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Western Bulldogs

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Western Bulldogs

For the club's Victorian Football League reserves team, see Footscray Bulldogs (VFL)

Western Bulldogs
Full name Footscray Football Club Inc. (Trading as Western Bulldogs Football Club)
Nickname(s) Bulldogs, Dogs, Doggies, Bullies, The Scraggers, The Scray, Tricolours, The Imperials, Saltwater Lads, Footscray
Motto Cede Nullis (Yield To None)
2014 season
Premiership 14th
Pre-season 17th
Leading goalkicker Stewart Crameri (37 Goals)
Best and fairest Tom Liberatore
Club details
Founded 1877 (entered 1888)
Colours      Red      White      Blue
Competition Australian Football League
Chairman Peter Gordon
Coach Luke Beveridge[1]
Captain(s) Bob Murphy[2]
Premierships VFA(1877-1924)/VFL-2014-: 10 (1898, 1899, 1900, 1908, 1913, 1919, 1920, 1923, 1924, 2014)
VFL/AFL: 1 (1954)
Championship of Victoria: 1 (1924)
Ground(s) Docklands Stadium (capacity: 56,347)
Western Oval (Training) (capacity: 15,000)
Other information
Official website

The Footscray Football Club, currently known as the Western Bulldogs, is an Australian rules football club that plays in the Australian Football League (AFL). Founded in 1877, the club won nine premierships in the Victorian Football Association (VFA) between 1898 and 1924, and has won one premiership in 1954 since joining the Victorian Football League (VFL), the predecessor to the AFL, in 1925.

The Western Bulldogs home guernsey features two thick horizontal "hoops"—one red and one white—on a royal blue background. The club's traditional rivals include St Kilda and geographical rivals Essendon.

The club has its headquarters and practices at the Whitten Oval in Footscray, an inner-western suburb of Melbourne, Australia. The club draws its supporter base from this traditionally working class area and plays its home matches at Docklands Stadium (currently known as Etihad Stadium) in the Melbourne Docklands area, also in the city's inner-west. In October 1996, the Club began to play under its current name of the "Western Bulldogs", changing from its original name of the "Footscray Football Club".[3] The Whitten Oval underwent a A$20 million redevelopment[4] starting in 2005 to improve the Club's headquarters and training facilities.

Club history

The E.J. Whitten Stand

Footscray was relatively late in joining the Victorian Football League (VFL), the predecessor of the AFL. It did so in 1925 as the "Footscray Football Club", at the same time as Hawthorn and North Melbourne, all three coming from the Victorian Football Association (VFA).

Footscray, also known as the Prince Imperials from 1880–1882, played in the junior division of the VFA before joining the senior division of the VFA in 1886. Following the famed breakaway of 1896, during which the stronger VFA clubs formed the VFL, the tricolours (as they were known during this period) became a force in the VFA. The Club went on to win 9 premierships between 1898 and 1924. This included a hat-trick from 1898 to 1900 and four premierships between 1919 and 1924. The 1924 premiership would be Footscray's last in the VFA. After the 1924 season, the Club challenged the premiers of the VFL, Essendon, to a charity game for the benefit of Dame Nellie Melba's Limbless Soldiers' Appeal.[5]

Joining the VFL

Starting in 1919, the VFL had nine clubs, which caused one team to be idle every Saturday; the VFL was keen to do away with this bye each week. On the night of 9 January 1925, a committee meeting of the VFL, chaired by Reg Hunt of Carlton, decided to expand the league from nine clubs to twelve. It was decided in the meeting to admit the Footscray Football Club, along with Hawthorn and North Melbourne; all three teams were from the VFA. Hunt originally recommended Hawthorn, Footscray and Prahran, but eventually North Melbourne was substituted for Prahran because of ground control matters.

