Western Bulldogs still shaky off the field

Ted Whitten statue at the Whitten Oval. Photo – http://www.flickr.com/photos/zoonabar/

At the end of this month, one side will be celebrating the success of a premiership. Will it be Collingwood, West Coast, Hawthorn or Sydney? One thing for certain though, is obviously that it won’t be the Western Bulldogs.

They’ve only won one premiership in their history; 1954. Their best opportunity was arguably from 2008-2010. They made the preliminary final in each of these seasons, but fell short each time to Geeling in 2008 and St Kilda in 2009 & 2010. Everyone thought that the Dogs would fall down the ladder and start the re-build, and thats what has happened. But did anyone expect it to affect them that much?

Not many people hate the Bulldogs, in fact I’d say the majority have a soft spot for them. Why is this? Because they are harmless. Two grand finals in their history since joining the then VFL in 1925 is not a very good record. This season, we’ve seen clubs like Melbourne and Port Adelaide come under much more scrutiny than the team from Footscray. Why? Because they are/once were powerful clubs.

This season in particular has been a poor one for the Western Bulldogs. After appointing a new coach in Brendan McCartney, which was met by raves from football analysts; the Bulldogs went on to win just five matches for the season and finished with a dismal percentage of just 67.01, the worst in the competition excluding the Giants and Suns.

It wasn’t just on the field that the Bulldogs had their troubles. After an aggressive pre-season membership campaign, the Dogs attracted just 30,015 members with an average crowd of 23,317 for the season, which is the lowest of all the Victorian clubs.

Where did it all start for the Bulldogs? Can you blame their lack of fans for their late exit into the then-VFL, entering in 1925?

Hawthorn also entered the competition in 1925, and they have 60,000 members, so you really can’t. It begs the question though, why haven’t the Bulldogs attempted to adopt a second area, like Hawthorn have with Tasmania, to catch new fans? Even St Kilda are now attempting to move into New Zealand.

They’ve had brief flings with both Canberra and Darwin in the past 10 years but have not fully committed themselves to expanding, something Hawthorn have done particularly well. The pressure will continue to come until the Bulldogs win a second premiership flag and the club see a significant jump in membership numbers in one of Melbourne’s biggest growth areas; the Western Suburbs.

This season the club debuted Lin Jong, only the 19th player of Asian decent to play a game of AFL football. The Bulldogs will be hoping for two things: one the he first and foremost plays good footy, but secondly that he can appeal to the Asian community to come and watch Australia’s game.

They have fantastic facilities at the Whitten Oval, but the push for a team in Tasmania will continue. Is it impossible to rule out the club relocating to Tasmania in the future? Arguably the club would pick up at least an extra 20,000 members and the club would pick up sponsorship’s that only the big clubs would get in the crowded Melbourne market.

McCartney had a rough season but he looks to be taking the club in a good direction on the field. Off the field the club is a different story and the figures this season don’t look good for the future. Hopefully for fans of Victorian football and the code in general they can turn it around.

0 Replies to “Western Bulldogs still shaky off the field”

  1. First of all, let me address some of the historical limitations and disadvantages the Bulldogs have faced since their entry into the VFL in 1925. You mention Hawthorn’s entry in the same year, and their subsequent success, however the beginning of their success was not reached until the 1960s. Footscray also entered at the same time as North Melbourne and St Kilda, a fact you fail to acknowledge in your diatribe against the ‘Dogs. Both these teams have also struggled for the ultimate success.

    St Kilda, apart from their reaching more Grand Finals than the ‘Scrays, have the same lonely number of Premierships, and the ‘Roos, while having two golden eras (the first a questionable one due to the purchasing of many star players under a VFL loophole), only producing four flags. Could this lack of success from these clubs show a disadvantage that the AFL was not prepared to repeat when introducing the current crop of new clubs? With draft concessions and higher salary caps, the AFL gives these new clubs a greater chance of sustained success.

    Footscray entered the VFL in 1925 on the back of several VFA flags, but when they joined the big league, they found themselves in the middle of an Essendon draft zone, and for decades were unable to recruit players from their own geographical area. Being only able to build their own players from their junior team, or pick over the leftovers from other clubs, the Bulldogs were destined for a period of sustained failure, and given this fact, it was difficult for them to build a supporter base that could compete with the more powerful and established clubs.

    When Hawthorn entered, they had access to a then fast expanding growth corridor in Melbourne’s East, and it is on this basis they built their eventual strength and success. Now all credit must go to the Hawthorn Football Club for creating the sustained off field success they now enjoy, especially seeing as how close they were not so long ago to merging with the Demons, but it is an unfair point to labour in regards to the Western Bulldogs.

