On this day: A (Stephen) Power-ful start to the season
6 April, 1974

On this day: A (Stephen) Power-ful start to the season

Andrew Gigacz turns back the clock 46 years to recall a stirring victory against Geelong at a blustery Western Oval.

Geoff Jennings (pictured) debuted for the Footscray Bulldogs as a 19-year-old in the club's season opening victory against Geelong in 1974.

Footscray headed into the 1974 season with an air of confidence. 

The Bulldogs, with former Collingwood legend Bob Rose coaching, had finished what had a been a mostly wretched 1973 season with three wins in a row, the last two against eventual Grand Finalists, Carlton and Richmond.

So, when the Dogs ran out onto the Western Oval for their Round 1 clash with Geelong on this day 46 years ago, hopes were high.

The early signs were good, as the Dogs took advantage of first use of a strong wind to lead by 25 points at quarter time.  The margin probably should have been greater, but the Bulldogs wasted chances in front of goal, kicking 4.7 to 1.0.

Fortunately for Footscray, the Cats were just as wasteful when their turn with the wind came. They booted 5.9 to the Dogs' 2.1 and it was Geelong by point at the long break.

The third term went pretty much to script, the Bulldogs outscoring Geelong by four goals to one to lead by 20 points at 'orange time'.

Would that be enough?  The Cats were coming home with what Geelong coach 'Polly' Farmer estimated to be a four-goal wind. On that basis, the Dogs would have their work cut out for them in the final quarter.

Bob Rose's men proved to be more than equal to the task. In a magnificent display of into-the-wind footy, it was the Dogs who outscored their opposition by four goals, booting six to two to run away with the match and finish 45 points clear.

Stephen Power was the star for the Bulldogs. The 23-year-old, playing his 76th VFL match, collected 28 possessions and was named as best-on-ground by Michael Davis in The Age.

Not far behind him was big Peter Welsh, the big Bulldog celebrating his 100th game by kicking five goals from centre half-forward.

Ian Salmon, Laurie Sandilands, Adrian Gallagher and Dennis Collins were also fine contributors.

Dennis Collins's younger brother Daryl was one of two Footscray debutants that day. Unfortunately for the 17-year-old Daryl, his game turned out to be his last. He was replaced at three-quarter time by Max O'Halloran and was omitted from the side the following week.

The Bulldogs other first-gamer was a young man named Geoff Jennings, who had turned 19 two days earlier. Jennings did enough (13 touches and a goal) to retain his place, and he would go on to be a fine player for the red, white and blue, playing 137 games and captaining the Dogs from 1979 to 1981 before a plague of injuries ended his career far too early.

Footscray's opening-round win did prove to be a sign of good things to come in 1974. The Dogs recorded 13 wins — including a stirring victory over eventual premiers Richmond in the last home-and-away round, repeating the effort of a year earlier — and went on to make the finals for the first time in 13 years. 

5 April, 2014

On This Day: A Special Day for Footscray

The moment 'Footscray' returned to VU Whitten Oval.
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