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The day ‘Bill the Kid’ made his Bulldog debut

Steve Kolyniuk of the Bulldogs in action during the 1998 round five AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Western Bulldogs at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

It seems hard to believe that Steven Kolyniuk played his first game for the Bulldogs more than three decades ago, but it's true.

Thirty-two years ago today, a seventeen-year-old who would be affectionately dubbed 'Bill the Kid' ran onto the MCG with famous names such as Doug Hawkins, Steve Wallis, Simon Beasley and Rick Kennedy.  It was Bulldogs royalty — literally, if you include Brian Royal.

Indeed 'Choco' Royal starred that day as Footscray, looking to fight its way into the top five, took on fourth-placed North Melbourne in what proved to be a thriller.

Kolyniuk, who had turned 17 only 41 days earlier, wasn't overawed by the occasion, collecting 13 possessions on his debut.  The game was a high-scoring affair played at breakneck pace, and it came to a dramatic climax, moving The Age's Sam Prenesti to describe it as follows: "The finish was preordained by two sides whose style of play was like two semi-trailers speeding downhill with no brakes. It was a game of attack; defence was never an issue."

While goals came freely, neither side could establish a winning break, and when Bulldog Steve MacPherson marked late in the final quarter 45 metres from goal on an angle, his side was in arrears by six points. While he considered his options, the siren sounded, leaving him with only one: a shot at goal to draw the match. 

The unflappable 'Super' calmly went back and drilled a gun-barrel straight drop punt, bisecting the goalposts. The game ended in a tie, both sides kicking 18.17 (125), giving Kolyniuk a debut to remember.

Royal's 32-touch game earned him two Brownlow votes, while MacPherson also played a pivotal role throughout the match, his post-siren goal being his fourth major of the day.

Kolyniuk went on to play 177 games over the next 14 seasons, booting 198 goals along the way. He really came into his own in the 1990 season, the year after the Bulldogs' Fightback campaign, and he his best remembered for a brilliant late goal he kicked against Collingwood late in that season, again at the MCG.

With the Dogs trailing by a point, Kolyniuk (by now wearing the number 21) marked about 55 metres from goal.  Too far out to score, he played on, baulked around Collingwood's Graham Wright, and slotted a goal with his trusty left boot.  The Bulldogs held on for a famous three-point win against the side that would go on to win the flag.

As great as that moment was, it would be unfair for Kolyniuk to be remembered by a single deed, because he played many fine games for the Bulldogs, starring as a small forward who rotated though the midfield.  He had standout seasons in 1992 and 1998, when he kicked 35 and 39 goals respectively, and more often than not caused headaches for the small defender that was charged with the role of keeping him quiet. 

Kolyniuk's AFL career came to a close at the end of the 2000 season, and it was only injury that prevented him from being a 200-game player. The Bulldogs made the finals more often than not through the 1990s, and Steve Kolyniuk played a significant role in getting them there.