Footscray adapted relatively quickly to the standard of VFL football despite losing some of their VFA stars, and by 1928 were already a contender for the finals, missing only on percentage in 1931. Though they slipped to eleventh place in 1930, 1935 and 1937, in 1938 they became the first of the new clubs to reach the finals. They fell back drastically in 1939, but played better during the war-torn 1940s, winning their first nine games in 1946.

1950s and E.J. Whitten

Footscray player line-up at the unfurling of 1954 premiership flag

In this period, Footscray failed to win in finals, losing six first semis between 1938 and 1951. In 1953, however, they set a record of conceding only 959 points in the home-and-away games due to a powerful defence featuring Wally Donald, Herb Henderson and Jim Gallagher. They finally won their first semifinal against Essendon, and the following year took out their first VFL premiership, beating Geelong and then Melbourne in the 1954 VFL Grand Final.

1954 VFL Grand Final G B Total
Footscray 15 12 102
Melbourne 7 9 51
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground Crowd: 80,897[6]

This success was in no small part due to two champions of the Club – Charlie Sutton the wily and tough captain-coach at the time, and Ted Whitten snr., otherwise known as 'E.J.' or 'Mr Football', one of Australian Rules Football's best ever players. Charlie claims to have invented the modern play-on style of football – run, handball, run, kick. Whitten was famous for his inventive and lightning-fast flick pass, which was banned due to the umpire's difficulty in distinguishing whether the ball was thrown, or hit with the open hand.

Footscray failed to capitalise on their premiership success, falling off in the latter part of the decade and finishing with their first wooden spoon in 1959.


The decade started promisingly, with the Club bouncing back to reach the 1961 Grand Final, where they were beaten by Hawthorn. This was followed by winning the 1963 and 1964 Night Premierships, although this success was not transferred into the season proper. The rest of the decade was a bleak era for the Club, particularly between 1965 and 1969, when they finished in the bottom three every year.


Statue of EJ Whitten which stands outside Whitten Oval

Ted Whitten Snr. retired as a player in 1970 and held the record for the most VFL games played at the time (321 games); he would continue in a coaching capacity until the end of 1971. The Club were relatively strong in the 1970s, but they did not win a final; by decade's end they were back near the bottom.

The main stars of the decade included Gary Dempsey, the heroic ruckman who was badly burnt in Lara bushfire of January 1969 but managed to take out the game's top individual award, the Brownlow Medal, in 1975. Promising South Australian import Neil Sachse had his neck broken in a freak accident while playing against Fitzroy at the Western Oval. He was left quadriplegic. In 1978, Kelvin Templeton became the first Bulldogs player to kick 100 goals in a season, including a club record of 15.9 in Round 13 against St Kilda.


With the disappointing 1970s behind it, the Club introduced an array of stars during this decade. Simon Beasley became a household name after being recruited from Swan Districts in Western Australia to provide the Bulldogs with a genuine replacement for champion Kelvin Templeton. Beasley was to go on to become the Bulldogs' record goal kicker and face of the Club during the mid-1980s.

Mick Malthouse was appointed senior coach in 1984, and a dramatic improvement saw them rise to second position in 1985 before a ten-point loss in the Preliminary Final against Hawthorn. The Club boasted a list of top players at this time, with Beasley, Doug Hawkins, Brian Royal, Rick Kennedy, Steve Wallis, Peter Foster, Michael McLean, Jim Edmond, Andrew Purser, Stephen MacPherson and Brad Hardie. The Bulldogs narrowly missed the finals in 1987 when they were beaten by Melbourne in the last round in front of a record crowd at their home ground.


