From Colonial Stadium to Etihad: Fifteen Years of Future Shock


“ Change is not merely necessary to life -it is life”   Alvin Tofler


It was clean-out-the-bungalow time as we prepared for a possible shift. I think shifting house comes about third on the stress-level scale after making a speech and the fear of dying. As Jerry Seinfeld said, that means you would rather be the one in the coffin than the one who gives the eulogy. I had already rescued my bios of EJ, Libba and the Hawk and it was my wife’s turn to hopefully get rid of those ancient class-sets and faded, yellowing essays from her early student days.

On checking the paper and book-cull the next day, I spied a football magazine that had been thrown aside by the ‘non-believer’ lest it contaminate and corrupt her academic work.

And what a wonderful historical document it turned out to be for this old Almanacker who is presently counting down the days before his beloved Bulldogs run out on to the Whitten Oval.

The magazine was an insert in The Age newspaper dated 6th March 2000 and provides full lists of every team and the predictions by Malcolm Blight and Robert Walls for the ladder positions and likely grand-finalists for the season about to start.

One of the biggest changes for AFL fans then was the introduction of footy under the roof at Colonial Stadium with the associated costs of seating etc compared to the free seating at Waverley Park.

Rohan Connolly explained and predicted what might happen in the brave-new-world that footy was about to enter that year:

“ There’s something different about every football year, but particularly on the eve of 2000 for a number of reasons. Chief among them is Colonial Stadium, the AFL’s new headquarters, not only the league’s first newly built venue to host league football since the opening of Waverley Park back in 1970, but a ground that will host more games than the game’s spiritual home, the MCG.”

Rohan Connolly continued his introduction-article for the year 2000 with the coaching changes and the fact that the competition was about to start one month earlier due to the Olympic Games being in Sydney that year:

“ When the season kicks off on the night of Wednesday 8 March, with the Richmond-Melbourne clash, Tiger coach Danny Frawley will be just one of three senior coaching debutants, the others being former Essendon skipper Mark Thompson at Geelong and Hawthorn premiership player Peter Schwab, who has given up the umpires to coach his old side. Three more coaches – Mick Malthouse (Collingwood), Gary Ayres (Adelaide) and Ken Judge (West Coast)- will be at the helm of teams other than those they lead in 1999. That’s nearly half the league.”

Patrick Smith singled out the Dockers for being hopeless at that time and it is certainly not the same team I saw Ross Lyon promoting today at their official launch for the 2015 season.

“The greatest issue facing Fremantle is simply one of credibility. The Dockers are known in Perth as the Shockers and for very good reason. Fremantle has failed to make any impression in AFL football. It has sought and been given AFL help through questionable draft concessions  (occasionally some things don’t change) and the invaluable input of the AFL’s general manager, football operations, Ian Collins.”

Patrick Smith was very accurate with his predictions for the future of Docklands Stadium. Particularly about the price of pies which has become a gristle of contention in recent times, except for Almanackers in the West and South Australia where apparently they prefer pasties anyway.

“For the folks in the streets their major concern is Docklands and reserved seating, the absence of drive-in, walk-up Waverley. Will they get into Colonial Stadium and how much will it cost? Is Docklands just a state-of-the-art cash-register for the AFL clubs and financial backers? How will the cost of football escalate at the new venue from the price of the seat, to the price of pies, price of parking, and whatever value you put on sitting with your mates as a weekend ritual?”

The changing fortunes of the then sixteen AFL clubs since 2000 can be seen in Rohan Connolly’s ladder predictions:

  1. Essendon (He got that right, but I think he’s an Essendon man anyway.)
  2. Carlton
  3. Kangaroos
  4. Brisbane
  5. St Kilda
  6. Hawthorn
  7. Bulldogs
  8. Melbourne ( Runners -up but probably wish they didn’t turn up on GF day.)
  9. Port Adelaide
  10. Sydney
  11. West Coast
  12. Adelaide
  13. Richmond
  14. Geelong
  15. Collingwood
  16. Fremantle

The other interesting details from the 2000 club lists were the arrivals that year with a few of the players remarkably still on the current lists, fifteen years later. Some of the interesting names include:

West.Bulldogs:  Daniel Giansiracusa, Lindsay Gilbee and Robert Murphy who was described in the bio section thus: “His pace and vertical leap were among the best at last year’s draft camp”.

