WESTERN Bulldogs president Peter Gordon has paid an emotional tribute to the people who kept the AFL club going before last year’s historic premiership.
Gordon officially took possession of the 2016 flag at Thursday night’s AFL season launch in Melbourne.
The Bulldogs came from seventh, winning four finals, to claim their first premiership since 1954 and only the second in club history.
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“This flag has been a long time coming and we will take good care of it,” Gordon said in his acceptance speech.
Gordon added it had taken “a certain character” to support the Bulldogs, who traditionally have been the strugglers in the AFL.
They nearly merged with Fitzroy in 1989 before a supporter-driven fundraising campaign kept them going.
“This flag is for every player who lay exhausted on the field after any one of seven losing preliminary finals,” Gordon said.
“It’s for every player we’ve had to sell or trade, who didn’t want to go, but it was necessary to keep the club alive over the last 40-50 years. “It’s for every administrator who did their best to keep the show on the road over the decades, off the smell of an oily rag.
“It’s for every supporter who signed over a pension cheque or emptied out a money box to keep us alive in 1989.” Gordon singled out Charlie Sutton, who was captain-coach of their 1954 premiership team when they were Footscray and died in 2012.
In his pre-match speech at the ‘54 grand final, Sutton famously told the players to shop early and avoid the rush.
“It’s for Charlie Sutton, the immortal soul of the Footscray Football Club,”’ Sutton said.
“Charlie, we didn’t shop early and we didn’t avoid the rush, but apart from that we followed your advice and eventually got the job done.” Easton Wood, who captained the Bulldogs in last year’s grand final win over Sydney, said the premiership represented a healing for the club. “The hard-luck story will no longer be the one they have to tell,” Wood said.
“We were filling bandwagons as fast as we could make them (last year), as our story captured the imagination of so many football fans.” Wood said the players had found something in a season where the team was ravaged by injuries.
“A lot of us found ourselves potentially out of depth, but we took a leap of faith because that’s what we were inspired to do,” he said.
“We were prepared to fail, but most importantly, we were willing to succeed.” The highlight of the season launch was a short movie of last year’s grand final and the Bulldogs’ flag.
Originally published as This flag is for everyone: Gordon