Discontent between players, officials and fans reached an all-time low during the 1989 season. Bulldogs president Barrie Beattie was replaced by businessman and prominent racing personality Nick Columb in March. Faced with the prospect of running a club with declining membership and sponsorship, Columb also learned that the team's debt situation was poor, and it reached the point when the VFL looked likely to appoint an administrator to wind up the club's affairs at the end of the year.[7]

Columb decided the best way forward was a merger with the Fitzroy Lions, which was also in a weak financial position, although was not facing immediate bankruptcy. The two clubs announced a merger to form the Fitzroy Bulldogs, but the merger was derailed when the people of Footscray, led by businessman Peter Gordon and a host of others, rallied to raise funds to pay off the club's debts. In further developments, former club player Terry Wheeler was named as Malthouse's replacement as senior coach, while champion veteran wingman Doug Hawkins was appointed captain. While Columb was branded by some as the villain of the story, the wisdom of hindsight shows that had he not instigated the merger, the Western Bulldogs would not exist as it does today.[8][9]


Whitten Oval is the Western Bulldogs' administrative and training headquarters

The Bulldogs began the new decade in promising fashion, finishing in seventh place with twelve wins in 1990, including one against eventual premiers Collingwood, when rover Steven Kolyniuk ran around the man on the mark and kicked a goal to put his team in front. Although they just missed out on the finals, there was much to look forward to, and the year was capped off with diminutive rover Tony Liberatore winning the Brownlow Medal.

After a disappointing 1991, the Bulldogs bounced back in 1992, finishing second on the ladder and making their first finals appearance since 1985. Danny Del-Re was an excellent full forward, while champion veterans Hawkins, Royal, Wallis, Foster and MacPherson helped ensure the Club played its best football in many years. Scott Wynd capped a magnificent year with the Brownlow Medal, while Chris Grant and Simon Atkins also had outstanding seasons.

In 1994 and 1995, the Bulldogs again made the finals, only to be eliminated by Melbourne and Geelong, respectively. Leon Cameron and Daniel Southern were stars. In August, Ted Whitten snr. died from prostate cancer; such was his status in the game that he was given a state funeral. In his honour, the Club renamed the Western Oval the Whitten Oval, and a memorial statue of Whitten was erected outside the stadium.

Under the tightly focused management of club president Terry Wallace, and the on-field leadership of Chris Grant (who narrowly missed a Brownlow Medal in 1996 and 1997) and Tony Liberatore, the Club had a successful period through the mid- to late 1990s, making the finals from 1997 to 2000. The 1997 season is remembered for the Club's cruellest loss, to eventual premiers Adelaide in the preliminary final by two points after leading for much of the game and appearing to be headed for their first grand final since 1961. Rohan Smith, Brad Johnson, Chris Grant, Jose Romero, Paul Hudson and company were catalysts in a fine season.

During Smorgon's term, the Club was renamed from Footscray to Western Bulldogs and moved their home games from the Whitten Oval, first to Optus Oval from 1997 to 1999, and then to the newly built Docklands Stadium for the 2000 season.


Main articles: Western Bulldogs seasons 2009 and 2010
Western Bulldogs players during warm-up against Collingwood in 2004

After Terry Wallace's departure at the end of 2002, assistant coach Peter Rohde took charge, but after two miserable seasons, the Bulldogs appointed Rodney Eade as coach in 2005. Improvement was immediate, with the Bulldogs winning 11 games and finishing ninth on the ladder in 2005, missing out on the finals by just half a game. Missing the finals dealt a blow to both players and supporters of the team, as late season success led to the team being considered real premiership contenders.

In 2006, the Bulldogs continued to play well despite a disastrous run of injuries throughout the year; with five players having to have knee reconstructions, including captain Luke Darcy. Despite this setback, the Bulldogs finished the home-and-away season with 13 wins (see 2006 AFL season), making it to the finals for the first time since 2000, with Scott West and Brad Johnson continuing their excellent play. They won the Elimination Final against Collingwood in front of 84,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and reached the semi-finals before being defeated by eventual Premiers the West Coast Eagles at Subiaco Oval.

On 5 August 2006, Chris Grant broke the Western Bulldogs record for the most senior AFL/VFL games at the Club. On this day he played his 330th game, breaking Doug Hawkins' previous record of 329 games.

