Round 21: Doggies fans are real

by John Harms

It’s Friday night. I am a little concerned. The Cats are wobbly, and the Dogs have a top four spot to play for. But the result doesn’t matter too much anyway (I tell myself).

I do a lap of Etihad Stadium, wandering slowly along the concourse on the first level. Red, white and blue people are finding their seats.

A lot of footy fans have dismissed the Dogs. For a couple of weeks the discourse of the media herd was that they were gone. Once a few analysts queried them on TV and in the press, the view gathered momentum, and the Dogs were no good. Out to $15 with the bookies.

Not among Dog fans though. They still have something which they haven’t always had: expectation. Genuine expectation.

I walk among the faithful in the south-west pocket where so many Scraggers have congregated, having made the trip from Spotswood and Newport and Yarraville and Seddon; and those places on the flat of magnificent ordinariness.

I see women called Mum who can crochet and prune roses; who apologise when you pop in on a Wednesday and they’ve only got ‘bought biscuits’ in the house (“I gen’ally bake Thursdees”). And blokes called Dad with dodgy hips who’ve got a trots night at Melton coming up; who’ve punched the same bundy down at Altona since John Schultz was a star.

These are the people of HR Holdens and slot car sets, ten pin bowling and jaffas at the Sun Theatre; who still dress up to go into town (“Gotta get me eyes done”). People who’ve got original JOK vinyl in a box with some of Pop’s old Workers’ Weeklies. These are Ted Whitten’s people, Dougie Hawkins’ people, Julia Gillard’s people.

They are real people. With ducks on the wall and one of those things that rains snow on the Sydney Harbour Bridge when you shake it up. They know the name of the woman behind the counter down the shop and they’re particular about fish (“Where was the whiting caught?”)

There is no pretense in them. They laugh when the accountant son (“Did his degree at night at TAFE”), now a financial controller in a petro-chemical company, staggers out of the corporate box telling them how good the food was. They know only too well that camembert and quince in the Medallion Club is really a jam and cheese sandwich.

That’s the west.

John Weldon, a lifelong Doggie, writing in The Footy Alamanac in 2008, observed that he didn’t know what to feel and what to think when the Dogs were on their unbeaten run last year. Being a Doggies fan was about going to the footy, and being among other Bulldogs. Suddenly they were contenders. Half a dozen wins in a row and he was lost.

I find a place standing among some Dogs fans on the concourse on the dockside wing. No-one is drinking because you can only get light-light. Not even mid-strength. We prols just can’t be trusted. I stand with Rod who is disgusted.

These fans love the hard stuff. They love the bloke who wins the contest; who gets his own footy.

They are loving the Dogs dominance, but they just can’t handle the three posters, which by half-time is five. It’s their lot in life confirmed.

They ride every moment. Grown men in layers of clothing doing hippo-like pirouettes as another opportunity is squandered. Grown men who turn and face us behind them, hand-over-eyes, because they can’t watch a set shot.

Blokes who go quiet when the Cats come from nowhere to hit the front. For a moment life had been a permanent smoko, but it is back to the toil.

The Dogs rally. They win an entertaining contest.

I love watching Bob Murphy. When he turned (audaciously) to the boundary and beat his opponent (he had about half a metre to work with) and then ran into goal, snapped with the outside of is foot, and hit the post, it was as if he’d been born in Footscray.

A place where the sun is forever rising over the wharves and the railway yards and the saw-tooth roofs.

And where this year it’s fine to have at least a little expectation.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Andrew Starkie says

    Great stuff, Harmsy, ife in the West summed up perfectly, especially the bit about ducks on the wall. Have you moved to Canberra? I was up there on the weekend with the girlfriend – she’s from there – it was cold and sunny. Typical Canberra weather. I caught a quarter of a local final at Manuka. Very good footy.

    I hope the Cats get their act together.

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