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1970s - History of the Western Bulldogs Football Club

‘It’s got to be a do-or-die effort. It’s got to be a determined effort. You’ve got to show me all the guts and determination you’ve got in your body. You’ve got to inspire me with this last-quarter finish …’
(Captain/Coach Ted Whitten, delivering his three-quarter time address to the players in his last game, 2 May 1970)

Ted Whitten was retired by the club after four games in 1970 – reaching 321 games, against Hawthorn, to break Essendon’s Dick Reynolds’ VFL games record. He continued as non-playing coach. Gary Dempsey was runnerup in the Brownlow Medal and Footscray won their fourth night premiership. The Footscray Social Club opened to much fanfare in December 1970 but, by the end of the decade, a split between it and the football club fuelled a bitter battle that threatened to tear the club apart.

Bob Rose replaced Whitten as coach for season 1972 – the year the final five system was adopted. The 1970s saw the unveiling of VFL Park Waverley and changes to the game, including the introduction of the centre square, the two umpire system in 1976, and interchangeable players in 1978. Increasing commercialisation and sponsorship took the game to a more professional level. Despite Footscray’s Gippsland zone providing many fine players, on-field results were disappointing. Footscray lost part of that zone to Hawthorn in 1973, gaining the Yarra Valley League as apparent compensation.

In 1974, Footscray’s 50th VFL season, Dick Collinson defeated Jack Collins for the presidency. Kelvin Templeton, Geoff Jennings, Terry Wheeler and Ted Whitten Jnr each played their first game. The Bulldogs made the final five, before losing to Collingwood in the elimination final. In 1975, Footscray’s guernsey and shorts were altered for the advent of colour television. A football tragedy occurred in the game against Fitzroy when South Australian recruit Neil Sachse, in only his second game for the club, collided with an opponent and was left paralysed for life. Champion ruckman, Gary Dempsey won six best and fairest awards in the 1970s and was named the 1975 Brownlow Medallist.

Bill Goggin replaced Bob Rose as coach for 1976. Footscray earned an elimination final berth after a last round draw against top side Carlton, but were defeated by Geelong by 7 points at VFL Park. Templeton kicked 82 goals for the season.

The attempted eviction and lockout of the social club by the football club, at the start of the 1977 season, caused deep-seated friction and in-fighting, ultimately embroiling the players and dividing the club. In Round 16, 1977, a Footscray milestone was reached when St Kilda were defeated in the Dogs’ 1000th League game. After the season, former captain Laurie Sandilands quit the club.

Bill Goggin’s shock resignation after the first round of 1978 was blamed on lack of recruiting and the clearance of players for financial reasons. By the end of the decade, the Bulldogs had lost or cleared Bisset, Quinlan, Dempsey, Round, Sandilands, Robert McGhie, David Thorpe and others. Don McKenzie took over as coach and the side showed marked improvement, Doug Hawkins proving a fine first-year recruit. In Round 13, 1978, Footscray kicked a then VFL record score of 33-15 (213) to defeat St Kilda by 107 points, with full-forward Kelvin Templeton kicking 15 goals 9 behinds. Templeton completed a wonderful season by winning the club champion award and the League goalkicking, with 118 goals, in a team that finished eleventh. In 1979, Templeton again led the VFL goalkicking, with 91 goals. 

 

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