Looking for new markets, the Club had played one game every year at the Sydney Cricket Ground and one "home" game each year at Marrara Oval in Darwin. On 16 August 2006, the league announced that the Bulldogs' Sydney "home" game would be played at Manuka Oval, Canberra in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Brad Johnson was the Club's captain from 2007 to 2010.

Prior to the 2007 season, the Bulldogs made a splash by trading for Brisbane midfielder Jason Akermanis. They were premiership favourites early on in 2007, but yet again injuries took their toll, and they faltered in the last seven rounds, losing six games and drawing one, to finish 13th.

In the 2008 pre-season they traded away Jordan McMahon to Richmond and Sam Power to North Melbourne. They also recruited ruckman Ben Hudson and forward Scott Welsh from Adelaide and back Tim Callan from Geelong in what was a very successful trade week. In 2008, the Bulldogs were widely predicted for the bottom four after the pre-season, but had a successful home-and-away season, finishing in third place with fifteen wins, one draw and six losses (five of which occurred in the season's last seven games). The team's finals campaign began with a loss to Hawthorn by 51 points at the MCG in the first qualifying final, but won the subsequent semi-final against Sydney by 37 points. The Bulldogs lost their Preliminary Final match against reigning premiers Geelong.

Much was expected of the Bulldogs following their 3rd-place finish in 2008. They began the 2009 season with a 63-point thrashing of Fremantle in Perth, and then recorded solid wins over North Melbourne and Richmond before losing their next three games to West Coast (in Perth), Carlton and St Kilda. The Bulldogs then notched up their first away win against Adelaide since 2001, kicking eight goals to one in the third quarter to win by 32 points. The following week, they survived a determined effort from Melbourne, winning by 14 points, before succumbing to Geelong in one of the best and closest games of the season. They proceeded to win their next five games, including a 93-point drubbing of Port Adelaide in Darwin and an 88-point win over the reigning premiers Hawthorn. After a bit of a dip in form including losses to Collingwood, St Kilda and West Coast, the Bulldogs rebounded with an 18-point win against Brisbane at The Gabba. That was followed up by a 14-point win over Geelong. In the final round of the home-and-away season, the Bulldogs needed to defeat Collingwood by more than 22 points in order to reclaim third place on the ladder. The Bulldogs managed win by 24 points, earning the right to play Geelong in the first week of the finals.[10]

There was media expectation that the Western Bulldogs would feature in the top four in 2010 after doing so in 2008 and 2009. The pre-season delivered the Western Bulldogs their first competition victory since 1970. The Bulldogs defeated St Kilda by 40 points in the NAB Cup Grand Final, with new recruit Barry Hall starring with seven goals and winning the Michael Tuck Medal for being the best player. However, after a promising pre-season, the Bulldogs failed to make their first grand final in 49 years after being demolished by Collingwood in the first round of the finals, coming back against the Sydney Swans and losing to St Kilda in a preliminary final, captain Brad Johnson's last game.[11]
2010 AFL National Australia Bank Cup Final G B Total
Western Bulldogs 2.13 8 104
St Kilda 0.9 10 64
Venue: Etihad Stadium Crowd: 42,381

2011 was a disappointing year for the Bulldogs. After a Round 1 thrashing at the hands of Essendon by 55 points, the season never looked on track. After Round 21, which was a 49-point loss to Essendon, coach Rodney Eade was sacked by the Western Bulldogs after seven years at the helm. The club finished the year with wins against Port Adelaide and Fremantle and a loss against Hawthorn. The Bulldogs finished 2011 with a 9-win, 13-loss record for the season. Shortly after the 2011 season was completed, long-time Geelong and Essendon assistant Brendan McCartney was appointed as the senior coach on a three-year contract. During the following months, the Bulldogs assembled a coaching panel consisting of senior coach McCartney, former Geelong and St Kilda ruckman Steven King, former Sydney Swans and North Melbourne midfielder Shannon Grant, former Bulldogs champion and 300 game player Rohan Smith, and former Bulldogs and Port Adelaide player Brett Montgomery.

