The last time the Bulldogs played in a grand final, I was five. I remember a lot of things from that period, but I don’t remember anything from that grand final. I realised why the other day.
My parents moved to Queensland at the end of 1960, not 1961 as I have always thought. I was living in Ipswich and, believe me, there was no coverage of the week leading up to the grand final and precious little of the game itself.
What a week Bulldogs supporters are in for. On the back of the VFL triumph on Sunday, the club enters its first AFL grand final in 55 years. As a life member of the club, I am always a proud red, white and blue man, but last Saturday night I was on the verge of exploding. Watching this unbelievable group of young men defy the odds yet again was inspirational. I cried then and I am sure, I will be crying again on Saturday at the MCG, whatever the result.
I thought of the boys in 1985 who went so close, many of whom are great, lifelong Bulldog friends of mine. Same goes for the ’97 and ’98 teams. The agony of those defeats still hurts today. The three near misses under Rodney Eade happened at a time I was writing his biography, so they, too, had special meaning.
The truth is, every Bulldogs win and loss has an effect on my life and those of hundreds of thousands of others. This week in the west there will be smiles and optimism and people will be in for a chat and “What about those Doggies?” moments. I feel excited, anxious, happy and proud – and I know I will be feeling a few other emotions on top of those by 5pm on Saturday.
I am truly happy for Luke and the players and the Bulldogs’ staff, and I mean all the staff. Stalwarts such as Glenice on reception and events manager Jarred Hanks are as red, white and blue as any 150-game player, and they will be riding the rollercoaster with the rest of us.
I am going to cherish every moment of this week because I am not arrogant enough to think this is the first of many. Besides, that would diminish the sheer unadulterated delight I am feeling at the moment.