As the Western Bulldogs prepare this weekend to mark the 30th anniversary of their averted merger with Fitzroy, which would have created the Fitzroy Bulldogs, what has emerged is some of the sliding doors moments during what became the first example of people power changing the course of League football.
In this week’s AFL Record feature story, what has emerged is the following twists.
Sliding Door One: When the ‘Save the Bulldogs’ committee first convened in the hours after news of the merger broke, one of their first ideas to save the club was to hand in the VFL license and instead seek admission to the VFA.
But as group convenor and later club president Peter Gordon told the Record, one of the group recalled the “Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees” line from the Midnight Oil song Power and the Passion and began exploring ways to keep the club afloat.
Sliding Door Two: Irene Chatfield is widely and correctly hailed as the hero of the club, having put her name to the court documents seeking an injunction to block the dissolution of the club. But it was supposed to be another member.
But that person demurred when she learned that if ‘Save the Bulldogs’ lost in court, and the VFL received an order for the legal costs, then she stood to lose her house.
Chatfield lived in a rental property. Her assets comprised some superannuation and her car and yet she couldn't sign the papers quickly enough. “Everything that I owned I gave up but it wasn't a hard decision to make if it meant saving the club,” she said.
Sliding Door Three: Terry Wheeler was presented to the Save the Bulldogs Rally on the Sunday at the Western Oval as the new coach of the club. He only accepted the job the day before while on holiday in New South Wales having never met Gordon.
But as Gordon revealed it was almost a toss of the coin job, with coaching legend Tom Hafey, who was 12 months removed from coaching Sydney, also heavily under consideration for the job.
The full story of the six days that saved the Footscray Football Club is told in this week’s AFL Record, available this weekend at all grounds for just $5.