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The Fightback 30: Moments 16-20

Elite training facility, VU Whitten Oval redevelopment, and the Boyd/Griffen trade 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 16-20.

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.


20. Elite Training Facility built at Whitten Oval

While VU Whitten Oval lies in a Labor-voting, working class heartland, a great proportion of the elite training facility it currently houses came thanks largely to a rugby league-loving former Liberal Prime Minister. It was Sydneysider John Howard who answered a request for funding from the Bulldog CEO Campbell Rose back in 2004.

With the assistance of an $8 million federal government funding package, and further funding provided by the Victorian state government (under then premier Steve Bracks), the Western Bulldogs' vision of building an elite training centre for Bulldogs players, along with a number of indoor community facilities, was realised in 2008.

19. Whitten Oval redevelopment announced

Over the past 30 years the Western Bulldogs administration has worked hard at consolidating and improving its home base at VU Whitten Oval to ensure it maintains a competitive parity with some of the AFL's larger clubs. 

Assisted by an assignment of land from the Victorian state government at the southern (Geelong Road) end of VU Whitten Oval, the Bulldogs have now completed a master plan for a reimagined precinct which will deliver world-class football facilities for players, coaches and fans alike, and create a number of new community and recreation spaces.

Further design work will be undertaken to ensure the best chance of realising the Club's vision of making the Whitten Oval precinct the heart of the community - an everyday precinct to spectate, celebrate and discover. 

18. The Boyd/Griffen trade, McCartney resigns 

For many Bulldogs fans, the weeks following the end of the 2014 season marked the lowest point for the Club since the '89 Fightback campaign. The Dogs had won only seven games for the season, and captain and coach (Ryan Griffen and Brendan McCartney) departed the Club in less than ideal circumstances.

The view from outside the club, particularly some sections of the media, was that the Bulldogs were a team without hope. The Herald Sun's chief football writer was moved to tweet, "Dogs lost captain, coach, no.6, integrity, respect and generally lost their way...and they bring in Boyd on a mill a year... #goodluck"

Within the Club, however, president Peter Gordon and his board were galvanised. In a classic ‘crisis equal opportunity’ moment, the Club orchestrated a trade with the GWS Giants, gaining 2013 number 1 draft pick Tom Boyd in return for Griffen. The board then appointed Luke Beveridge to the senior coaching role and heart-and-soul veteran Bob Murphy was elevated to the captaincy. The rest, as they say, is history, and within two years the Dogs had broken a premiership drought that had lasted more than six decades.

17. Presidential stability at the Kennel. Two Top Dogs in 30 years. 

While the three decades since the 'Fightback' campaign have seen the Bulldogs go through a number of ups and downs, the Club has experienced a period of sustained off-field stability and prosperity in that period. This is in no small way due to the fact that the Club has had only two presidents in that time, both very strong men who have always had the preservation of the Bulldogs' unique identity and culture at heart.

Peter Gordon's efforts in firstly spearheading the Fightback campaign, and then steering the Bulldogs back to on-field (as well as off-field) competitiveness are of undeniable importance. To have the Club play finals in 1992, just its third season after being saved (and again in 1994 and 1995) was a remarkable achievement. Gordon's successor David Smorgon took the Dogs through another significant phase, overseeing the name-change to the Western Bulldogs, and the move of the Club's game-day base to Princes Park and then Docklands.

Taking up the presidency once again in late 2012, Peter Gordon guided the Dogs through uncertain waters in 2014 before leading the Club to a long-awaited premiership in 2016. 

Critical to the Club's ongoing stability has been the fact that the handovers from Gordon to Smorgon and from Smorgon back to Gordon were both done without any friction, the respect the two presidents hold for each other one of the keys to the Bulldogs success in all areas since 1989.

16. Western Oval renamed Whitten Oval

The man known as Mr Football, or simply ‘EJ’, Ted Whitten, was a larger than life figure in the Australian football world, not just at Footscray, where he played a then VFL record 321 games, but across Melbourne, Victoria and all the southern states as he championed the cause of the 'Big V' in interstate (later State of Origin) football.

Ted's lap of the MCG prior to the State of Origin match in 1995 just weeks prior to his passing moved those who witnessed it to tears. When EJ lost his battle with prostate cancer, such was his standing in the community that he was awarded a state funeral.

To further honour the legacy of the former club captain, coach and premiership hero, the Bulldogs renamed Western Oval, their home ground of more than a century, to Whitten Oval.

A statue of the great man in classic kicking pose is situated opposite the entrance to the stadium that bears his name. 



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