What do the clubs say they stand for?
Gold Coast Suns
North Melbourne Kangaroos
Port Adelaide Power
St Kilda Saints
West Coast Eagles
On welfare and on the move
Some clubs have an entrepreneurial psychology while others are more welfare orientated. The Western Bulldogs are very much the later, almost typifying the Australian cliché of ‘done me back, on the compo mate.’ Throughout their existence, the Bulldogs have gained their advantages through schemes aimed at making the playing field unlevel. Be it bribing opposition players to play lame, pushing the boundaries of legality with their own play, lobbying for government funding, lobbying the AFL to tax rival clubs and give profits to the them or forming understandings that umpires will give them a leg up, the Bulldogs have always known how to work the system to their advantage.
Initially known as Footscray, the club were established in 1877 to champion the north western suburb of Melbourne; however, it soon decided it would prefer to champion the French Prince Eugene Louis Napoleon after he had been ambushed and killed by Zulu warriors while fighting for the British. So inspired by his story, the Footscray Football Club officially changed its name to the Prince Imperial Football Club. The name change only lasted 2 years. It seemed yelling out “Go Princes” and “Carn the Imperials” weren’t the most catchy of crowd slogans in a population highly characterised by a Convict legacy of anti-British sentiment.
After reverting to Footscray, the club adopted nicknames like the Tri-colours, Saltwater Lads, the Bone Mill Fellows and the Men from the Land of Boulders??????? (WTF!)
With such silly names it came as no surprise that the Men from the Land of Boulders and/or Saltwater Lads were not invited to join the VFL breakaway in 1896. The breakaway did, however, remove the best teams that had been an impediment to Footscray’s success. Without the competition from the strong teams, Footscray started winning games. This was particularly pleasing to the VFA as it wanted a stronger support base in the north west of Melbourne to rival Essendon and support its fight with the VFL.
It was misplaced faith as Footscray soon showed its true colours by not only betraying VFA as it aimed to enter the VFL, but also by doing it in corrupt manner. Initially the corruption came in its 1922 grand final against Port Melbourne. A number of Port Melbourne players testified that Footscray president George Sayer and player Vern Banbury had offered them bribes to throw the game. A VFA investigation subsequently found Banbury guilty and banned him for life. Footscray responded by making Banbury a life member of the club. (In 2010, contemporary Bulldog fans showed how they felt about winning games via corruption by making Banbury the inaugural inductee into the Western Bulldogs Hall of Fame.)
More accusations of bribery came in the 1924 “Champion of Victoria” between VFL champions Essendon and VFA champions Footscray. Even though it was a charity event, Essendon was the clear favourite and was expected to be easy victors. They unexpectedly lost. Essendon players claimed they had been approached to throw the game. Even though they personally had rebuffed the offer, they believed some of their team mates had taken the cash.
The VFL seemed reluctant to investigate, probably because it wanted a Footscray victory to strengthen the club’s case to join the VFL and so weaken the VFA. Reflecting its desires, in 1925, Footscray was indeed invited to join the VFL on the back of being the Champions of Victoria.
In short, Footscray's life as a VFL club commenced with a betrayal of other teams, bribery and exploitation of power to create an uneven playing field. It was not a inspiring image for fans. Reflecting this fact, its new life in the VFL was characterised by poor crowds and poor on field results.
Becoming the Bulldogs and dropping Footscray
In 1938, they changed their name from "Tri-colours" to the "Bulldogs". Local legend that this was because a Bulldog accidently led them onto the field. It is an odd legend to believe considering that animals and livestock are rarely smuggled into enclosed grounds. (A rare exception was when Sydney fans smuggled in a pick and wrote 4 on it in reference to a particularly big boned full foreward.) Even if it were smuggled in, it is more likely that it bolted form the dressing room in fear than accidently wandered into the race and then strutted onto the ground with players behind it.
Whatever happened on that day with a Bulldog, the name was popular because it retained British pride, but did so in a way that had a bit more of the bogan than royal feel. In 1954, they won their first and only fairly won premiership.
In the 1970s, as the inner city suburbs of Collingwood and Carlton began to be gentrified with an influx of yuppies and migrants with little interest in football, Footscray got an influx of Vietnamese refugees. Although Carlton and Collingwood were able to get their migrants and yuppies interested in football, Footscray could not. As a result, it tittered on the edge of extinction and was only saved due to the generosity of other clubs.