In October 2012, long-time President David Smorgon stepped down from the role to be replaced by former President Peter Gordon. Smorgon served as President from 1996 to 2012, overseeing two rebuilding phases, the erasure of much debt, and a period of stability after decades of uncertainty surrounding the club's future. In 2014, the Bulldogs returned to state league football when they fielded their reserves team in the Victorian Football League under the name of Footscray, ending their alignment with the Williamstown Football Club. The decision proved an instant hit on and off the field, with supporters of the AFL club taking a strong liking to the newly established VFL team. The success however flowed onto the field as well, with the club securing the VFL Premiership in its first season in the competition, defeating the Box Hill Hawks by 22 points in the VFL Grand Final.

Club symbols

Club song

Westen Bulldogs logo (2000-14)

Western Bulldogs Club Song is sung to "Sons of the Sea".

Sons of the west,
Red, white and blue,
We come out snarling, Bulldogs through and through.
Bulldogs bite and Bulldogs roar, we give our very best.
But you can't beat the boys of the Bulldog breed,
We're the team of the mighty West![12]

Before the club changed its name from Footscray to Western Bulldogs, the club song was called "Sons of the 'Scray", sung to the same tune but with different lyrics.

Club guernsey

  • The home jumper is primarily royal blue with a red and white hoop. The player numbers are white, and located high upon the back. Although the team officially trades under the name "Western Bulldogs", the initials "F.F.C." for Footscray Football Club, which still remains the club's official name, are placed on the back of the jumper immediately beneath the collar in small white capital letters.
  • The clash jumper is primarily white, with a red and blue hoop around the chest area. The player's number and F.F.C are blue, and located high upon the back.
  • The alternate clash jumper is primarily red, with a blue and white hoop around the chest area. The player's number and F.F.C. are white, and located high upon the back.

Real life mascot

Sid, the club's real life mascot

The real life mascot for the Western Bulldogs is a pedigree six-year-old pure white British Bulldog named 'Sid' (pedigree name Murlane Bigshot). Sid appears at all of the Western Bulldogs home games at the Docklands Stadium wearing the club colours. He can be found walking around the perimeter of the ground prior to the game. He then waits for the players to come out on the ground; they give him a pat as they run past to the banner. During the game, Sid has a reserved area at the Footscray End (Gate 7), where fans can come and give him a pat and have their photo taken.

Membership base

Since the 1990s the Western Bulldogs have struggled for membership and financial backing, avoiding folding or merging with another club through heavy subsidisation from the AFL as part of a competitive balance fund. However, in 2006 the Bulldogs broke their membership record and continued to sustain these membership figures before another breakthrough Club membership record in 2010.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and actor Chris Hemsworth are supporters of the club.[13][14]

Club Membership

Year Members Finishing position

Club honour roll

Honours and achievements


Premierships (10)

  • 1898
  • 1899
  • 1900
  • 1908
  • 1913
  • 1919
  • 1920
  • 1923
  • 1924
  • 2014

VFL/AFL grand finals

Premierships (1)

  • 1954

Runners-up (1)

  • 1961

Night Series

Premierships (5)

  • 1963
  • 1964
  • 1967
  • 1970
  • 2010

Australian Football Hall of Fame players

  • Ted Whitten (Legend)
  • Charlie Sutton
  • Gary Dempsey
  • Doug Hawkins
  • Allan Hopkins
  • Arthur Olliver
  • Bernie Quinlan
  • Barry Round
  • John Schultz
  • Norm Ware
  • Chris Grant
  • Scott West
  • Brad Johnson

Team of the Century

In May 2002, the club announced a team of the greatest players from the last century.

