At the end of this month, one side will be celebrating the success of a premiership. Will it be Collingwood, West Coast, Hawthorn or Sydney? One thing for certain though, is obviously that it won’t be the Western Bulldogs.
They’ve only won one premiership in their history; 1954. Their best opportunity was arguably from 2008-2010. They made the preliminary final in each of these seasons, but fell short each time to Geeling in 2008 and St Kilda in 2009 & 2010. Everyone thought that the Dogs would fall down the ladder and start the re-build, and thats what has happened. But did anyone expect it to affect them that much?
Not many people hate the Bulldogs, in fact I’d say the majority have a soft spot for them. Why is this? Because they are harmless. Two grand finals in their history since joining the then VFL in 1925 is not a very good record. This season, we’ve seen clubs like Melbourne and Port Adelaide come under much more scrutiny than the team from Footscray. Why? Because they are/once were powerful clubs.
This season in particular has been a poor one for the Western Bulldogs. After appointing a new coach in Brendan McCartney, which was met by raves from football analysists; the Bulldogs went on to win just five matches for the season and finished with a dismal percentage of just 67.01, the worst in the competition discluding the Giants and Suns.
It wasn’t just on the field that the Bulldogs had their troubles. After an aggressive pre-season membership campaign, the Dogs attracted just 30,015 members with an average crowd of 23,317 for the season, which is the lowest of all the Victorian clubs.
Where did it all start for the Bulldogs? Can you blame their lack of fans for their late exit into the then-VFL, entering in 1925?
Hawthorn also entered the competition in 1925, and they have 60,000 members, so you really can’t. It begs the question though, why haven’t the Bulldogs attempted to adopt a second area, like Hawthorn have with Tasmania, to catch new fans? Even St Kilda are now attempting to move into New Zealand.
They’ve had brief flings with both Canberra and Darwin in the past 10 years but have not fully committed themselves to expanding, something Hawthorn have done particularly well. The pressure will continue to come until the Bulldogs win a second premiership flag and the club see a significant jump in membership numbers in one of Melbourne’s biggest growth areas; the Western Suburbs.
This season the club debuted Lin Jong, only the 19th player of Asian decent to play a game of AFL football. The Bulldogs will be hoping for two things: one the he first and foremost plays good footy, but secondly that he can appeal to the Asian community to come and watch Australia’s game.
They have fantastic facilities at the Whitten Oval, but the push for a team in Tasmania will continue. Is it impossible to rule out the club relocating to Tasmania in the future? Arguably the club would pick up at least an extra 20,000 members and the club would pick up sponsorship’s that only the big clubs would get in the crowded Melbourne market.
McCartney had a rough season but he looks to be taking the club in a good direction on the field. Off the field the club is a different story and the figures this season don’t look good for the future. Hopefully for fans of Victorian football and the code in general they can turn it around.