In 1996, the club responded to the lack of local support by changing its name to the "Western Bulldogs". The name change was made in the hope that the Bulldogs could represent suburbs outside of the Footscray demographic. In that regard, it could be defined as the marketing equivalent of white flight. By dropping Footscray from its name, the multicultural image of the Footscray suburb had far less influence when defining the image of the club. Instead, the club marketed itself as the western suburb "battlers" that took pride in British symbolism.
As well as changing its name, the club tried to improve its financial position by cultivating support from politicians. It intially found an ally in Prime Minister John Howard. Even though Howard's true love was the English games of rugby league and cricket, he was a committed Monarchist and the Bulldog's image naturally attracted him. Howard announced that government would contribute $8 million to spearhead a redevelopment of the Bulldog's home ground.
Julia Gillard was another prime minister that seemed to be attracted to the Bulldogs. As a British migrant and a former industrial lawyer, the Bulldogs' image perhaps reminded her of herself. Certainly, the Bulldog's felt that she was the type of person that personified their image so they made her the club's number 1 ticket holder.
Reaping the profits of other clubs
The success in gaining funding from Howard and Gillard seemed to make the Bulldogs believe that the welfare model was the best way to improve their financial bottom line. Reflecting this fact, in 2013, new Bulldogs president Peter Gordon ( from industrial law firm Slater & Gordon) decided that not only should government be targeted for funding, but so should other clubs. Gordon proposed a plan for other clubs to take the risks by investing in blockbuster matches and business development. The AFL would then impose a tax on these clubs and the proceeds of the tax would be given to the Bulldogs. Gordon's plan was the business equivalent of a worker trying to get ahead in life by enlisting a lawyer to help him say, ‘done me back, need the compo mate.’ Nevertheless, the AFL decided to indeed give Gordon what he wanted.
Perhaps to avoid the necessity to allocate excessive funds to the Bulldogs, in 2016, it appeared that the AFL decided that it would try to give the club some help on the field. Some rumours proposed that the AFL was considering a one-hand-one-bounce rule change for Bulldog players. Other rumours proposed that the AFL was considering letting the Bulldogs take a second shot on goal if their first one just missed.
As with all rumours, it was not always easy to seperate fact from fiction. What definately wasn't fiction was that dodgy umpiring became a subtle way in which the AFL was helping the Bulldogs. Specifically, AFL is a sport where directives are given to umpires about how rules should be “interpreted”, and these "directives" are changed from week to week. As a result of these "directives", the rules that players need to abide by are not constant throughout a season. Furthermore, the AFL can issue directives about interpretations that it knows will favour one team over another. In 2016, the directive seemed to be that throwing the ball shouldn’t be penalised if an "attempt" to hand ball had been made. Furthermore, making contact below the knees and injuring opponents should not be penalised if the player wore a red, white and blue jumper. By co-incidence, this "interpretation" favoured the Bulldogs who had invested in quick ball movement and the contested ball.
Aside from the directives on interpretations, the AFL seemed to be in favour of appointing umpires to Bulldog games who were inclined to adjudicate the 50/50 decisions in the Bulldogs' favour. This was easy to do as AFL is a game where a free kick can be plucked out of almost every contest and subsequently justified on video evidence. Specifically, in any given contest, around 30 rules in the AFL rule encyclopaedia are at risk of being transgressed. When there are around 30 players in the contest, the probability of a rule being transgressed is almost 100 %. Most transgressions are let go as they are deemed minor. To favour the dogs, all umpires needed to do is "notice" the rule transgressions by teams playing the Bulldogs in each contest but ignore the transgressions by the Bulldogs.
Troy Pannell was one umpire that was particularly talented in only "noticing" transgressions by teams playing the Dogs. In one game against the Adelaide Crows, Pannel awarded 17 frees to the Dogs and just one to Adelaide. Perhaps it was a "co-incidence" but after demonstrating that his "interpretation" of rules favoured the Bulldogs' style of play, Pannel was appointed to umpire three Bulldogs games in a row; all of which resulted in a lop sided free-kick count. In total, the count was 75 to 38.
