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The Fightback 30: Moment 4

Saving The Dogs: Peter Gordon Presented by Victoria University, check out Part Three of 'Saving The Dogs', a four part series commemorating the 30th anniversary of the historic Fightback of 1989.

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, westernbulldogs.com.au reveals moment 4. 

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.

VIEW THE ORIGINAL LIST OF 30 MOMENTS

4. The death of Mr Football, EJ Whitten 

The sporting pages of the Melbourne Herald of May 14, 1951 carried a headline "TED WHITTEN ANSWER TO FOOTSCRAY PROBLEM". Young Ted Whitten had only just played his fourth match of VFL footy, but he had already made a big impression. He would continue to do so, not just at the venue that eventually came to bear his name, but across the entire Australian football community. 

Edward James ‘EJ’ Whitten quickly established himself as a dominant on-field force and within four years he, along with his captain-coach and several other stars, would take the Footscray Football Club to where it had never gone before: a Grand Final, and the Bulldogs' first VFL premiership.

VISIT THE BULLDOGS’ FIGHTBACK WEB HUB 

Fearless and feisty, Whitten was also blessed with an abundance of talent and, over the next two decades, he dominated the football landscape in a way few had before. Whitten's skill-set allowed him to play in — and excel — almost any position on the ground, and he was equally at home in a key forward or defensive post as he was in the scrum of a muddy suburban midfield. It was this talent, and EJ's larger-than-life, larrikin public persona that earned him the nickname "Mister Football". 

Whitten's talents carried him to a then league record games total of 321 by the time he hung up the boots in 1970, and they also saw him represent Victoria in state football 29 times. In fact, the 'Big V' jumper became synonymous with the Whitten name. 

When his playing career was over, Whitten continued to champion the cause of Footscray and the Big V. He coached the Dogs until the end of 1971 and was Victoria's chairman of selectors for many years.

BUY TICKETS: WESTERN BULLDOGS V MELBOURNE

Larger than life though he may have been, Ted Whitten sadly suffered the ravages of prostate cancer through the early 1990s, his diagnosis coming too late to save his life. In June 1995, the ailing EJ made his last public appearance as he was driven on a lap of honour in front of a huge MCG crowd prior to the State of Origin match between Victoria and South Australia. The Vics went on to thrash the Croweaters to do Ted proud. 

Ted Whitten passed away two months later. Such was his standing, even beyond the football world, he was given a state funeral which was televised nationally. 

SAVING THE DOGS: THE IRENE CHATFIELD STORY

The legacy of EJ lives on at the home of the Bulldogs, a statue of Ted in classic kicking pose standing proudly outside the stadium now named for him, Whitten Oval. EJ's son, Ted Junior, set up the EJ Whitten Foundation soon after his passing. The foundation continues to promote awareness and raise funds for research into prostate cancer. 

Mr Football would be very proud.

THE FIGHTBACK 30 SO FAR:
MOMENT 5
MOMENT 6
MOMENT 7
MOMENT 8
MOMENT 9
MOMENT 10
MOMENTS 11-15
MOMENTS 16-20
MOMENTS 21-25
MOMENTS 26-30