Keeping the faith

By Neil Anderson

How do you begin to describe what it’s like being a Bulldog supporter 58 years after their one and only premiership? The answer is you don’t. Not if you’re talking to fans of other clubs who have gorged on Dunstall-led premierships for example, or to Carlton supporters who want a return to the heady days of cheque book-led premierships.

What you do is simply wish for an end to another horrid season, look forward to some decent draft picks (they owe us big-time for Callan Ward) and pray that Jarrad Grant can stack on 30kgs in a hurry.

My faith in the future of this footy club has taken a massive hit this year.  But I know damn well from October I’ll be scanning the papers for every snippet on recruiting and checking the Bulldog website for details of players’ progress with their off-season rehab.

If I do attempt to explain why I have been a Bulldog supporter for over half a century, I would begin by saying it involves a sort of religious faith and the best way to describe that faith is in biblical terms.

So this is my story…

Cue the Charlton Heston or Morgan Freeman voice-over…

In the beginning was the word and word was that twelve tribes  contested games in the mighty metropolis of Melbourne.

One such tribe was from the village of Footscray. A village of largely peasant stock which boasted the greatest production of carbon in the land.  This was achieved despite the governor placing a tax on all cubits of carbon produced  while still denying them their carbon credits.

In one such rude but comfortable dwelling within the walls of Footscray lived a skilled artisan known as Ronald The Pessimist. A practical man with little tolerance for dreamers and mystics who used the stars and Footy Gods to predict their lives and results of sporting contests.

Following the end of the Germanic and Asiatic wars, Ronald did begat a son who became known as Neil The Naïve. The father was struck down with grief when he realized his first born son was one of those idle dreamers who had no wish to be a hewer of wood.  The son was more likely to be found with other callow youth discussing  the merits of graffiti on the village walls.

Neil The Naïve was convinced his sporting heroes from Footscray would triumph against the enemy in the upcoming final of the competition between tribes.

His father could no longer bear to see the son so disillusioned and under the spell of false prophets. Following the feast of Sunday where the family gathered to enjoy the fatted lamb, Ronald made a decision to teach his son a lesson that would forever change his life.

He would take young Neil to the centre of the city to witness the final contest between the   Demon tribe and the Footscray peasants. Such was his confidence in a Demon victory, he knew he could rid his son of impossible dreams and allow him to enter adulthood as a more rational man. After all, was not this Demon tribe  led by a brute known as Ronald Dale  Barrabus and sponsored by wealthy merchants?  The sons of masons and slaughtermen would surely make no contest.

And so it came to pass in the year of Our Lord 1954 Ronald and his son Neil travelled the road of Dynon to see the mighty clash of Titans. Ronald believed he should have gone via the Damascas Road to ensure his son’s enlightenment, but alas he had no shekel to pay the toll.

On reaching the arena, Neil searched for local heroes and was not disappointed. The youthful Edward Whitten marked by the number 3 symbol as Neil had copied on his own garment. There  was the fair-haired Nordic Prince known as Jack-O –Collins who began to roost the air-conveyance through the largest of sticks. They were led by a mighty general  who was built in the image of a sturdy oxen and was known as Charles of Seddon. It became part of folklore that Charles did instruct his troops that they should be the earliest to barter and he would take care of any tumult that may occur.

The Demon warriors were also skilled along with brute force provided by  Barrabus, but they were no match for the men of Footscray on this day. Neil now believed in the soothsayers of Barkly Street who foretold  the victory and his father Ronald succumbed to deep melancholy knowing he had failed to teach him a lesson in realism. He feared his son would become vainglorious and boast of predicting the future.

But the father need not have worried for that would be the only grand victory his son would see in his lifetime of three score and ten. The father had been mistaken in the year of 1954 but he had left a curse of failure for his son to live with for nearly 60 years as he waited for a second victory to occur. Just once in the year 1961 was there a possibility of victory. The son listened for news of victory but the father turned away with Costello smirk and secret knowing. He could only advise the distraught son with words of wisdom such as,”Bad kicking doth maketh bad football”, and “ One giant leap and mark by Mervyn Hobbs  does not victory make”.

