The longest current Grand Final drought will come to an end this Saturday, when the Western Bulldogs take the field to contest the Premiership. That’s right the Bulldogs are playing in this weekend’s Grand Final, the club’s third ever and first since 1961.
To put that in perspective the last time they played on Grand Final Day:
- The MCG had hosted the Olympic Games only 5 years earlier.
- In April of that year Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space.
- The ‘Pill’ was sold for the first time in Australia earlier in the year.
- Charlie Drake had a Number One hit with My Boomerang Won’t Come Back.
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s and West Side Story were showing at the cinema.
- The Sydney Opera House was under construction, still 12 years from opening.
- The Berlin Wall was 1 month into its construction.
- The Beatles performed for the first time at the Cavern Club, their first US Number 1 hit was 18 months away.
- The VFL’s purchase of land that became VFL Park was 12 months away.
- Embarrassingly, the Referendum to recognise Aborigines in the Census was still 5 years away.
- Mervyn Fallows was hanged in Fremantle, 4 more men were to be executed before Capital Punishment was abolished in Australia.
- The UK had a month earlier sought membership of the European Economic Community.
- JFK was sworn in as US President in January and in April authorised the disastrous ‘Bay of Pigs’ Invasion of Cuba.
- Robert Menzies was Prime Minister of Australia and was a year before he would commit Australian resources to the Vietnam War.
- Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was in the second grade.
- Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was not yet born.
- Brent Harvey played his first game for North Melbourne.[i]
It is fair to say that it is a different world that surrounds Easton Wood and his charges than that of Ted Whitten and the 1961 Bulldogs. For a start, after confronting a Premiership-less Hawthorn last time, the Bulldogs are the overwhelming sentimental favourites this time around.
A growing wave of support has settled behind the Bulldogs throughout their brave finals campaign. Overcoming a luckless run with injuries to record two away victories over West Coast and GWS, either side of a dominant victory over three-time defending Premiers Hawthorn, to become the first seventh placed team to qualify for the big dance.
Thursday night at the selection table will give 22 players the chance to complete the fairytale, whilst at the same time creating a few heart-breaking tales. Expectations are that Matt Suckling will be available for selection after missing the Preliminary Final with injury. Lin Jong, only two weeks after being devastated on the bench with a broken collarbone at Subiaco, was best on ground in the VFL Grand Final and will demand consideration. Either this pair, or the players excluded for their return, will become another upsetting Grand Final week story.
A bitter sting in the Bulldog tale will be the story of their captain Bob Murphy. A man much loved within and outside the club spoke a few years ago of his acceptance of the fact that the opportunity of winning a premiership had past him by. There was an outpouring of emotion when Murphy suffered a season ending knee injury earlier in the season. There would be extraordinary sympathy for the veteran if he was to miss a Premiership. You wouldn’t hear anything from Murphy himself, the back-man as ecstatic as any other Bulldog throughout the unlikely Flag charge.
On Saturday, the longest Grand Final drought will officially come to an end and Richmond’s wait since 1982 will now claim the dubious honour. Although the story as it stands would be long remembered in football folklore, the young pups won’t be let their happy ending disappear without one hell of a fight. Maybe, just maybe, come Saturday evening the longest standing Premiership drought will be over too.
[i] This is an attempt at humour, for those who don’t know otherwise Boomer’s career began in 1996.