    You are correct in the assumption that the reason for most people’s soft spot for the Bulldogs is they’re not being a perceived threat. This is the reason for Eddie McGuire being a supposed supporter of their plight. Eddie will be happy to have the Bulldogs be successful enough to remain a barely viable club, but not strong enough for continued on field success. The Bulldogs are a required club for the AFL to continue to earn the revenue it does from media rights deals, and this is in Collingwood’s best interests. It is also worth noting that when the Bulldogs were a strength in the late ’90s, they were one of the most hated clubs in the league.

    You acknowledge the Bulldogs have attempted forays into Darwin and Canberra, and they have also tried Sydney in the past, and yet you then proceed to ask why they have not done the very thing you previously agree they HAVE done. Maybe one reason the Bulldogs are not trying Tasmania is because two clubs are already well into their traipse into such territory. Another is clearly that they see their true home in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, as one of the few Melbourne clubs that still have genuine roots in their local community. To have the temerity to suggest a full time relocation to Tasmania shows both the arrogance of your position as a Collingwood supporter, and the lack of intellectual understanding, and ethical fortitude. Are you seriously suggesting the club disenfranchise 30,000 existing members, and a possible gold mine of future members and supporters in Melbourne’s West, for the possibility of 20,000 or so members in Tassie? In an area already being courted by Hawthorn and North Melbourne? Cutting of your nose to spite your face much?

    The fact is, the Bulldogs will never have they type of support the powerful Victorian clubs enjoy until they are given a fair and equitable fixture from the AFL. Without blockbuster matches, regular Friday or Saturday night free-to-air fixtures, and the chance to play such dates as ANZAC day, the Bulldogs will continue to struggle both in terms of on field performance, financial success and off field sponsorship. Collingwood’s dominance of such fixtures allows it to ask for over twice as much from its major sponsors, gives it any number of secondary sponsors, a naming rights sponsor for its training complex, and access to untold numbers of potential new supporters and members on commercial, free-to-air television. This type of advantage has a positive snow ball effect for the powerful clubs, but is destined to keep the smaller clubs treading water, as the perennial whipping boys of the competition, with no hope of ever gaining any market share from the rich, powerful and unfairly advantaged clubs. The AFL, by making available money to these “weaker” clubs on an annual basis has acknowledged the obvious and increasingly unfair disparity between rich and poor, however it still fails to truly address the issue. Add to this the reluctance poorer clubs have in publicly taking the league to task for fear of having what little they get taken away from them, and we have a system in place that keeps such clubs as the Bulldogs exactly in the place where supporters such as yourself want to keep them.

  2. proqualm… couldnt of said it better myself..
    Dogs are an Easy Target Sam,
    Sam you fail to mention that the Dogs Backyard is the Fastest growing region in Australia
    this is a huge Advantage that they have, Just like GWS and Gold Coast the Dogs have the oppurtunnity to engage a whole region.. You have some valid points about the History but look ahead with a little success the Club would break 40,000 members easy..
    Look at how much the club acheived Off Field in the last 10 Years and you will find it has improved so much..
    Fact is there will always be a club to knock about but the Dogs are here to stay They have tried to get us out before and it will not ever happen.. The Western Suburbs is behind them..

  3. In addition to the last comment, when the bulldogs entered the VFL their demographic region was already allocated to Essendon and the bulldogs were given a very weak zone to select from. Furthermore the clubs that had become strong because of their zones began to recruit players from the country who were outside the city zones and began to dominate because they could offer more to these players. The VFL tried to combat this by zoning the country areas but this created even greater inequities. The VFL was well aware of this and planned to rotate the zones through all the clubs to even out the talent available to all teams but by this stage the stronger clubs already had enough pull and the zones remained until the introduction of the draft ensuring that some clubs enjoyed long periods of dominance and built their supporter base while other teams struggled.

    On the attendance figures of this year, it is concerning that attendance figures drop so much when the team is stuggling but this is common across all teams in the afl. Compounding this is the fact that the draw has seen the bulldogs play a large proportion of Sunday games, home games against poor drawing clubs and interstate clubs and live televised games.

    Not much has changed over the decades and the strong clubs still dictate terms to the AFL seeing them get more profitable fixtures and exposure and allowing them more opportunity to expand their supporter base.

    Now before everyone jumps on and says that big clubs get big games because they get big crowds lets put things in perspective.

    If the AFL wants to increase its revenue it needs to attract new followers. It doesn’t matter who these supporters follow because an extra 5000 supporters at a Collingwood Essendon game generates the same revenue as an extra 5000 supporters at a North Melbourne Bulldogs game. Why should the clubs that are already strong have increased exposure to these new supporters while the stuggling clubs do not.

    The big clubs shouldn’t need the exposure of these big games to keep their supporter base. An Essendon Collingwood game should attract the same number of supporters on a sunday as they do on an ANZAC day. If they don’t then how are they any different to the bulldogs.

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