Agh, Geelong. How you do annoy me. Let me count the ways.
Their home ground is so formidable, at one stage we had a 27-year losing streak against them.
They've feasted on us in finals; who among us isn't thankful that Sydney thrashed them in the 2016 preliminary final, and we didn't have to face the sight of those blue-and-white hoops, and endure Billy Brownless 'King of Geelong' flashbacks.
The Cats have always had the knack of dismantling our pretensions. In mid-2008 we headed to Geelong for an eagerly awaited 'top-of-the-table' showdown. The mood was maudlin on the train back to Footscray after a 10-goal drubbing, while Geelong fans around us artlessly discussed how many of their players had shockers, and expressed disappointment: they should have won by more.
'Taxpayer-funded stadium', as I call the Cats' home these days, does have at least one fond memory for me though. It was where a Geelong wit christened myself and my sister 'The Libba Sisters' because of our petite size; a nickname which has now endured and developed a life of its own.
The Triumph of the Labradoodles
Today marks an auspicious day for all fans of the Western Bulldogs. Let an imaginary fanfare from the Hyde Street Band blare out: it is now six years (that's 2092 days) since we were last defeated by the Bombres.
With no memory of that occasion, I decided to look back at the Tragician blog to check whether I was there (naturally I was), and what I had to say at the time. As we'd been defeated, I expected to read gloomy memories of shellackings at Windy Hill; enraged recollections of their snipers, such as Roger Merrett and Dean Wallis, beating up on Our Boys in the Sheedy-era; the obligatory memory of the Chris Grant goal that scuppered their chances of going through a season undefeated. This, I expected, would all be accompanied by sneers at the drug saga in which the Bombres were then hopelessly embroiled.
To my surprise, our unlovable opponents barely rated a mention. You'd actually think the Dogs had achieved a stirring victory rather than a five-point loss. My blog was filled with excitement about the future. I enthused about the performances of the pups who were just beginning to strut their stuff. About Jack Macrae and The Bont; and Libba and Wally; and Stringer and Hunter and Hrovat (ok, I couldn't get everything right).
The blog title was: 'The Young Ones'.
I was reveling in watching the kids, the sheer exuberance of seeing a new generation emerge. (Despite my enthusiasm, I can't say there was the slightest premonition that these could be The Ones to take us to the Promised Land). I wrote:
"Our young blokes have not - we like to believe they will never - let us down at big moments, faltered at a critical point of a match, put in a lacklustre performance.
'We're learning their strengths and don't yet know their weaknesses."
The carousel of time
Last summer I was driving down Barkly Street near the Whitten Oval and spotted some teenage boys, wearing Bulldogs paraphernalia, out for a stroll. My first thought was how good it was to see local youths proud to be out in the red, white and blue, a sign of our recent successes. It was very different to my own childhood; even though my alma mater (the prestigious St Peter Chanel, Deer Park) was about as far west as you could then go, kids displaying allegiance to the battling Footscray team were few and far between. It could even get you beaten up in the schoolyard.
Then I did a double-take. There was something vaguely familiar about those kids. Were they - could they actually be? - some of our new recruits? Surely they were too young, with their spindly legs and pimply faces, to take the field, being niggled, monstered, bashed and punched by thugs like Harry Himmel-whatever-his-name-is and Toby Greene? (in fact, let's just say the whole Acronyms team).
Soon after, my sense of time passing was again turned on its head. I was disoriented by the news that Libba The Second had become a father. It wasn't that, so much, that disturbed my equilibrium, but the fact that it means that his feisty, competitive father is now a grandfather to little Oscar. (What it means for the Libba Sisters is too complex to untangle). And then, this week, we learnt that Mitch Wallis had also become a dad. I couldn't come to terms with the idea that Wallis & Libba Seniors, whose debuts I remembered clearly, whose careers I'd followed so closely, were now dandling the new generation from their (somewhat arthritic) knees.
About the Bulldog Tragician
The Tragician blog began in 2013 as a way of recording what it is like to barrack for a perennially unsuccessful team - the AFL team, the Western Bulldogs.