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The legend of Tony Liberatore

June 14, 2016 2:28 PM

Guardians of the Guernsey: Johnno & Dahl A current and former Bulldog, united by their guernsey number, come together to get nostalgic and share stories of their experiences wearing the red, white and blue. In this episode, Brad Johnson and Luke Dahlhaus talk about the camaraderie of Western Bulldogs players.
Tony Liberatore of the Bulldogs leads for the ball during the round 17 AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the Kangaroos at the Colonial Stadium in Melbourne, Australia on July 28, 2002.

Tony Liberatore of the Bulldogs leads for the ball during the round 17 AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the Kangaroos at the Colonial Stadium in Melbourne, Australia on July 28, 2002.

“You’re at the wrong ground, mate, you’re a jockey, you should be at Flemington.”

That was Tony Liberatore’s introduction to the Footscray Football Club in 1986.

Speaking to westernbulldogs.com.au in an upcoming instalment of the Guardians of the Guernsey web series alongside Jason Johannisen, the 1990 Brownlow Medallist opened up on his tough first days at the then Western Oval.

“I was playing under 19s at North Melbourne and I’d won the Norrish Medal for best in the comp and I rang Hawthorn, St.Kilda and the Bulldogs to see if there was any chance of getting a game,” Liberatore said.

“It was Mick Malthouse, who was at Footscray, who said ‘come down, [but] there’s no guarantees.”

It was the beginning of a career that would lead to not only to the 1990 Brownlow, but a spot in the Bulldogs team of the century, although the early days were undeniably challenging.   

“Back in those days there were, like, 60 players on the training track pre-season so you’d be running around rubbing shoulders with Simon Beasley, Rick Kennedy and Peter Foster; you look at them as legends of the footy club.”

Then, in front of the group on Liberatore’s first night, Beasley remarked that he’d be better suited to a career as a jockey than a League footballer.

“I was small enough as it was  and I was trying to look for somewhere to hide,” he laughs.   

Going on to play 283 games and earning a permanent place in the hearts of the Bulldogs faithful, Liberatore credits a couple of Club legends with shaping his extraordinary career.

“In the nineties before they had line coaches, we had Gary Dempsey, Georgey Bisset [and] Georgey and I used to stay back after training and have extra kicking sessions because kicking wasn’t one of my great strengths.

But he reserves the most praise for former coach Terry Wheeler.

“He gave me so much confidence and belief in myself that just because you’re small that doesn’t mean you’re not going to get there.”