Every Dog has his Day

Hello nostalgia my old friend…

With Hawthorn just finished celebrating their number- eleven premiership, it was time to take stock, perhaps regroup as a member of a club still waiting to celebrate a second flag. As one interstate club finds ten-million for one player, it’s time to remind myself that my ‘small-franchise’ club is somehow still surviving in such an uneven competition. 

Time to wallow in a bit of nostalgia. Not looking back with mawkish sentiment, but more in accordance with the Greek definition of ‘a return to home’.

The last time I returned ‘home’ to Footscray was in 1997, the day after the loss to Adelaide in the PF. I didn’t go out to the Whitten Oval that day clearly worried about the carnage I might see in the aftermath. I did however go to the nearby Highpoint Shopping Centre cinema to see the recently released documentary called ‘Year Of The Dog’.

I wanted to surround myself with ‘Footscray’ people before I headed home to my country town where I was the ‘only Bulldog supporter in the village’. The intention was good but unfortunately I didn’t count on there being only six people turning up to surround me at eleven o’clock in the morning.

Lots of irony that morning including still being alone with my thoughts in such a huge theatre, but also watching a film about one of the worst years in Bulldog history. Not the sort of environment to lift my spirits you would think.

However, for nostalgia purposes the film was perfect. To see what goes on behind the scenes was new and eye-opening if you were a Bulldog supporter. A nice change after only seeing newspaper photos of players from the successful clubs and television interviews with players from those successful clubs.

Watching players like Scott Wynd show all the bruises up and down his legs caused by the opposition ruckman crashing into him. Tony Liberatore almost crying in frustration that his team didn’t get over the line yet again.

I had only been in the Bulldogs change-rooms once before and that was by accident. It was after the Bulldogs V Collingwood match, in 1990 I think. The Bulldogs had a rare victory against the Pies at the MCG after Steve Kolynuik ran around Graeme Wright and kicked the winning goal.

I was leaving the ground as part of a great mass of excited and happy Bulldog supporters when that particular great mass suddenly veered left on the ground floor and half of us ended up in the Footscray change-rooms. The elderly door-bitch  quickly gave up guarding the door. No sense trying to stop a hoard of Footscray supporters from seeing their heroes after they’d beaten the Pies!

Doug Hawkins was talking to anyone who wanted to chat. He was in no hurry to get showered and changed. Working the room beautifully. No wonder he was recruited by the Palmer Party some twenty-three years later. There was also a skinny young recruit and future coach called Leon Cameron heading for the showers as I hovered in the background pretending to be one of the proud parents.

So this weekend I wanted to recapture the Footscray experience by heading back to the ‘Heartland’ as The Western Bulldogs territory is now known.

What I really wanted to do was to experience what it was like the day after the 1954 Grand Final. Why should all the other clubs have all that fun and celebrations back at their home ground, year after year. But everyone knows that to do that I would have to fire up the old plutonium-powered Delorean.

Well arriving at what I thought was the Western Oval car-park and looking at the sleek new architecture it might as well have been 2054. I would say the year-o-meter in the Delorean must be stuffed.

I haven’t been here since the last AFL match which was against the Eagles when I stood on the terraces in the rain and the sleet and the almost snow. I probably thought then, wouldn’t it be great, say by about the year 2000, if we could play at a stadium with a roof.

A good case of be careful what you wish for. Brian Lake was asked about playing on the MCG and training out at Waverley compared to the Etihad Stadium. He said, “ There’s certainly a lot less recovery time after playing on the MCG, that’s for sure.” I think he just confirmed yet another disadvantage for the Bulldogs in this very uneven competition.

I browsed in the Bulldog Shop which is at least the size of the men’s-clothing department in Myers. I sidled up to the woman behind the counter determined to engage her in Bulldog footy-talk. My opening line was going to be something like, “You know I lived around here when I was a kid.” And then the classic follow-up with, “And I actually went to the Grand Final”. She must have detected the bar-fly from the country approaching and didn’t look up from what she was doing.

I backed off slightly and muttered something about the fantastic photos of the old days on the walls. And then she gazumped me like I’d never been gazumped before. Barely looking up from folding T-shirts she said, “ You see that photo of Charlie Sutton running out on Grand Final Day. Well that young man running next to him with the Bulldog on the lead, that’s my Dad.”

What I did do after I slunk away from more embarrassment, was to walk out on the hallowed turf. Just a couple of young guys having a kick-to-kick at the unrecognizable Barkly Street end and me looking back at all the changes made to the stadium in the last few years. Next year the mighty Footscray Bulldogs will be playing there in the VFL and all they have to do is put a fence around the ground apparently and it’s ready to go. If I lived locally I would definitely go to matches there. The oval surface itself is in perfect condition.

The nostalgia overload wasn’t complete until I drove a few blocks and checked out the childhood home. Thankfully the old house was still standing and looked much the same size, but the street itself seemed like it had become laneway size. I suppose fifty-something years ago there wouldn’t be cars on both sides of the street taking up all the room.

Whenever I go back to the neighbourhood every fifteen years or so, the other thing I check on is the local milk-bar. Fortunately there it was and hardly changed. The place where I’d line up to get the late edition Saturday Herald with all six of the VFL scores up on the right-hand side in red ink.

