Round 2 – Richmond v Western Bulldogs: Footscray to Mortlake

FOOTSCRAY TO MORTLAKE

By Neil Anderson

From Footscray to Mortlake. It doesn’t quite sound as exotic as Paris to Istanbul, but then again I’m not talking about travelling on the Orient Express. Were the train journey that is the  Footscray Football Club the Orient Express I might have jumped off by the Danube. But I haven’t, and I know I still have a long way to go on my travels before I see that second premiership.

 

People ask why I continue to barrack for the Bulldogs. Then they ask the follow-up question about why I don’t jump off and support a team more likely to win a premiership.

Well I won’t and I can’t. It’s too big a part of me.

 

In 1950s Melbourne you barracked for the team representing your suburb. I lived in Footscray for my first ten years, so I barracked for the Dogs.

 

My father took me to the MCG  to see the 1954 Grand Final. It was a glorious day in the life of the club, and in the life of the suburb. But things were to change for the Buldogs and my family.

 

My first cultural shock was shifting from the western suburbs to Melbourne’s eastern-suburbs, where sport-shops didn’t even bother to stock Bulldogs jumpers. And then, after an employment transfer to the Western District of Victoria, I became even more of an oddity when I showed my Bulldogs credentials. I still am really.

 

Ten years ago with the Bulldogs going nowhere, I needed a hobby. Something creative to take my mind off my club which had stalled in its development.  Writing one-act plays which are usually forty-minutes long and then seeing them performed on stage has helped my impatience. And then, discovering the perfect synthesis for me when it came to writing, I began to write for the Footy Almanac which involved creative writing based on my favourite subject – football.  In particular, the Western Bulldogs. The Almanac motto is ‘write from the heart’ and the brief to contributors is to be creative, so that suits me fine.

 

You have to be creative when you follow the Bulldogs.

 

So here I am, sitting in my Mortlake lounge room, the rest of the household has disappeared for the day, so I’m having a ‘Summer of George (Costanza)’ afternoon (replacing the ball of cheese with a bowl of Nobby’s Nuts) and I am so looking forward to crossing to the MCG for what really is a bonzer opportunity for my Dogs. The possibility of being 2-0 has me feeling like I’m by the Maribyrnong again. (No mean feat!)

 

I am optimistic. The commentators and the betting-agencies are not so optimistic. They keep harping on about the Bulldogs being inexperienced and that we’ve had so much turmoil in the off-season. From what I’ve seen in the NAB Challenge and against the Eagles last week, though, youth is a good thing. (Especially when Robert Murphy is your skipper)

 

So from standing on the terraces at the old Western Oval with teenage mates, to the occasional visit to the soul-less Docklands, these days I watch the Bulldogs on the large-screen. I miss being surrounded by Bulldog supporters, but to zoom in on the action and to know your match will be telecast every week is heaven compared to those last-quarter-only days of the footy replay shown in black and white.

 

From the first bounce my faith in the youth policy is repaid with Bontempelli, Macrae, Stringer, Wallis and Honeychurch all magnificent. It started with all their manic energy – just like last week – and then settled into a display of skilled football. Particularly from the ‘Bont’ and Jack Macrae.

 

It’s days like this you realise why you follow a team for so long with more downs than ups. The hope is the key. It doesn’t seem like a false dawn today and the light at the end of the tunnel is not from the on-coming train we’ve seen in the past.

 

The long journey is suddenly a lot more pleasant.

 

A retired public servant, Bulldogs fanatic Neil Anderson lives in Mortlake, in western Victoria. He writes one-act plays, seven of which have received awards. He is a regular contributor to footyalmanac.com.au

This article first appeared in this week’s Inside Football, out today.

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.

Comments

  1. Good on ya Neil.
    We’ll lose plenty of games this year but the kids, hopefully, will prosper.
    Try to get up to the Western Oval for some VFL this year.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Crio.
    I will try and get down to the Whitten Oval a few times this year.
    Footscray playing out of the old ground has been a huge bonus for us supporters and I am looking forward to seeing them in action this Saturday on TV for a start.
    Unfortunately it’s Channel 7. WTF?
    Go Dogs!

  3. Skip of Skipton says

    Footscray are the real shit, Neil. They nailed the last three drafts. Hang in there.

  4. torchbearer38 says

    Hang in the mate Marcus is a gun

  5. G’day Neil,

    I can feel how passionate you are for the Bulldogs. The footy club needs loyal supporters like you.

    Bulldogs are doing well for the first two rounds and I am impressed. Murphy is a good captain and I think the new coach is doing well. Doggies are so competitive now.

    I hope your beloved Bulldogs win over Hawthorn on Sunday!

    Cheers

    Yoshi

  6. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Skip.
    If there’s something we Bulldog supporters do well is hang in there. In some cases decades.
    Thanks Yoshi.
    You must have been just as pleased with the Saints last week and I see commentators are picking them against the Magpies. Bruce made a big difference.
    I was interested to see that magazine Inside Football is aligned with SEN RADIO which is the one you refer to all the time and the one I assume you listen to most matches on.
    You really will have to get to Melbourne some time to see the Saints play.

