Round 20 – Western Bulldogs v Melbourne: Forever Casting out the Demons

Western Bulldogs versus Melbourne

3.20 pm, Sunday, 16th August

Etihad Stadium

 

Neil Anderson

 

Forever Casting Out The Demons

 

25th September 1954

Grand Final Day at the MCG.

Footscray versus Melbourne.

Official crowd: 80,897

 

Standing- room only for the Footscray faithful. Making it even harder for the seven-year-old boy to get a full view of the arena with all those giants clad in their coats and hats standing right in front of him.

Apparently the lack of seating was due to the re-development of the Northern Stand preparing for the Melbourne Olympics to be held in two years’ time.

The boy didn’t care or know much about the Olympics on this day. For him it was just some big sports-thing that happened in America or England or somewhere. It certainly wasn’t as important as the Queen’s visit to Melbourne earlier that year when the kids in Grade 2 were given commemorative booklets and shiny coins to mark the occasion.

Today was all about his own suburban football team playing in a Grand Final for the first time ever. His team that played their home matches two miles from his front gate comprised of champions who lived even closer to the Western Oval, like Ted Whitten. Local heroes representing local people. This was well before the draft where recruits could go anywhere depending on club selections based on final ladder positions the previous year.

Sixty-one years later the memories of how each quarter of football was played on that day have faded. There was no replay to go home to and relive the experience and keep some of those memories alive. No television would be available in Australia for another two years. To be truthful he would have caught only glimpses of the action standing behind those men. Hearing them roar every time Jack Collins kicked a goal or after Charlie Sutton dipped his shoulder and shirt-fronted a Melbourne player. That was the signal for him to poke his head between the phalanx of coats just in time to see the Footscray players politely clapping Jack after yet another goal, with nary a high-five to be seen, let alone an embrace or pat on the bum.

His line of sight might have been blocked that day, but the crowd noises combined with the smells of tobacco, beer and anxious sweat created a sensory overload that will live with him forever. Not quite a situation of being down amongst the mud, the blood and the beer, but close enough for the wide-eyed boy with an over-active imagination.

After the Bulldog’s win it was like driving home to a country town after the local boys had beaten the next-town rivals. Reaching the corner of Ballarat Road and Gordon Street the locals were leaning over their fences and cheering. Drinkers were on the footpath outside Powell’s Hotel generously offering passers-by a swig of their long-neck bottles.

Footscray supporters had every right to believe it was just the first of many grand-final wins after such an easy win against Melbourne. How wrong they were. The Demons by name and nature plagued Footscray and the other ten teams over the next decade by winning six premierships.

 

August 16th 2015

Etihad Stadium

Western Bulldogs versus Melbourne

Official crowd: 27,805

 

The seven-year-old boy is now a sixty-eight year old man living in country Victoria and his beloved Bulldogs play their home matches at a stadium with a roof, approximately 200 kilometres from his front gate.

Sixty-one years later the team is comprised of players from all over Australia. The colours are the same thank goodness, recently going retro and using the same red, white and blue design as worn by the1954 premiership heroes.

He’ll be watching the Bulldogs play the Demons again. This time on a large-screen television that resembles something from those 1950’s science-fiction films he would have seen at one of the local picture-theatres in Footscray.

The Bulldogs should be favourites to win after their recent good form, but overall the Demons have won 85 to 74 since 1925. The Demons also won earlier in the year fairly easily. But it’s a hoodoo-ground for the Melbourne Footy Club…so, here we go again. The Dogs are playing a team well below them on the ladder and yet, because of history, Bulldog supporters still see it as a danger game. This is why Danny from Droop Street is such a popular character on the Coodabeen Champions program – because he represents our pessimism so well.

So, only twelve wins to go and a swag of premierships before the Bulldogs can fully exorcise those Demons. At least today the Bulldog faithful can start by chanting and clapping like they used to in the EJ Whitten Stand. If that doesn’t work, we might have to check the yellow-pages for a Bulldog-loving exorcist.

The first quarter blitz by the Bulldogs erased any doubts about an upset. Strong marks by strong, determined men in front of goal. The much maligned Jarrad Grant kicking two goals and Watts missing a crunch- goal like he did last year made me wonder why I bothered to make a case for a possible Melbourne win.

51 points to 2 at quarter time.

The second quarter involved another spread of Bulldog goal-kickers including a bit-player like Lin Jong who easily strolled in from packs and kicked two goals. Stringer goaled from the boundary and Matthew Boyd shook off all the negativity of being part of Bulldog teams that never quite made it to the ‘Big Dance’ and took a screamer.

The commentators annoyed me by saying the Bulldogs were going to kick a cricket-score as they searched the record-books for details. 89 points to 16 at half-time.

The third quarter, with the Demons kicking five goals to nil, reminded me why I was uneasy about the Bulldogs being predicted to kick a cricket-score. Just like a commentator saying how reliable a certain goal-kicker is as he is lining up for goal and then he sprays it. They said that about Tory Dickson last week as he lined up for his twenty-something goal without a miss. Once again Tony Lockett’s record is safe… of course. 91 points to 49 at three-quarter time.

Any concern for a St Kilda-type comeback and negative thoughts disappeared at the start of the fourth quarter. A Stringer goal and Watts accidentally passing to Redpath for a goal started another goal-blitz by the Bulldogs. The usual suspects including Bontempelli, Stringer and Dickson goaled and Biggs floated in from the back-line to goal without any pressure, making a total of twelve individual goal-kickers for the day. The final score was 153 points to 55.

A Hawk-supporter friend asked me this morning if the Bulldogs could beat the West Coast Eagles on Sunday so his team could grab second spot. After just a slight hesitation I said, “Yeah, I think they can”.

It’s time for this old sceptic to think positive just like his team is obviously doing. Time to let go of 61 years of negativity.

 

Western Bulldogs   8.3 14.5 14.7 24.9 (153)

Melbourne               0.2 2.4   7.7   8.7     (55)

GOALS:

Bulldogs: Stringer 4, Grant 3, Bontempelli 3, Dickson 3, Redpath 2, Jong 2, Crameri 2, Macrae, Dahlhaus, Hunter, Wallis, Biggs

Melbourne: Hogan 3, Garlett 2, Daws, Watts, Gawn

BEST:

Bulldogs: Dahlhaus, Wallis, Hunter, Boyd, Jong, Macrae, Stringer

Melbourne:   T. McDonald, Viney, M. Jones, N. Jones, Gawn, Hogan

Umpires: Pannell, Mitchell, Wallace

Official crowd: 27,805

Our Votes: 3 Hunter (WB) 2 Wallis (WB) T. McDonald (Melb)

 

 

 

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. jan courtin says:

    Nice one Neil. I always believed you hadn’t actually seen your doggies win that premiership. Nice that you have, albeit a faded memory now. I know only too well what those faded memories are all about!
    I really hope your team is successful, but must say I want US to end up fourth!
    Pointless really trying to speculate what will happen, week to week. And definitely pointless hoping that another team’s loss will help if our team doesn’t get up on the day. It’s all in the lap of…something or someone.
    Good luck

  2. bob.speechley says:

    As a fellow ’54 veteran I still remember that day. Melbourne booted 7 goals as did Jack Collins. We drove to the MCG along Melbourne Road from Williamstown and recall vividly all the shops bedecked in the tricolours. Driving home via the Footscray Town Hall we came across large numbers of fans waiting for their heroes to arrive – a memorable day.
    This season has been phenomenal. So many grand performances capped I think on Sunday. So many options up forward backed up by a stunning group of on-ballers and a very experienced backline. We can only hope that the excitement continues for another 6 weeks.

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