I grew up in Essendon with a father who barracked for Essendon and a brother who barracked for Footscray.
It never occurred to me to question why I too barracked for Footscray, it was just the way it was.
It was only after reading the Bulldog Tragician articles that I asked my 68 yo brother how come we barrack for the doggies and he said Dad had taken him to his first footy match Essendon Vs Bulldogs and the doggies won. Henceforth we were Doggies supporters much to our father's displeasure. As you would know the sister does not argue with the older brother if that's the decision made if she knows what is good for her.
We reckoned we had it in our blood as our Great Uncle Tom Grimshaw played for South Melbourne and Footscray in the VFA.
I would meet up with a girl in my class and her boyfriend. She lived in Ballarat Road and we would meet behind the Barkly St goals every home game. I used to catch the tram from North Essendon to Moonee Ponds junction and catch the red bus to the top of Williamstown Road near the Rising Sun Hotel and walk to the ground. I was aged 12 -1 4 years old and thought nothing of getting myself there and back on my own and nor it seems did my parents.
We would stand on empty cans to see the games and cheer our hearts out win or lose. It was always: 'we kept them to a reasonable score, we stayed with them until the last quarter, if only we hadn't missed all those chances.' There we were, week after week, in the howling wind and rain that was typical of footy weather in the 60's and 70's.
Saturday night would be waiting for the Herald and the Sporting Globe to be delivered to our home on to read all about it win or lose.
After church on Sunday we would watch World of Sport at 12 o'clock hoping to see some footage which was seldom shown.
I clearly remember watching Teddy Whitten, Bobby Spargo, John Schultz, John Jillard et al. The 3 Brownlow Medallists who departed the club Barry Round, Bernie Quinlan and later on Brian Wilson, where they enjoyed their success at other clubs.
Later it was Scott Wynd, Dougie on the wing , Kelvin Templeton kicking 18 goals against St Kilda (not sure if I have got that right) and more recently Johnno, Chris Grant , Libba, and all the others who were the goods leading up to our 97 thrust.
I was there in 1997 at the preliminary final - i flew down from Newcastle full of expectation and I really thought we had it at 3 quarter time together with every other doggie supporter that day.
I can still remember those sad and forlorn faces of our supporters, old and young openly weeping a sa result of our loss.
Subsequently I have been to the footy a few times - not as many as I would have like and seen them in the latter noughties thumping the Pies and many other teams which always brought a smile to my face.
At the end of every season it always brings such promise. I think I can say with certainty that I have no regrets for following the Doggies for the best part of 60 years. Occasionally I dared to think it would have been nice to see us in a Grand final since 1961.Generally this occurs when I talk footy to my cousins who all barrack for Collingwood: "Well there is aways next year" .
Thanks for the opportunity to remember the good old days.
Many thanks to Neil for allowing me to reprint this wonderful story of his which was initially published in The Footy Alamanac:
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.
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.
*Okay, Neil, you won't feel better to know that it is now closer to 60 years.
Neil also shared with us his memories of the 54 premiership. Read on...