Which team did you go for after the war, Grand-dad?

I was going to make this a father-son conversation about footy in the olden days before I suddenly realised it was more appropriate as a grandfather-grandson conversation. It  was more appropriate because I was jolted into  thinking  about events of sixty years ago and all the changes to VFL/AFL football since that time and how you would explain it  to a young child of today.

I am not a grandfather thanks to my opera-singing, career-driven daughter which is why I’m in denial about aging, probably like most baby-boomers. However, if I did sit down with my grand-son to discuss all the mysteries of life I would be answering questions such as, “ Why do you barrack for the Bulldogs Gramps?” And… “ Why don’t you barrack for Geelong or Hawthorn because they win all the premierships?” Actually I’m showing my age again by using the word ‘barrack’. I think he would more likely say ‘ why do you go for the bulldogs?’ That’s the thing about writing plays…you have to constantly check yourself to use the right expressions for the time and for the age of the person speaking.

Anyway, our conversation would probably go something like this…

GRANDSON: Which team did you go for when you were little Grand-dad?

GRAND-DAD: It was called Footscray.

GS: What’s Footscray?

GD: That’s what they called the Western Bulldogs in the old days.

GS: Did they win lots of premierships?

GD: Only one.

GS: Why didn’t you go for another team?

GD: Because you never change teams no matter what happens. Nobody does.

GS: I go for the Swans now.

GD: Yeah. And before that you barracked for Geelong and when you were a toddler your

mother dressed you up in Brisbane Lions gear. You and your mum go for the team

winning the premierships. That’s why you change.

GS: Why didn’t you go for all the good teams?

GD: Because we barracked for our local team…where-ever we lived.

GS: I would’ve just picked Lions or Swans… or maybe the Cats.

GD: That wouldn’t work when I was a boy. Let me tell you why. Two of those teams didn’t

exist. There was no Brisbane Lions and no Sydney Swans. They used to be called

Fitzroy and South Melbourne.

GS: So…I would still go for them.

GD: No you wouldn’t. Because they never won any premierships back then. Even Geelong

only won one premiership when I was growing up.

GS: So why do all those people still go for them now?

GD: Because people are loyal and for Lions, Cats and Swan fans, they eventually got their

reward of a premiership. I think Swan fans had to wait for over seventy years.

GS: Well I’m not gonna wait that long! I wouldn’t be able to wear my Swan’s jumper!


GD: Yeah. That’s the best part when your team wins the premiership. I remember going to

my school in Footscray after we won the premiership and all the boys wore their

Bulldog jumpers! Most of them had the number three on their backs just like one of

our footy heroes.

GS: Are you going to get a new team Grand-dad? You would be really happy if your team

won the grand-final!

GD: Now you’ve reminded me how good I felt when the Bulldogs won the first Grand-final,

I think I’ll hang in there a bit longer for the second one. That’s when your Grand-dad

will be really happy!

Writing this dialogue between an oldie and a seven year old has reminded me how things have changed with our game. Particularly how young people decide who they are going to barrack for now there are no longer just the eleven suburban teams plus Geelong. I suppose you can’t blame kids latching on to current premiership winners. It would save a lot of angst like it does for those of us playing the waiting game. Then again, there’s nothing like a bit of deferred gratification before you reach the ultimate high.

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. Peter Fuller says

    There is a problem for the enthusiast for the current premiers. As they rarely achieve consecutive flags (or go back-to-back in modern parlance as per your comparison of barrack and go for), the youngster will probably not enjoy the pleasure of the lead-up to the Grand Final, and the ecstasy of the actual victory. He or she would have suffered supporting losing grand finalists in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011, and been out of contention every other year, 2005-2012. In the past 25 years, only in 1989, 1998, 2002, 2003 would this tactic have been rewarded by year-length success.

    While it’s probably difficult to inculcate an appreciation of the merits of delayed gratification in youngsters, it does seem to me to be a critical element in achieving anything much in life, sport, the arts, career success. You have to plug away for a long time cultivating your skills and developing your talent, with only a remote prospect of achieving ultimate goals – the Australian test eleven, becoming an AFL star, representing the socceroos, winning a tennis grand slam, becoming the next Geoffrey Rush or Nicole Kidman, or enjoying a career as a celebrated dancer or musician etc.
    The consolation prize for the many strivers who don’t reach their chosen holy grail, is to find satisfaction in testing their talents to their limit, and in more modest accomplishments than for what their original ambitions were targetted, as well as enjoying the journey.
    So the barracker for the also-rans might be learning a valuable lesson in life, and for some it may be a source of motivation to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks for your detailed almost academic response Peter.
    Agree with your thoughts on the value of deferred gratification but not sure how you would convince a child of the 2000’s.
    I was virtually weaned on deferred gratification by parents who ‘made do’ during the depression when they were young. As a teen entering the materialistic new consumer society and watching friends with all the new ‘stuff’, I could never understand why I had to ‘make do’ all the time. Be it given the first fixed-wheel push-bike that Dad no longer rode from Footscray to Laverton for work or waiting weeks and weeks as an eighteen-year old til Father decided on the most economical and least powerful car I should be driving. I sound like a spoilt brat writing about this now, but that wait for the car as an eighteen-year old with a new licence was the longest wait in history.
    So you’re probably thinking that deferred gratification was a good thing. I suppose it was good training starting in 1961 and having to settle for runners-up, before the long wait to get even close to another premiership chance. Lots of other testing times of course with the worst one being 1997 as you would appreciate.
    I didn’t mean to be too serious with the article or this response. I suppose I was just wondering how a seven-year old could be told to wait for anything much at all these days and could they possibly understand how an old-guy can be waiting nearly sixty years for his team to come good.

  3. Dave Nadel says

    While it is true that the majority of VFL (and SANFL and WAFL) fans last century supported their local team, opportunism is not just confined to the younger generation. Have a look at the number of people aged between 60 and 70 who support the Demons even though they are not the sons and daughters of MCC members. This just might happen to have something to do with the six premierships that the Dees won between 1955 and 1964.

  4. Neil, that conversation would ring very true to many grandfathers and grandsons. I remember having a 40 minute conversation (Blackburn to Thornbury) with my nephew once on why some of the teams in rivalry round didn’t actually have a rivalry to speak of. He didn’t believe me – it was rivalry round.
    Sticking with your team for so long gives you great sense of ownership. The Cats flags are as much mine as it is the players who took the field that day. I earned them sitting through 4 Grand Final losses.
    Glad I stuck with them.

  5. mickey randall says

    Thanks Neil. I enjoyed your piece and it made me think of the old saying about borrowing the future from our grandchildren. As a kid I chopped and changed with my SANFL support but eventually settled on Glenelg when I moved there. Happily, it’s the team my Dad follows.

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