Footscray, October 2: It was to be the end of a 62-year drought when Western Bulldogs ran out on the MCG, Saturday afternoon.
The 22 points victory at the AFL grand final, defeating Sydney Swans was eclectic and fans were awash in euphoria and some unknown emotions after the long hiatus.
This morning as Doggies received heroes’ welcome at the Whitten Oval in the sea of blue red and white; injured captain Bob Murphy, who missed the epic battle to claim 2016 premiership – Round 3 onwards due to a knee injury, received the loudest cheer.
In fact, Murphy’s on stage welcome at the MCG trophy presentation, by coach Luke Beveridge, who handed him his premiership medal; summed up the Doggies – loyalty, chivalry and loads of team spirit.
It was one of the most heart-warming of moment of the season.
“This is yours mate! You deserve it more than anyone,” Beveridge said, bringing tears not only from Murphy, but the entire country.
Beveridge’s credit to his team for the premiership was a ‘puppies to BullGods’ roundup.
“This group of players are just incredible. Their hearts are so big,” he said.
“We know how long you’ve waited for some success,” indeed, Bulldogs fought from seventh to win this 2016 premiership.
Bulldogs’ Grand Final win is a first – no team has ever won a premiership before, from the seventh rung of the ladder.
Jason Johannisen was declared the Norm Smith Medal winner.
This morning as each player was introduced to the sea of red-blue-white at Whitten Oval Beveridge was acknowledged for his selfless act to Murphy, the assembled crowd chanting “Bevo, Bevo”.
This is Beveridge’s second season as coach; and there could have been none better.
“Bob has driven the emotional and spiritual side of our club for a long period of time but more specifically in the two years I’ve been involved,” Beveridge said.
“More than any of us he deserved to be up on that dais and I’d like to thank the AFL for making that happen … the 22 boys who played couldn’t think of a more fitting finish for Murph.”
Murphy himself was more tear of joy than words, saying:
“I couldn’t do much yesterday, hitting my chest, hitting my heart was the best way I could describe the way we all feel about these 22 boys.
“They play with an incredible amount of heart. We love them.”
There were still tears for that Cup that has been eluding since 1954, for more than 20,000 thousands Bulldogs supporters at the Oval, as the Cup was held aloft again by Murphy and stand-in captain Easton Wood.
Other Bulldogs stood arm in arm to the wild cheers and applause of their supporters.
Beveridge thanked the crowd for their support, acknowledging their young fans but not forgetting the impressive old-order base, who have supported the club through thick and thin.
“This is unbelievably overwhelming,” Beveridge said.
“Obviously this will be imprinted in our minds forever until we turn the soil and end up in the ground.
“To see so much blue, red and white, all our devoted supporters, seeing toddlers down here who have been forced to support us by their parents and to see supporters who are quite ill, who have forced themselves to get down here to make sure they experience it … it is quite overwhelming.”
Barkly Street was awash with red-blue-white, even flowing on to Geelong Road, with many who have grown up just beside the Oval.
“It has never been a better time to be a Footscray (ian)” Daniel Swarovski said.
“It was one of the most emotional and memorable moments of my life and I am here this morning to extend it as a long as I can.”
His friend Vishal Goursetti, a Werribee resident, claimed Western Bulldogs belonged to all Melbourne’s west.
“In fact, it has never been better to live in the West; Bulldogs you make us proud.”
The Bulldogs’ grand final victory was the fourth most-watched match in AFL history, with an average of 4.089 million free to air viewers.
It is now time for Doggies’ fans to stop pinching themselves and revel in the festivities of that mythical Cup.
Now unfathomable Tom Boyd, humble Jason Johannisen who never looked back at wrongly umpired-goal, loyal Liam Picken, empathetic Dale Morris and immeasurable Jake Stringer – and the rest of the 22, the Bulldogs are heroes, whom mothers will acclaim for their sons to follow.
It was exaltation from a fan base that included many generations, families, migrants et all. In fact, Bulldogs is one of the AFL clubs that heavily promotes itself as an ‘inclusive’ club to welcome a larger multicultural fan-base.
Who can forget the grand graciousness of the Bulldogs for ‘Diwali in the West’ at their majestic Oval in 2009 – with more than 20,000 Indian-origin migrants and international students and locals attending!
Under the leadership of David Smorgan (in 2009), the Bulldogs made the Indian festival absolutely ‘at home’. It simply accentuates their multicultural ethos – to have done so, despite the fact the club was not travelling well at the AFL ladder and had not done so for more than five decades.
“Celebrating Diwali at Whitten Oval simply felt like doing it at home”, Bulldogs were so good; they allowed the use of their ground, meeting rooms and whatever was needed at the time. Thank you Doggies once again”, said Dinesh Malhotra (of Bharat Times), a key member of the organizing committee of Diwali in the West.
“All we need is a lot more Indian Doggies actively supporting our champs”, he added.
Western Bulldogs current president Peter Gordon admittedly nostalgic of the long journey to 2016 premiership; earlier spoke of 1989 when many of the same fan base as today, fought hard for the Bulldogs’ survival.
“I’ve loved the struggle,” Gordon told 774 ABC Melbourne.
“For generations of Bulldogs supporters who have never seen a team in a grand final, there’s no real rational reason to follow the club unless you live the dream and you love the struggle.
“It’s been a fantastic week,” Gordon said.
Indeed for the immensely loyal Doggie fans, what a Day, what a Week and what a Season! We will remember this “until we turn the soil and end up in the ground,” in the words of Bevo.
Doggies you make us proud to be a Westie!