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Footscray-Western Bulldogs Hall of Fame - Moments

One-off achievements, special moments or events of particular importance involving an individual, the team or the club.

Footscray's first VFL finals apperance- 1938 First Semi-Final

Footscray had entered the VFL competition in 1925, along with Hawthorn and North Melbourne, and was the first of these three new clubs to make the finals, in 1938, finishing third on the ladder, with thirteen wins and five losses, one game ahead of Collingwood who finished fourth. 

A final four system was in place in 1938 and the Footscray team was drawn to play Collingwood at the MCG on 3 September in a cutthroat First Semi-final.

Footscray’s side was primarily made up of local players from the Footscray District League coached by the popular Joe Kelly, a former Carlton wingman. The team was led by captain, Roy Evans, and included Footscray stars Arthur Olliver, Norm Ware, Alby Morrison, Harry Hickey, Jim Miller, Joe Ryan and boxing champion Ambrose Palmer, but fullback Alf Sampson was missing due to injury. 

Footscray’s strength was its pace across the ground, the cornerstone of this being the centreline of Miller, Evans and Bob Spargo. Collingwood’s line-up included such greats as Jack Regan, Ron Todd, Des Fothergill, Alby Pannam, Marcus Whelan and Phonse Kyne.

A record First Semi-final crowd of 67,556 turned out, watching on as Footscray wasted winning chances in the first half. At halftime, Collingwood led 9-1 (55) to Footscray’s inaccurate 6-11 (47).   

Footscray kicked 2 goals against the wind at the start of the third term to take the lead, but Collingwood kicked a further 7 goals for the quarter to effectively take control of the match, before cruising home 18-9 (117) to 10-16 (76), dashing the hopes of Footscray fans. Fothergill, Pannam and Todd kicked 15 goals between them for Collingwood while only Cliff MacRae, with 5 goals, provided a focal point for the ’Scray. 

This may have been a disappointing loss, but the Footscray Football Club had taken an important step in its history by making the VFL finals for the first time.

1954 VFL Premiership

On 25 September 1954, Charlie Sutton led Footscray to its first VFL premiership. Footscray 15-12 (102) defeated Melbourne 7-9 (51). This game was truly the Bulldogs’ finest hour and represents an achievement that has not been repeated to the present day.

Neil Sachse Incident

Tragically, playing in only his second game for the Bulldogs, against Fitzroy, brilliant South Australian recruit Neil Sachse was severely injured in the course of the play, suffering spinal cord damage that left him a quadriplegic. 

Sachse’s courage in the months ahead and his determination over the years that followed have never been forgotten.

Fightback

In October 1989, the cash-strapped Footscray Football Club was railroaded into a merger with Fitzroy. The west was galvanised by common outrage and insistence that we were not going to give up on the club without a fight.

A legal battle was waged and an injunction was granted to allow Footscray the chance to raise the necessary funds. Faced with the challenge of raising more than one million dollars, the Bulldogs’ Fightback triggered something, not only in the heartland but in the whole football community, the likes of which had never been seen before.

On October 8, more than 10,000 people attended a rally at the Western Oval and, within three weeks, over $1.6 million had been raised to ensure the survival of the club.