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The Fightback 30: Moments 11-15

westernbulldogs.com.au reveals moments 11-15 in the countdown of the Club's most significant moments of the last 30 years.

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 moments 11-15. 

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

15. Unfurling the AFL Premiership flag 

The Bulldogs were able to celebrate the 2016 premiership in several ways in the aftermath of the Grand Final win. The players and inner sanctum did so on the Saturday night of the win, and a multitude of fans continued the celebration at VU Whitten Oval the next day.

Members and fans had another opportunity to mark the momentous win in Round 2 of the following season when the Bulldogs unfurled the premiership flag prior to their home match against Sydney, the team they had conquered to win the 2016 Grand Final.

The Club took the occasion as an opportunity to acknowledge and honour a group of past players, administrators, volunteers and life members and names such as Gary Dempsey, Sue Alberti, Irene Chatfield and Doug Hawkins were among those who were given the chance of being on the field as the flag was raised.

To top off a magical evening, the Bulldogs again defeated Sydney, this time by 23 points (one more than the Grand Final margin), after giving the Swans a four-goal head start.

14. The hoops are back - Club guernsey change

After the Western Bulldogs donned a heritage jumper featuring the original red and white hoops for Bob Murphy's 200th match in 2011, a Round 13 win over Adelaide, the Club was flooded with positive feedback from Doggies' members and fans. The Bulldogs then put a selection of four guernsey designs to an online member vote, and an overwhelming majority voted in favour of the return of the hoops.

The Dogs' CEO of the time, Simon Garlick, said "We see the new guernsey as the birth of a new tradition that reflects our connection to our community and commitment to build the Western Front." 

“This is as much a nod to our proud heritage as it is a celebration of the Bulldogs' bright future as we head into a new and exciting chapter of our football Club."

Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis were among several players who revealed the new guernsey to a cheering crowd at Peninsula, Docklands in October 2011, and the hoops returned on a permanent basis from the opening round of the 2012 season.

13. New beginnings in ‘96. New coach. New president. Chris Grant resists. 

It's fair to say that 1996 was a year of great upheaval at Whitten Oval. After two years of making finals, Footscray's on-field fortunes took a turn for the worse, the Club winning just five games to finish second-last on the ladder, ahead only of Fitzroy, itself a club that was going through its own tumult and was about to merge with the Brisbane Bears.

The Dogs' poor performances saw coach Alan Joyce replaced midway through the season, with assistant coach Terry Wallace taking the reins. Wallace immediately set about shedding the Bulldogs' traditional on-field reputation as a dour, defensive team and creating a highly-skilled, high-scoring outfit.  

Wallace's efforts were beginning to have an effect by season's end, but an important factor in continuing the transformation would be the retention of silkily skilled players such as Chris Grant. Happily, Grant resisted strong overtures from the AFL's newest club, Port Adelaide, and he played a huge part in the Dogs’ rise up the ladder in 1997. 

Another important part of the Club's transformation over 1996-97 was the handing over the presidency from Peter Gordon to David Smorgon. Having spearheaded the Fightback campaign in 1989, Gordon identified 1996 as the right time to pass the baton on to someone who could take the club into a new era of professionalism, and Smorgon went on to do just that.

12. Club name change, Footscray to Western Bulldogs 

Having installed a new coach and president, and made a match-day home ground move to Princes Park, the Footscray Football Club made another momentous change prior to the start of the 1997 AFL season when it began trading and playing as the 'Western Bulldogs'.

The change met with resistance from some quarters, but it gave the Club the opportunity to embrace the wider western suburban Melbourne corridor, and forge new connections with the entire west of Victoria. 

A rapid rise up the ladder accompanied the adoption of a new name and the other changes at the Club, signalling a new era of prosperity for the Bulldogs. The Western Bulldogs name continues to provide opportunities for the Club to embrace a wider audience, with the establishment of the Dogs' 'second home' at Mars Stadium in Ballarat a perfect example.

11. Footscray returns to the VFL, wins flag

While the Western Bulldogs had enjoyed successful partnerships with VFL clubs Williamstown and Werribee over a long period, it was decided in 2013 that the Club's chances of on-field success would be enhanced by having a standalone team in the VFL.

Once this decision was made, the choice of name for the VFL team — the Western Bulldogs or Footscray — was put to a member vote. The fans opted in favour of the old Footscray name, and in 2014 the Footscray Bulldogs were reborn.

The team celebrated with a crushing 117-point win over Richmond (also playing its first match as a standalone VFL side) at Whitten Oval, and then went from strength to strength, winning the flag in its 'debut' season. For history buffs and the nostalgic, the win marked a premiership hat-trick of sorts, as the VFL grew out of the old VFA competition, and Footscray had won flags in its last two seasons in 1923-24 before joining the VFL.

More importantly, the premiership win created a platform for the 2016 AFL premiership win, with players such as Tory Dickson and Jason Johannisen (who would go on to win the 2016 Norm Smith Medal) part of the Grand Final win. 

THE FIGHTBACK 30 SO FAR

MOMENTS 16-20
MOMENTS 21-25
MOMENTS 26-30

FIGHTBACK: How Terry Wheeler became Footscray coach

Terry Wheeler set off for a well-earned break at the end of the 1989 VFL season.
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