogs. Then Bulldog supporters prayers are answered when the tall, leading, marking- forward in the form of Tom Campbell marks strongly and kicks a goal. He does the same thing later after a pass from Dylan Addison. We have a functioning forward line!

Minson snatches the ball from the pack in front of goal and slams one through. Be still my beating heart! Dahlhaus, Gia, Dickson and Wood after a fifty-metre penalty add to the goal-fest. A seven-goal quarter and no sign of Dangerfield who is held ineffective by Crossy on the Adelaide forward-line. I hope he has one more year with the Dogs as well.

The second quarter and the Crows fight back enough to worry me about the Dogs. Adelaide was picked as favourites and I could see Monday’s headline saying, “ Young Pups Run Out Of Steam After Month Of Tough Football”. Four goals to two in the Crow’s favour.

The third quarter was Adelaide’s quarter as they got to twenty-two points in front, but late gaols to Dahlhaus, Dickson, and Campbell stopped the rot and set up them up for a chance to over-run Adelaide in the last quarter. These Bulldog fight-backs full of confidence is in great contrast to their performances in the first half of the year.

Old habits die hard but I should never have doubted the Bulldogs would finish strongly. Seven goals to three in the last quarter. Dickson kicking six allowing Jarrod Grant to have a quiet day. Did I notice Jarrod had a tat somewhere near where his bicep should be? After crashing that pack recently he really is adding to his tough-guy image.

Five minutes to go with twenty-four points up and all Bulldog supporters reach nirvana. I get some idea what it must be like for a team in the Grand Final to be five gaols in front with only a few minutes to go.

This season started so badly for the Bulldogs and commentators like Stan Alves wrote us off with comments like, “ I think the Bulldogs are in a worse situation than Melbourne”. And later when Melbourne beat us it looked like he might be right. How things have changed.

Bulldogs   7.2  9.5  13.6  20.11  (131)

Adelaide  4.2  8.6  14.9  17.12  (114)


Bulldogs: Dickson 6, Campbell 4, Cooney 2, Giansiracusa 2, Cross, Wood, Stevens, Dahlhauas, Wallis, Minson.

Adelaide: Otten 3, Callinan 3, Lynch 3, Sloane 2, Vince, Mackay, Petrenko, van Berlo, Dangerfield, Douglas.


Bulldogs: Dickson, Liberatore, Cross, Cooney, Minson, Murphy, Griffen.

Adelaide: Douglass, Vince, Otten, Lynch, Crouch, Thompson.

Official crowd:  17,159

Our Votes:  3 Liberatore (WB)  2 Dickson (WB)  1 Wallis (WB)

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.


  1. Good to see the Bulldogs finding form again after a couple of lean years. They are actually a very good side to watch when playing well

  2. Daniel Fanshawe says

    Great read Neil. I’m a Pies man, but love to see the Bullies up and about! Good luck next year mate.

  3. cowshedend says

    Nice work again Neil. As for the title,i always visualised Miss Havisham as a Dogs fan,in her thread bear wedding dress wearing her Doggies members scarf, how Donnie from Droop st is that?

  4. Earl O'Neill says

    Great piece, Neil.
    I was impressed by the Dogs’ deal with Vic Uni, as Garlick said, it gives them access to state-of-the-art research facilities, and that they’ll have their own VFL team, named Footscray. Surprised that Western, oops, Whitten Oval isn’t up to VFL standard, but it’s a long time since I went to a VFL ground.
    Just goes to show (don’t it Melbourne?) that you don’t need to be rich to be smart.
    (Historic note – ‘Inside Football’ once ran a headline ‘Garlick adds spice to Dogs’)

  5. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks for all the comments. The Miss Havisham analogy is a bit close to home. I hope they don’t find me slumped over the computer in a faded old scarf and beanie just as everyone is gathering at the Victoria University Whitten Oval to celebrate the next premiership.
    Liked your headline Earl. I remember Tim Lane or someone slipping into his commentary about Garlic chasing his opponent … and breathing down his neck.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic Neil, really enjoyed it. Wasn’t bothering to watch many Bulldogs games for most of the season but have enjoyed the past few weeks watching the young Dogs play well. Great to see my old cricket teammate Easton Wood back in the team and playing well, hope his hammies hold up. Hadn’t heard of Dickson before Sunday, was most impressed.

  7. Coming back from 22 points down in the third Q … wow we’re really coming out of the tunnel now. Could even win the next 2 for a 9-13 season record. That was unthinkable just over a month ago. Keep them coming Neil.

  8. Neil Anderson says

    Easton Wood has slipped back into the team fairly unnoticed as Libba, Wallis and co have been getting all the attention Luke.
    Without sounding too creepy, I have been watching those hamstrings attached to those muscular thighs carefully, hoping they don’t go ping again.
    Here’s another fantasy if he stays fit. Easton charging out of the backline, passing the ball to Cooney who charges out of the centre and kicks the ball to Dahlhous who charges into goal.
    Easton Wood’s mother is best friends with my wife’s friend from Cobden, so we always keep an eye on how he’s going. It’s also the only time I can talk footy with my wife.

  9. Dan Hansen says

    I like the looks of the young Doggies and I’ve always said late season form is a good indicator for the following year. I expect to see the Dogs Port, the Suns and GWS entrenched in the top 8 in a few years time …. and wont the purest love it.

  10. What can I say? Doggie doggie doggie woof woof woof

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