60 years on, Footscray stand strong

“Footscray went mad with joy. Bands played, train whistles blew, cars honked and men, women and children cried with delight. Bursting rockets in red, white and blue intermittently lit up the Footscray sky.”*


That was Footscray, in the heart of Melbourne’s western suburbs, 60 years ago this September.

Since then the Footscray/Western Bulldogs Football club have never reached the same heights.

Seven Preliminary Final losses and the 1961 Grand Final smashing at the hands of the Hawthorn Football Club has tarnished the dreams of many bulldogs supporters relishing the hope of a 1954 repeat.

But success is not what bonds a club and it’s fans. A club should seemingly blend into the local society. A club should represent it’s diverse and cultured community. A club should be based around the residents surrounding it – of which the Footscray/Western Bulldogs are all of the above.

This year marks the return of the Footscray name – albeit in the VFL. For the first time in 18 years, the red, white and blue will play on the Whitten Oval. A namesake of one of the most iconic leaders this country has seen. A man of the people, the late EJ Whitten.

The Whitten Oval is a cherished place. It’s where fans of yesteryear grew to love what the red, white and blue represent. It’s where I, as a young little fella, on a small picnic chair with zoo animals printed on it, probably bought from Nicholson Street, sat on behind the goals. It’s where legends of old such as Whitten, Sutton, Grant and Johnson became bulldogs through and through. It’s where my migrant family begun to indulge in Australian society and it’s where I became a bulldog for life.

60 years have gone by now since the club last held the holy grail. But nothing since then has been able to rip apart what is meant to be a bulldog. Nothing at all, including proposed mergers, debt, wooden spoons and heart breaking losses. Heck even Chris Grant didn’t leave us for the big dollars he was offered from across the boarder, he opted for a gesture from a young fan, worth much more than the 20 cents posted in a letter.

Today the Footscray/Western Bulldogs stand strong. It’s diverse and multicultural community within not just Footscray, but the western suburbs, remain at the core and heart of the club. It’s supporters are like no other on the Australian football landscape, a see of differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds that emphasises the AFL’s attempts to grow the game within Australia’s new migrant communities – especially from Asia and Africa.

The club may not reach the heights of 1954 this year – on it’s 60th anniversary, but the hope has never been stronger. With the clubs membership campaign calling to ‘gather the pack’, Footscray and surrounding towns are ready to unite as one in support of a club that has been the bond between new migrant communities and Australian culture.

I’m a bulldog, now lets gather the pack.

*Opening quote sourced from http://australianfootball.com/clubs/bio/Western%2BBulldogs/14.

Originally published on previous online blog.