Every Bulldogs home game began with a short walk to Whitten Oval for 90-year-old member Sylvia Decampo and her family — 80 years on, the pilgrimage is a little longer, but the dedicated supporter still shows up to watch her beloved team play.
The game has changed and evolved from the early days, as has Sylvia’s experience of going to the football – her view from her seat at Etihad Stadium vastly different to standing amongst the crowd, trying to see the play between the sea of people.
“I have been going to the football since I was a little girl, so it would be in the 80 years at least,” Sylvia said.
“I used to love it here – we used to just stand on the… rise there and we were only small, so we were moving around all the time to see the football. It wasn’t easy.
“I saw Normy Ware, [Alby] Morrison, Peter Box. Harry Hickey was my favourite.”
Lucky enough to witness the Bulldogs 1954 Premiership win, Sylvia still believes it was worth the wait, to be there amongst the crowd at the MCG when her team won the ultimate prize.
“We won and that’s all that mattered – we were standing in the southern stand, because there was no grandstand then… we still had trouble seeing my sister and I,” she joked.
Bestowing her love for the Bulldogs on her children and eventually grandchildren, Sylvia has kept the family tradition alive.
She began taking her granddaughter Danni along as her football companion from the age of three - now thirty, Danni is the one helping Sylvia get to the ground.
While Harry Hickey originally took the mantle as her favourite player, a number of selfless and courageous players have caught her eye over the years.
“I kept a photo of Hickey from the newspaper, but [also] Scotty West and Daniel Cross – they go for the ball themselves,” she said.
“I like the two younger fellas Libba [Tom Liberatore] and [Mitch] Wallis … [and] I like [Dahlhaus]. He’s a smart little player… I suppose all the young girls would all go for him.”
When asked if she had ever considered changing allegiances, Sylvia was adamant in her response of “no, no way”.
“If you take on something you should stick to it. There’s not enough loyalty now, anywhere. That’s how I feel anyway,” she said.
“It’s just something I look forward to and whether they win or they lose, once it’s over, that’s it.
“You get a bit worked up while it is on, but that’s it.”
Filling her time in the pre-season watching game replays, Sylvia is excited for the upcoming football season with an eye on which of the Bulldogs young brigade will step up – and of course to see Daniel Cross return to the field again.