Bulldogs fan in familiar anguish

By Chris Riordan

“Dad, they’re not going to win with only twelve players. You’ve sacked most of the side already!”
Not yet quarter-time and, according to my footy buddy, I’d gone all “Phillip Lynch” on the Doggies’ list.
“Eagleton, must go. Johnno, leave while you still have some dignity. Hit it, Mitch, you’re our only hard nut. Harbrow, you’ve got to get better. Gia, you’re going all Jordy on us. Hill, two hands can make it even simpler. Huddo, endeavour isn’t enough … oh, no, I’ve probably promoted Wayde Skipper back in to the side and we’ll never be top four with blokes like him!”
As the Western Bulldogs slipped to a third successive defeat on Sunday at Doglands I suddenly recognised the comfortable, familiar emotion and the tide of conversation that would follow. It’s been pretty stressful lately, what with winning games and looking positively (well) into the future. In part it has been very comforting. Not so long ago any mention of the Dogs in the paper meant we were either going broke or Libba had bitten someone. Now it’s “dazzling delivery” and “elite training centre.”
But the Bulldogs’ “tragic history” differentiates us from much of the competition. See how long the so-called powerhouses would last with our CV. And we’re surely safe now. Take a trip some time over the bridge and see the sprawl. Look at junior numbers in Caroline Springs and Point Cook.
But the gnashing, lashing and sense of precipice that might be crossed if losses continue has a hopelessly familiar feel to it. When weeks ago I was wondering where we might slip up on the smooth path to a double chance, now I review our form and see potholes everywhere.
And I hate losing to the Saints. Them being crap makes it tolerable for us. None of this “Wouldn’t it be nice if they did well?” stuff from me.
From this traditional perspective I can now chart my way through winter, the anxious Doggy supporter in the corner of the lunchroom. Remarkably, with the happy exception of Essendon (for their certain, mid-ranking outcome is a source of great comfort to their neighbours) most Victorian clubs’ supporters  seem to have reverted to their “default” perception and expectation this season.

CARLTON: restoration of natural order or, as Dr Turf claimed, proof that “cheats do prosper”. Fans certain that ,if not immediate, sustained success is inevitable and deserved.
COLLINGWOOD: the comp exists for them and, regardless of what anyone says, success will come. Like the ladies at the local pokies den, nothing can break their faith. The rest of us know they’ll lose.
GEELONG: still playing the prettiest footy and maybe over-possessing. In-bred and happy. But will it be enough? Look at it differently and see 2007 as the aberration and you’ll understand the pattern.
HAWTHORN: tough, rich and ultimately successful.
MELBOURNE: the 1950s were great but now it is about rebuilding (still).
NORTH: downtrodden.  Shinboner spirit required (again)! Under threat due to continued pressure to over-achieve and bullying by the big-boys. Future uncertain but not acknowledged.
RICHMOND: emotional rollercoaster and only have selves (especially recruiters, medical staff and coach) to blame. They reckon that with a bit of tinkering (read culling/bloodletting) they’ll be “right up there with Carlton” very soon. Expect fans to grow Roger Dean sideburns soon.
St KILDA: all of their players are gods, especially tall, blond stars. The moment is now. Condescending already and blissfully unaware of an internal stoush and tragic flip that seems apparent to the rest of the footy world.

Stereotypes comfortably reinforced.
(Footnote: I really do think the Dogs are nearly there. And I’m really worried it might all fall apart!)

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