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The Fightback 30: Moments 21-25

Women's football history, a pre-season flag, and team of club greats comprise the next instalment of the fan-voted Fightback 30 Countdown.

To celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the famous Footscray Fightback campaign of 1989, Bulldogs fans have voted on the most significant moments for the Club over the last 30 years. 

Today, reveals moments 21-25.

The Bulldogs will take on Melbourne in Round 17 on a day dedicated to the Fightback – a time which saw an extraordinary fan uprising save the Club from a merger with Fitzroy.

On July 14, Footscray will take on Casey in the VFL, followed by the AFL game at Marvel Stadium.




25: Team of the Century announced

Eight years before the establishment of the Footscray-Western Bulldogs Hall of Fame, the Club honoured 24 of its greatest players with the announcement of the Team of the Century. At a gala event at Palladium Crown in April 2002, the Club's finest and their relatives gathered as the team was selected from a group of 88 nominees.

Mr Football, Ted Whitten was named as captain, and his 1954 premiership partner in crime, Charlie Sutton, was selected as coach, as well as occupying a back pocket role. The team comprised a cavalcade of star Bulldogs spanning every decade from the Club's induction into the VFL in 1925.

The team was immortalised in a magnificent painting created by artist (and former Fitzroy player) Jamie Cooper.


24: Dogs receive AFLW licence

While the Western Bulldogs, along with Melbourne, had been at the forefront of promoting and showcasing elite women's football since 2013, the Club had received no guarantees that it would be part of the group of teams granted a licence to play in the inaugural AFLW season. So, it was with some trepidation that Bulldogs fans awaited AFL commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick's speech on June 15, 2016, in which he announced the eight AFLW foundation teams.

Happily, the Bulldogs and Melbourne were both rewarded for their pioneering efforts, the two granted licences along with six other clubs. The Club appointed Paul Groves as coach and signed Ellie Blackburn and Katie Brennan as marquee players for the first AFLW season.

The Bulldogs' very first match, a home game against Fremantle, drew more than 10,000 fans to VU Whitten Oval, proving beyond doubt a hunger for an elite women's competition. The Daughters of the West celebrated with a crushing win over the Dockers and, although they only had one further win for the season, created a platform for long-term sustained success. This was franked by a premiership win in 2018.

23: The first women's football exhibition game

So entrenched has the AFL Women's competition become in the psyche of most footy fans, it's hard to believe that a mere six years ago the concept barely registered in their minds.

In partnership with Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs challenged the notion that elite-level Australian football should be the domain of men only, and this challenge was crystallised when the two clubs drafted the finest female players from state leagues to participate in an exhibition match played as a curtain-raiser to the men's Bulldogs v Demons fixture played at the MCG on June 29.

The match showcased players who would go on to become stars of the AFL Women's league, featuring names such as Ellie Blackburn, Steph Chiocci, Emma Kearney and Daisy Pearce.

Melbourne won comfortably, but the result was secondary to what was a watershed moment in women's footy. As a result of the foundations laid on that day six short years ago, the AFLW is already a thriving competition, and the participation rate of females playing football is increasing at a rate no-one could have imagined.


22: NAB Challenge Premiership

Despite having been more than competitive in most seasons in the two decades after the 1989 Fightback campaign, and Brownlow Medals to Tony Liberatore in 1990 and Scott Wynd in 1992, the Western Bulldogs had not managed to add any team trophies to the senior silverware cabinet.

That all changed in 2010. With boom recruit Barry Hall starring at full forward, the Bulldogs stormed into the pre-season Grand Final, facing off against St Kilda, who had only narrowly lost the previous season's day Grand Final. Despite four goals from star Saint Nick Riewoldt, the Bulldogs dominated the final. Hall's scintillating form continued, and he finished with seven goals as the Dogs powered to a pre-season flag, the club's first senior premiership of any form since winning the 1970 night series Grand Final.

Hall's efforts netted him the Michael Tuck medal as best on ground, and in the ensuing two AFL premiership seasons he provided the Bulldogs with the forward target they'd been searching for, booting 135 goals in 39 matches.


21: AFL football returns to Whitten Oval

Having established a VFL presence as Footscray at VU Whitten Oval in 2014, the Western Bulldogs further strengthened the Club's ties to the famous venue when it played a JLT pre-season match against Richmond on February 28, 2015.

The return of AFL football to the ground marked Luke Beveridge's debut as a coach and, led by young guns Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli, along with new captain Bob Murphy, the Dogs emerged triumphant, coming from behind at the last change to defeat the Tigers by 22 points.

What would have been a perfect 'homecoming' for the Dogs, was marred by a season-ending knee injury to Tom Liberatore. Despite that disappointment, the match marked a starting point in the Bulldogs' journey to the 2016 premiership.




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