West Coast rookie: Dean Cox

Hawks: Luke McPharlin

Cats: Paul Chapman, Joel Corey, Corey Enright, Cameron Ling.

Magpies: Leon Davis, Josh Fraser, Ben Johnson, Rhyce Shaw.

Lions: Jonathan Brown

As we are about to do our own predictions for season 2015 we will be quick to pencil in the top four or six teams that always seem to be there, year after year. Then there is the next group that might scrape in to the bottom of the eight and finally the bottom four that are fairly easy to predict. Those of us who barrack for the struggling teams are quick to say equalisation isn’t working to give our teams a crack at the premiership.

But if you look at the lower teams in 2000 like Geelong, Collingwood, Sydney and Freo, they have since won premierships (sometimes multiples) or played off in Grand-Finals.

Let’s hope it isn’t a case of the more things change the more they stay the same and it’s more a case of eventually any team can win on any given Sunday…or Thursday or Friday or really back to the future, on Saturday afternoons.


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. G’day Neil,

    Your writing is interesting as my beloved Saints share the home stadium with your Bulldogs at Docklands.

    At first, Rohan Connolly is an Essendon supporter. I found it when I visited his Twitter even if I do not have my own Twitter account.

    Considering prices on seats and foods at Docklands is a good point. I wonder why clubs with financial struggles are tenants at the 15-year-old stadium.

    Recently supporting GWS is the subject on SEN’s programs. Many listeners do not support AFL’s decisions on talk back segments. Why they killed Fitzroy and grabbed money from struggling clubs for the Docklands Stadium while they spend a lot of money for baby clubs?

    Also my worry about the Docklands is play conditions. Grasses are not grown well due to the roof. Hard surfaces are bad for players, I reckon.

    At least AFL should purchase the stadium early and I don’t want to see corporate names in the stadium. I don’t want to address it as E something stadium.



  2. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks for the comment Yoshi. Rohan Connolly went on to say how it was going to be the end of wet weather football and would suit the fast running skilful sides such as Essendon and the Western Bulldogs. There was no mention then of the home-teams having to play on a surface with a concrete car-parking roof as its base. When Brian Lake went to Hawthorn and played and trained more on the MCG he said you were able to recover a lot quicker than when he was at the Docklands.
    As a matter of interest Yoshi, both of the experts picked St Kilda to finish ninth in 2000.
    Malcom Blight said, ” Their better players can’t keep carrying the under-achievers. Coach Tim Watson should have learnt from his maiden year. Teams and structure wins games , not individuals on separate missions.” It sounds like a job application from Malcom for the Saint’s job and probably was because he was appointed coach in 2001. Unfortunately, he was sacked fifteen weeks later.

  3. Great stuff Neil.

    Ol’ mate Ro is definitely an Essendon man, but he wouldn’t have been on his Pat Malone tipping the Bombers for the 2000 flag.

    Docklands is a swine of a joint and should be nuked at the first available opportunity. It has all the charm and personality of angry parking inspector. With apologies to parking inspectors.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Thanks for taking us back to 2000 Neil. What a different AFL it was back then. Hope the “non-believer” isn’t throwing out too much Bulldog memorabilia. Say hi to her for me.
    Totally agree with Steve’s Dockland’s views.

  5. Neil Anderson says

    Yeah, I should’ve been more savage on Docklands. When it was first announced I thought it would be good for the Bulldogs. Weather-proof, and of course close for the fans and no more venturing out to Waverley and suffering hypothermia . Now the rent’s keeping them broke and devoid of any atmosphere for the fans as Steve says.
    Said hi to the non-believer for you but she was more concerned you had your head stuck in Wisden and you hadn’t done your homework. I tried to cull some of her very outdated text-books in the clean-up, placing them in the recycle-bin, but they were back on the book-shelf the very next day.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Head stuck in Wisden and hadn’t done my homework. Sums up my High School education.
    The novel “Z for Zachariah” is due for a movie release this year. Can’t wait to see it. We read and studied this book with Mrs A in year 7. Really enjoyed it. Hope the big screen adaption lives up to the images imagined in 1992. Keen to read the book again.

Leave a Comment