TEAM OF THE YEAR
‘We’ve beaten all the others, defied all the odds, today this team of puppies become true bullgods.’ So read the Western Bulldogs’ banner on the first Saturday in October – Grand Final day, the team’s first showing in the ultimate AFL decider since 1961.
Compared to the words they’d run through during the 2016 season, comedian Danny Mcginlay had chosen to keep things simple, to the point. Where he’d previously poked fun at everything from Perth coffee prices to Sydney lockout laws, today spoke of what lay ahead: four quarters of brutal physicality against a surging Sydney Swans.
The boys in the blue, white and red were true underdogs, never expected to be there in front of nearly 100,000 at the MCG on a clear, crisp day. Because no one comes from seventh to claim a flag – certainly not after losing Bob Murphy, captain and true heart and soul of the club,
to a season-ending ACL injury; not after losing Mitch Wallis for the season, or Tom Liberatore (at least temporarily) as they turned for home. And certainly not after losing to the Fremantle Dockers in the last game of the regular season.
But the Bulldogs snarled and barked – they brought down the West Coast Eagles with a thump, did the unthinkable by knocking out the Hawks as they flew for a fourth title, and then, dare to dream, held on to oust Greater Western Sydney by a kick.
And so to the ‘G’. Because every dog has its day – and this was to be theirs, a day of reckoning and remembrance, of sportsmanship (coach Luke Beveridge handing Murphy his premiership medal,
a point to cherish), bravery (not least Dale Morris and his ability to play out the entire finals campaign with a broken back) and throbbing emotion. This was a win most unlikely. And yet they were there – a premiership 62 years in the making; these youngsters, these pups, true bullgods now.
TOO OFTEN IN CONTEMPORARY SPORT, ACUTE PROFESSIONALISM AND MONEY OVERTAKE EMOTION IN THE RUN TO GREATNESS. NOT THIS YEAR – NOT WITH THE ‘TEAM OF THE MIGHTY WEST’ PRODUCING A THROWBACK WIN BUILT ON PASSION, GRIT AND GUTS.