Almost 30 years ago, it was decided that the Bulldogs had no place in the VFL competition.
Due to crippling debt, the Club was given two options by the league – merge, or become extinct.
For some, it was a case of accepting the inevitable; that there was no way to recover.
But for countless others – whether they were in positions of influence or diehard fans from the backblocks of West Footscray, they simply wouldn’t let their football club die.
What happened in the weeks following the VFL’s announcement of the supposed Fitzroy Bulldogs merger, is the stuff of legend.
It was the power of the people, rising up together to save what meant everything to them.
Three decades on, the Western Bulldogs will commemorate the most significant period in its history - a moment in time which paved the way for all of us to wear the red, white and blue with pride today.
WHAT WAS THE FIGHTBACK?
In October 1989, the financially vulnerable Footscray Football Club was railroaded into a merger with Fitzroy by a Ross Oakley led Victorian Football League determined to change the face and future of the code.
The west was galvanised by common outrage and insistence that they were not going to give up on the Club without a fight.
A legal battle was waged, and an injunction was granted to allow Footscray the chance to raise the necessary funds to ensure its survival.
On October 8, more than 10,000 people attended a rally at the Western Oval and, within three weeks, over $1.6 million had been raised.
The efforts of the people ensured that Footscray survived in the VFL, and the Club has since gone on to prosper off the field, achieve success on it, and create a future full of enormous possibilities.
WHY ARE WE CELEBRATING?
It’s important to recognise the past; to know what defines us and to recognise the deeds of those who have helped shape who we are today.
It’s incumbent on us to pass on knowledge to future generations, so they can understand our history and deepen their bond with the Club.
Given the Bulldogs almost disappeared from the competition 30 years ago, it’s remarkable to sit back and assess our significant achievements since that time – there have been premierships, Brownlow medals, name changes, moving of home grounds, the eradication of debt and the promise of a world-class Whitten Oval precinct into the future.
It’s also a chance to pay tribute to our loyal and passionate members and fans, who rallied together to ensure the Bulldogs’ survival in 1989, and who still give their heart and soul to the red, white and blue to this day.
HOW WILL IT BE CELEBRATED?
The Western Bulldogs’ Round 17 AFL game against Melbourne will be the Fightback Round. Some of the activities leading up to, and at the game on Sunday, July 14, include:
- The launch of a specially themed guernsey, paying homage to the Fightback campaign of 1989, to be worn by both the AFL and VFL teams on Sunday, July 14.
- A VFL match being played - Footscray vs Casey Demons - as the curtain raiser to the AFL at Marvel Stadium from 11.50am. Both games broadcast live on Channel 7.
- Specially designed off-field merchandise range, including scarf, hoodie, t-shirt and cap.
- Limited edition merchandise pack, including scarf, ‘Up Yours Oakley’ badge and commemorative membership card, with the purchase of a Three-Game or Sideline membership (current members can purchase the pack separately).
- A fan-voted countdown of the top 30 most significant Footscray/Western Bulldogs moments from the last 30 years.
- A podcast series hosted by Bob Murphy, and video series, which explore the people who played key roles in saving the club in 1989.
- Fightback themed official match-day function at Marvel Stadium.