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After the siren

After the siren: Now, it's really Year of the Dogs

Twenty years after fly-on-the-wall doco, Dogs' time has come

ONE OF the joys of this "all Bulldogs, all the time" week just completed was the airing on a few occasions of the brilliant, Year of the Dogs documentary, the fly-on-the-wall account of the club's wretched 1996 season.

The Dogs were still known as Footscray back then and a line from the Mike Brady re-recording of the club song was, "And the day is getting clo-o-ser when the Dogs rise up in the West."

Well, it took 20 years, but the Dogs have risen and the question now is, for how long?

Based on the evidence on display at the MCG on Saturday and indeed, the three weeks beforehand, the Bulldogs' star might be shining brightly for some time yet.

This is a young squad that list manager Jason McCartney suggested on Saturday night might have won the flag two years earlier than expected. Most of the premiership 22 have their best football ahead of them, which is a scary prospect for the rest of the competition.

Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Boyd, Caleb Daniel, Jason Johannisen and Jack Macrae all have considerable upside. Jake Stringer had an up-and-down year but his talent is undeniable. Robert Murphy will be back, and the Dogs won't lack for motivation in trying to win him a flag next year. Stewart Crameri will add bite to the forward line and Marcus Adams some steel to the backline.

And we haven’t even discussed Travis Cloke, who appears odds-on to be wearing the red, white and blue. What can he add to the mix in 2017?

The Dogs were the feelgood story of September and by the finals, pretty much everyone in Victoria was behind them. The Murphy factor should ensure a bit more goodwill in 2017. And then?

"It's hard to look beyond this, but sustainability would be great. I suppose you want to be envied," said coach Luke Beveridge, looking at the three big clubs of the last decade, Hawthorn, Geelong and the Sydney Swans, who have all won multiple premierships.

"We've nailed one in a long period of time, and to be envied, you need that sustained success."

Luke Beveridge prepares to hand his medal to injured skipper Bob Murphy. Picture: AFL Photos

And then along came Bevo

Saturday's premiership win by the Bulldogs marks one of the most rapid transformations of a footy club in memory.

It is barely 24 months since "Shocktober 2014" when Bulldogs skipper Ryan Griffen walked out on the club, with senior coach Brendan McCartney following him days later. Chief executive Simon Garlick has also departed the Whitten Oval.

They were dim days indeed as the club lurched from crisis to crisis, not unlike those captured on Year of the Dogs 20 years ago.

But then along came Beveridge. The club had watched him from afar at Hawthorn and waited, sometimes impatiently, for him to return from an overseas holiday to interview him for the coaching job.

They knew of his brilliant track record of an unprecedented three premierships in three years as coach of St.Bedes Mentone in the Victorian Amateur Football Association, followed by one with Collingwood as a development coach and two with the Hawks as defensive coach.

He had already started the groundwork for a new job as director of coaching at St Kilda when the Dogs came calling.

Former club great Chris Grant was the board member overseeing football at the time and was transfixed when his former teammate at the Whitten Oval began to speak. Grant immediately thought that the elusive flag was a matter of when, not if, once Beveridge was in charge.

"I knew two years ago we would win the flag, but I just didn't know when," he said in the jubilant MCG rooms on Saturday evening. "It was made crystal clear the moment he stepped in the room and we sat down to talk.

"We knew him. We knew his history. We knew the people he associated with and they all had unbelievable things to say about him. I knew we would be OK then."

Club president Peter Gordon continued the theme when he said of Beveridge, "He is the coach this club always wanted to have."

The Dogs have had some good coaches in their time – Mick Malthouse cut his teeth there before winning flags with West Coast and Collingwood, and Alan Joyce after he won two with the Hawks. Terry Wallace broke the coaching mould in his time, but could not take the club past the preliminary final.

But in Beveridge, they might finally have landed a great one in his prime. And his gesture of handing his premiership medal to the injured Murphy will be talked about for years to come as one of the great Grand Final moments.

The best Grand Final ever?

It is always tempting to think the most of the game you have just seen and in this instance to declare the 2016 Grand Final as the greatest ever played.

And there were a few media types doing just that during and immediately after Saturday's epic match.

This Grand Final had everything going for it. It was tough and tight, replete with some individual brilliance. Any flag decider that is in the balance with a quarter to go always ranks highly and it has been a couple of years since we have had that. The history and romance of the Western Bulldogs and the fever pitch of the nearly 100,000 fans at the MCG created a day at the footy we'll be talking about for years.

But the greatest ever? Not in my eyes. The 1989 Hawthorn-Geelong game still sets the standards by which all others should be judged.

This writer has only missed three Grand Finals in person since 1975 so this ranking of the best of them in that time is a reasonably informed opinion.

  1. 1989: Hawthorn-Geelong
  2. 2010: Collingwood-St Kilda (draw)
  3. 1979: Carlton-Collingwood
  4. 2016: Western Bulldogs-Sydney Swans
  5. 1984: Essendon-Hawthorn

Honourable mentions: 2012: Sydney Swans-Hawthorn, 1977: North Melbourne-Collingwood (draw), 2009: Geelong-St Kilda.

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