Footscray Team of the Century
B: Charlie Sutton Herb Henderson John Schultz
HB: Wally Donald Ted Whitten (Capt) John Jillard
C: Harry Hickey Allan Hopkins Doug Hawkins(Vice Capt)
HF: Alby Morrison Kelvin Templeton Chris Grant
F: Jack Collins Simon Beasley George Bisset
Foll: Gary Dempsey Scott West Brian Royal
Int: Jim Gallagher Arthur Oliver Brad Johnson
Norm Ware Tony Liberatore Scott Wynd
Coach: Charlie Sutton

Club Records

Players and staff

Current squad


  • President: Peter Gordon
  • Vice-President Susan Alberti AO
  • Directors
  • George Pappas
  • Ian Veal
  • Gaye Hamilton
  • Barry Hall
  • Geoff Walsh
  • Chris Grant (Director of Football)
  • Chief Executive Officer: Simon Garlick
  • Chief Financial Officer: Wayne Tattersall
  • Chief Operating Officer: Robert Stubbs
  • Chief Commercial Officer: Nick Truelson
  • General Manager of Football: Graham Lowe
  • Recruiting Manager: Simon Dalrymple
  • List Manager: Jason McCartney
  • High Performance Manager: Justin Cordy

Individual awards

Best and Fairest

The Charles Sutton Medal is awarded to the player adjudged Best and Fairest for the Western Bulldogs.

Brownlow Medal winners

Leigh Matthews Trophy winners

Coleman Medal winners

Scott West Most Courageous Player Award

This is awarded to the player judged to be the most courageous for the season.

Reserves team

The first Bulldogs reserves team was created in 1925 and began competing in the VFL Reserves competition with the league's other reserves teams. Success was had in the form of 6 premierships between 1925-1999. Following the demise of AFL reserves competition the Bulldogs ceased operations for the reserves team and began affiliating themselves with the Werribee Football Club and the Williamstown Football Club. It was announced in late 2012 that the Bulldogs would re-establish a reserves team to compete in the Victorian Football League from 2014 onward.[17] The team created history by claiming a premiership in its inaugural season.

See also


  • A History of the Footscray Football Club: Unleashed, by John Lack, Chris McConville, Michael Small and Damien Wright. Aus-Sport Enterprises Pty Ltd, 1996 ISBN 0-646-26215-7
  1. ^ Dogs set to announce new coach, official website, 14 November 2014
  2. ^ "New captain at Kennel in 2015". 10 October 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Staff. "Club History". BigPond. Telstra Corporation Limited. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  4. ^ ABC News (23 September 2004). "Youth to benefit in Whitten Oval redevelopment". 
  5. ^ Lionel Frost (25 September 2006). "Did the 1924 Bombers throw their last game?". AFL. Telstra Corporation Limited. Archived from the original on 1 July 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Lovett, Michael (Chief editor) (2010). AFL Record Season Guide. Geoff Slattery Media Group. p. 668.  
  7. ^ Michael Stevens (4 October 1989). "No choice". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). p. 72. 
  8. ^ Mark Stevens (4 September 2009). "The 20-year miracle". 
  9. ^ Unleashed – A History of the Footscray Football Club
  10. ^ Jennifer Witham (30 August 2009). "Bulldogs win secures third". 
  11. ^ Peter Hanlon (14 March 2010). "The difference - one big forward". The Age. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Club Song
  13. ^ "Gillard number one at the Bulldogs". 26 Feb 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  14. ^ "Bulldogs chase down Thor hottie". The Herald Sun. 23 April 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  15. ^ Western Bulldogs (2011). "Club Records over 100 games". BigPond. Western Bulldogs Official Website. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  16. ^ a b "Footscray/Western Bulldogs Leading Goalkickers". rleaguestats. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  17. ^ Western Bulldogs VFL team

External links

  • Official Website of the Western Bulldogs
  • "Around the Grounds" – Web Documentary – Western Oval
Preceded by
VFL/AFL Premiers
Succeeded by
Preceded by
AFL Pre-season Cup winners
Succeeded by
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