  7. Bob Speechley says

    BOB & THE BOYS

    I am like a “pig in shit”. I am back with the Bulldogs brood having left the “Red Barons”, after a generation supporting them, last year. My True Confessions piece was in the 2014 Almanac. My son a lifelong Bulldogs fan took me to the MCC members for the Richmond game. I attended the Eagles contest at ETIHAD in the opening round. I confess that I haven’t enjoyed football as much for a long time. Neil, as a fellow ’54 attendee, hang in because this mob is the real thing – they play as a team and work off one another superbly. Bob and “the other Boyd” add a depth of experience up back and along with unacknowledged Roughead and Talia has the makings of a very strong line-up. I am back for the long haul!

  8. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Torchbearer. Doesn’t it make a difference to see a player star every week and not be just a case of ‘he’s gonna be a champion one day’.
    Thanks Bob, you’re on the list. It’s a growing list of people I will be celebrating with when we finally win that flag ( as it was in 1954 ). Fellow 1954 attendees like yourself will be guests of honour.
    Just listening to Jon Faine talking to Peter Gordon on his regular segment. They start the segment with an audio of the Bulldogs beating Melbourne on that glorious day. It really is starting to feel like ‘ The Year of the Dog ‘ .

  9. if only we’d not lost Cal Ward!!
    Plenty of patience will still be needed but the positivism makes a good change.

  10. “The wins are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep”
    (Apologies to Robert Frost)
    Grand stuff Neil. Your search for reward and redemption reminded me of him. I think you have found a good coach in Beveridge. Smart AND a good communicator. He makes young men believe and want to follow him.

  11. Neil Anderson says

    Robert Frost must have barracked for the Dogs. With that sort of sentiment he has nailed how we feel. Rapt that they’ve started the season so well and are ultra-competitive ( that’s all we ask ) but hanging back on any celebrations until we’re further down the track. He’s even used the train analogy.

  12. cowshedend says

    Great stuff Neil, there will be many beatings this year, but this is by far the best Footscray side i have seen in my lifetime (85 included),.
    All Hail Simon Dalrymple and Jason Mc Cartney.
    The Gold Coast are starting to show what a dud recruiter Scott Clayton was/is.
    By the way Scotty, Sam Power,Tom Williams, Josh Hill,Farren Ray etc etc etc etc say Hi!

  13. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks CSE. Until the last two weeks I was critical of most of the recruiting and particularly team selection where they thought they could get by with small key-forwards and backs.
    I know they were light on stocks, but I’d rather see some six-foot five guy up front who-ever he was, than see the long-bombs land on top of Dahlhaus and Hrovat.
    What a difference to have the two tall forwards and backs selected each week. Would like to see Redpath back at CHF though.

  14. cowshedend says

    Yes Neil with you on Redpath, very stiff to get the flick after round 1, always gives a contest, can clunk a few and a very good kick for goal, doesn’t mind taking an opposition player out as well!
    Surely this is the last chance saloon for Ayce before they finally give him the big ayce!

  15. Much love for The Bont about but if I buy the Bulldogs jumper I’m going to put Stringer’s number on it. He’ll be one to watch – he already is!

  16. On ya Neil, marvellous as always.

    Whilst a lot of hard work (and hard days) await Luke Beveridge and his charges, it appears that for the first time in a long while the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t that of an oncoming locomotive. The next few weeks will be as revealing as the opening fortnight. A 50% record at the Rd 11 bye would be mighty satisfying – anything superior to that would be terrific. Nice to see Webb in the mix to debut against the reigning champs – respect everyone, fear none.

    I second Cookies comment – the media has focused on the rapid development of Bontempelli & Macrae but I think Stringer is the standout amongst the young guns.

    Your “Year of the Dog” comment brought back fond memories of Michael Cordell’s 1997 fly- on-the-wall look at the turbulent ’96 campaign. I remember one earnest review of the film suggesting Dostoyevsky would’ve felt more than comfortable following the Footscray Football Club (or words to that effect). Can’t remember seeing him at the Western Oval, he must’ve stood at the Mt Mistake end.

    I’m wondering what odds I can get for a 2017 Dogs /Cubs (World Series) “double”.

    Keep the faith.

    MCR

  17. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Mic.
    As I’ve said before, the Almanac has been great because I hear from other people who are mad Doggy supporters and usually have great recall of events from the past.
    I was a bit like the Dostoyevsky character alone in my garret during bleak winters wondering if there was any other Doggy supporters still out there.
    Speaking of Dostoyevsky, I believe he was recruited as a star full-forward from the Balkans, but it turned out he was a secret-agent sent in to undermine the already sapped -confidence of the players. They discovered later he had based his book ‘The Idiot’ on coach Alan Joyce.
    When I mentioned Year of the Dog I meant hopefully it was going to be a good year for the Dogs rather than a reference to those dire days of 1996. It was a wonderful doco however about the supporters and the sense of living in Footscray.
    Thanks again for your comments as I ready myself for the mighty Scrays at Whitten Oval. They make an old man very happy.

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