That was enough over-dosing on nostalgia for one day. Time to set the timer in the Delorean to five hours into the future and land in the car-park at the Doncaster Playhouse. The National Playwright Competition plays were being performed and  winners were to be announced.

A bit of moral support from fellow Knacker Peter Fuller and a handful of friends and lo and behold my play took out the first prize. When I was being presented on stage, I was so tempted to do a Paul Roos and sing out, “Here it is!” Except for Peter, I might have been wasting my time with that one.

I can’t really link the playwriting to the footy interests, except that eight years ago I was looking to do something to take my mind off yet another disastrous Bulldog season. I had an idea for a comedy sketch, turned it into a one-act play and sent it off to a competition. Getting a third placing with my first effort was enough to get me hooked.

So tomorrow I can’t wait for someone to say, “ What’d ya get up to on the weekend?” I’ll try and keep a lid on it and say, “ Nothing much. But I did have a trip back to the future.”






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. Outstanding Neil. Congratulations.

    Perhaps your next play could be called “From Footscray to Doncaster”. That’s like travelling from Mumbai to Patterson Lakes.

  2. cowshedend says

    Good Onya Neil,well deserved, always love reading your musings.
    I have done a Kunta Kinte, and returned home to my roots in Footscray and walked the same path as you last week with my family..(middle aged brothers and sister) down to the Western Oval, and it still brings a lump to my throat to gaze upon the turf and the empty terraces and the spot i stood with my long departed dad.
    As an aside,along with fellow knacker Mic Rees i went to see an AFI screening of the Year of the Dogs prior to general release.
    We were surrounded by men in black skivvies and Greek fishermans caps who must have thought the title alluded to a docudrama sequel to Best in Show.

  3. Paul Daffey says

    One of my failings in like is that I haven’t seen Year of the Dogs.

    Top work, Neil. Congratulations on the gong.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Ditto Fantastic on taking out The Major Prize and Go The Redlegs

  5. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Dips. I went from Footscray to Burwood as a ten-year old and I wasn’t happy surrounded by Demon and Hawthorn supporters. Actually the Hawthorn supporters didn’t jump out of the closet until 1961…after they beat the Bulldogs. And we’ve been paying for it ever since.
    Thanks Cowshedend. It’s amazing how a plot of grass can bring a lump to your throat. That’s what happened to me in 1992 when I returned to the ground after many years of family raisin’ and barn raisin’ etc. Before I left that day I bought a membership which I have kept going to this day.
    I can thoroughly recommend Year Of The Dogs, Paul. They could well use it in sociology classes at uni. Take note of the two mother and daughter diehard supporters to see what the club means to them.
    Malcom. Go the Redlegs? Speaking of red, please explain.

  6. Andrew Starkie says

    Congrats Neil.

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I totally agree re Year of The Dogs a Fantastic Production and Go The Redlegs re
    Norwood Winning The SANFL Premiership Yesterday which I have Posted a Article on
    Again Congrats on The Win

  8. Lovely piece Neil. Full of heart like all your writing. The award recognition is fantastic. Any chance of the play having a wider season?
    Its a funny thing going back to visit old places and memories. I couldn’t work out if you found the home visit uplifting or melancholy.
    I generally avoid too many backward glances as I often see loss and disappointment rather than joy. I look after myself better with “take care of today, and tomorrow will look after itself.”

  9. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Congratulations Neil. Doggies show some promise for 2014. I was also at that game in 1990 and the roar after that Kolyniuk goal was incredible. It came from somewhere deep that day.

  10. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Peter and Phil. Peter the feeling is definitely more melancholy. If I had more space and time to write more I would have mentioned Julia Zemero’s wonderful show taking various comedians back to their homes and schools. All these masters of one-liners and zingers were completely subdued as they stood outside or went inside the old family home. Definitely melancholy was the over-riding emotion.
    One-act plays are more likely to be performed at festivals rather than played around the country-side. The director was so pleased with the result she said she would like to produce it again sometime.
    Thanks Peter for keeping the Almanac going since Cookie went to get the cows in.

  11. No worries Neil, Concheeta is more than compensation. At least that’s what Harms tells me.

  12. Congratulations on your recognition, Neil. And thanks for this evocative piece.

  13. Peter Fuller says

    A beautiful account of your rewarding Saturday. I particularly enjoyed the reference to the deLorean, although I can’t help wondering if younger Knackers might need to Google it.
    It was a genuine pleasure to meet you on Saturday evening, and to enjoy your company and your thoroughly-deserved triumph.
    Well done!

  14. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks for your support on Saturday Peter…and your audience vote if it went the way I hoped it would. I thought I had enough supporters to get me over the line to get the populist vote but obviously I should have been involved in a bit more branch-stacking to clinch it.
    I thought I was fairly safe talking about the Delorean or is it de Lorean? Most Knackers are younger than me and they would be conversant with the Back to the Future trilogy of films starring Michael J Fox. He initially uses the Delorean to time travel back to 1955. One of my favorite movies of the eighties.
    I’m sorry I missed out on coffee with you after the show. The cast and director kept me back talking for quite a while because they were so enthusiastic about how everything went. The director wants to put the play on again if she gets a chance.
    All in all a good night after my Footscray experience. See you at the book-launch.