As the bias became obvious, hashtags such as #freekickbulldgs dominated social media and even made the mainstream press. Defenders of the AFL tried to counter accusations of bias by likening those who made accusations as akin to conspiracy theorists who think the moon landing was fake. In their argument, there was no way that the multi-millionaires that ran billion dollar industries would be motivated by anything other than the highest moral ethics. Afterall, it was only through having high moral standards that they became rich in the first place. In fairness, the people who believe the AFL acts with integrity are the same people who think WWF is real and that boxing judges would always deliver a fair verdict because they are professionals.
Irrespective of whether it was called “interpretation” instead of bias, and “affirmative action ” instead of cheating, statistics clearly showed that the Bulldogs rode their free kicks into the finals, through the finals and even into the grand final.
In the grand final against the Sydney Swans, the umpiring was so horrendous that it was impossible for the AFL to pretend that something didn't stink. Overall, the Western Bulldogs received 20 free kicks to the Swans’ eight. The differential of 12 was the biggest in a grand final since the three-umpire system was introduced in 1994. Furthermore, throughout the game, Bulldog players consistently threw themselves head first at the legs of opposing Swans’ players in a way that was extremely dangerous as it can break bones and tear leg tendons. No free kicks were paid. The ploy continued until a key Swans player suffered medial ligament damage which ended his match after his knees had been taken from beneath him. At that point, the Grand Final was lost. Although free kicks are sometimes let go in order to keep the game flowing, generally umpires draw a line on safety. In the grand final, they didn't when it would have required the Bulldogs being penalised.
The bias was so obvious that the AFL made a rare comment that the umpiring was below expectations. Despite the obvious bias, the three umpires Matt Stevic, Simon Meredith and Scott Jeffery continued to officiate the big games in subsequent seasons.While here may not have been a directive in writing to favour the Bulldogs, there was an understanding that the AFL would like a Bulldogs victory.
It seemed that with the AFL not wanting to favour the dogs with even more money off the field, it had decided that it was on the field where help would be directed. Just like the corruption that sorrounded their entry into the AFL, the Bulldogs' victory showed that the more things change, the more the stay the same.
Roy Morgan research
2001 when compared to other Australians
In 2017, the term “Great Western” was coined in reference to a perceived rivalry with Greater Western Sydney. Both teams receive AFL welfare for survival and both aim to represent the west of their respect cities (and a bit more with GWS). Furthermore, both teams receive benefits that aim to increase their competiveness on the field. In GWS’s case, it is favourable draft and academy concessions. In the Bulldogs' case, it is sympathetic umpiring. In the 2016 preliminary final, it was the battle between draft concessions and umpiring assistance, with umpiring assistance eventually proving triumphant.
Western bulldogs jokes
1)What do you say to a Bulldogs fan that has a job?
2)Why can't Bulldogs supporters get a drink at the Whitten Oval?
3) A Footscray fan took his bulldog to the pub and was enjoying a few beers until the footy scores appeared on the TV. When it was announced that the Bulldogs had lost, the dog went mad, knocking over tables and snapping at other drinkers. "What's got into your dog?" asked the barman. "He just can't handle it when Footscray is beaten" explained the fan. "Geez, what does he do when they win?" "Don't know. I've only had him for two seasons.".co
4) Rodney Eade, the coach of the Western Bulldogs, hears of new young recruit who lives in Bosnia. Eade catches a plane to war torn Bosnia and tracks the young boy down. He risks life and limb dodging bombs, bullets and grenades but finally find him and convince him to come to Australia.
The boy does a full pre-season,plays all the practice matches and gets picked on the bench in the seniors for the first game of the year. Ten minutes into the first quarter, Chris Grant goes down with a severe knee injury. Eade turns to the boy and says "This is it son, go to centre half forward and show us what you can do."
The boy proceeds to play the greatest debut game in AFL history. He kicks 9 goals, takes mark of the year, and kicks the winning goal after the siren from outside 50. The Western Bulldogs chair him off the ground and give him three cheers back in the rooms.
Eade tells the team what the boy from Bosnia has been through and that he is a model lesson for all. Eade then pulls the boy aside and says "Go into my office son, ring your Mother and tell her what you did today". He proceeds to do so.
"Mum", he says down the phone, "Guess what I did today? "I don't care what you did today his Mother replies. "I tell you what happened here today", she goes on. "Your Dad was murdered, our house torched, our car blown up, your sister raped and your brother abducted." "Gee," says the boy. "I feel a bit responsible for what happened". The Mother replies "So you should be. If it wasn't for you we wouldn't have shifted to Footscray."