The son was further cursed when he married Sharyn of Kew and begat two children. As the decades passed and victories were barren, Neil The Disillusioned turned to his wife to be consoled.  Unfortunately she had no knowledge of sports and could only offer a suggestion that perhaps he should changeth teams, further throwing him into deeper melancholy.

As the barbarians inflict their pain upon his team year after year, the son has often reflected on that one victory many years ago. Were the stars aligned just that once to give false hope? And why was he forever doomed to search in vain for a second coming of victory? He had indeed   become the central character of a tragic play written by ancient Greeks.

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. I think this is wonderful – and no, I am not biased!!

  2. David harms says

    Are you Sharyn of Kew?
    Lucky you did convince him to support fitzroy.

  3. Fear not, Neil the Naysayer. I hewed stone in the dark mines of Thebarton in the Southern desert for many years, before following false prophets east to St Seaford, where further penance was served.
    But the auguries were true to their promise.
    A sacred bird (the Avenging Eagle) flew low and lured me back across the great deserts to the promised land on the Western Shore where prosperity and deliverance thrives.
    It is a long road that has no turning. I was there in 2005 when the longer suffering Bloods supporters had their faith rewarded, and turned my heart to stone for another year.
    The Lord was justing testing that the new faith was strong before 2006’s reward.
    Stay strong my son. St Brendan is a wise man who will not be swayed by baubles and trinkets.
    Your heart will be rewarded (so keeping jogging and taking the aspirin to give him time to work his alchemy).
    Lovely piece – I look forward to more Scragger pieces – now that Gigs has converted to Hinduism and Crio is too focussed on the needy and the greedy. Welcome aboard.

  4. I grew up in East Kew, but haven’t lived there for nigh-on 40 years! I am married to the hopelessly-devoted ‘Scray’s fan, Neil.

  5. nice one Neil.

  6. Chris Weaver says

    I’m from the defeated tribe (Demons), but married into a Footscray family.

    I want to see the Bulldogs make it to the big dance, because I know how much it will mean to my wife and mother-in-law.

    I hope you’re there for that day too, Neil – your story is a familiar one to me!

  7. Yea, Neil, sage words indeed. And forgetteth not the minstrels of Hyde St who marched before the tarpaulin and suffered the stings of wayward florins and pennies on their cold fingers as they played. Mightily they blew and suffered for the cause.

  8. Dear Neil I hear you brother. Saints know the heartache too. Too long between drinks, cursed to have 5 attempts and get no closer to the cup that runneth over than in you one attempt. May the gods of the long suffering team please give one of our teams another cup and a team worthy of taking it from the grip of others. Go doggies. Go saints. Yvette

  9. Cow Shed end says

    I too have suffered greatly from the false prophets who dwell at the foot of Mount Mistake,and have sort solace at local taverns such as Ye Olde Albert, where Charles of Seddon held court.

    Brilliant piece!

  10. If they’d have scripted us Footscray fans in the Bible, we’d have come across as more forsaken than the Jews.

    Great angle on your piece, Neil

  11. Thanks to everyone for their comments. The group-therapy has done me good and yes, I’ll keep taking the asprin as prescribed six years ago. I’m determined to see the final act of this play where,” Behold! the Mighty Bulldog shall rise up again and peaceful thoughts will return once more. ” Loved the memory of the tarpaulin- toting coin collectors with the Hyde Street Band at the Western Oval at half time. What hardy knaves they must have been as they dodged the florins, pennies and half-pennies thrown by all the drunks ten rows back. The other not-so-good memory was the stinking over-flowing mens’ toilets at the back of the stands. Thank God I didn’t have to use them when I was sober!

Leave a Comment