  15. On ya Neil, much congrats.

    If you’re contemplating moving back “home” have the chequebook ready – next door went for $800,000 on Saturday – what’s become of Postcode 3012?

    Year of the Dogs was surprisingly snubbed by the AFI in 1997, got a “minor” gong for editing. Still a ripper watch.


  16. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Mic
    Yes I couldn’t help noticing my old house and most of the other houses in the Footscray North street all looked pretty swish. It reminded me of my daughter’s street in Fairfield. Another suburb that wasn’t popular only a few years ago and now you need a lazy mill to get a start.
    I parked opposite the old house and took a couple of photos. I kept thinking any minute now young Johnny or Tran will go racing in to his Dad screaming, “Dad! Dad! There’s a strange man sitting in a car across the street taking photos!”
    I know one thing, there’s no room to kick a footy out in the street any more.

  17. Glen Potter says


    I have made deliberate visits to all the old VFL grounds in recent years. It’s a bizarre feeling that is rarely tempered. I’ve often arrived with much anticipation and maintained my cheery disposition on departure. I’d have this sense of privilege, to have graced the turf of footballing gods before me; reliving the environs of fabulous footy memories; and for the sheer fact that I’d had a kick on a ‘VFL ground’ as I’d say to anyone within earshot. I still find this practice highly agreeable if I’m in Melbourne, and have footy in tow. Even old VFA grounds rouse my interest.

    I’m a Cats supporter living in the Geelong region and thankfully still enjoy my local venue, although it is now highly-developed, is one where I have fond childhood memories (and miseries). I do get nostalgic looking at old Kardinia Park images, but wouldn’t want for change from the status quo – modernity has its comforts. I’m just grateful we have our own venue. That’s cold comfort for some Bulldogs, Saints, Kangaroos, Hawks, Blues, Pies, Bombers, Tigers, Lions and Swans supporters, who knew home in an era when suburbia enveloped their fortress. Now they may share venues some perceive as sterile. Fortunately, I’m not in a position to see it that way.

    As sentimental as I get about old suburban venues, I take a humble seat at the MCG or Docklands and am thankful that I’m not exactly freezing my arse off like I did decades earlier. It’s easy for me to take this position as the Cats get seven home games each season. Bully for me. I really can’t talk to this point any further. Perhaps, I’m spoilt.

    Well done on your award, Neil. I hope another production is on the cards. Chookas!

    Kind regards,


  18. Neil Anderson says

    Thank You Glen for a very personal response. I’m a bit overwhelmed with all the well-wishes and the fact people seemed to enjoy my musings, as someone described them.
    I suppose it’s not surprising Knackers relate to old footy grounds and matches that stick in your mind for some reason.
    I also liked the weather-proof Docklands initially but now as an older grumpy old man I see it as a money-draining venue (because of the poor attendances especially if we play the interstaters). And as I quoted Brian Lake saying, the players need far more time to recover after Etihad….well the Bulldogs can do without that.
    Sounds like Chookas is a better thing to say than break a leg? I’ve only ever heard Red Symons use that expression and I haven’t been game to ask what it means…til now.

  19. Murray Wilson says

    I Reckon the Sporting Globe would have been the paper the newsagent opened late for on a saturday, my recollection selling the herald was you got three quarter time scores only with the final extra

  20. Neil Anderson says

    You may be right about what scores were in the papers Murray. Of course I’m talking about back in the dream-time, mid-1950’s era. I do remember it was like in the American wild-west where all the towns-folk crowded into the Western Union telegraph office as the operator tapped out news of the latest injun masacre.
    This was before Harry and ‘are you there’ Tommy did around the grounds on the wireless, so it’s no wonder the crowds at the milkbar resembled that other outdated ritual, the six o’clock swill.

  21. Why would a Bulldog supporter use an “injun massacre” as his news metaphor?
    That pessimism is pretty deeply ingrained Neil?

  22. Neil Anderson says

    It’s amazing what the sub-conscious throws up Peter. Nicely analysed. It was just the first metaphor that came to mind. I suppose I could have used the women-folk crowding around the bulletin-board during WW1 looking for any news of their loved-ones from the front. But I didn’t. Touche Doctor Freud.
    In fairness, we were waiting for all results of matches, not just Footscray scores.

  23. Peter Fuller says

    I’m always a bit dubious about my memory these days, but my recollection concurs with Neil’s, the final edition of the Saturday Herald carried the final scores in the stop press. I wonder if you weren’t selling an earlier edition.
    I offer two bits of evidence. My mother-in-law would include the scores in the aerogramme she posted to us every Sunday night when we lived in Stockholm during a football season in the 1970s. My wife’s family weren’t Sporting Globe readers. That was the only way we could source the results in those primitive days pre-internet.
    As a country kid, we would get the Saturday night papers – Globe and Herald – on our way home from Mass on Sunday morning. They didn’t arrive in Colac until the train about 8.30 Saturday night.

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