One win wonders… The sorry tale of St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs

There are many fortunate clubs in the AFL. Clubs who have been successful over many years, winning premierships, getting big crowds to games, and off field operating profitably. However, one’s success always means another’s failure. There are two clubs who have been around for a long time, yet only enjoyed the ultimate success on one occasion each. These clubs being St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs.

St Kilda

In 1897, St Kilda Football Club entered the Victorian Football League (VFL). Since then, they have made it through to the Grand Final on 8 occasions, with only the solitary premiership in 1966. After the 1971 Grand Final loss to Hawthorn they went until 1991 before making the finals again.  After the 1992 failed finals campaign, it wasn’t until 1997 when they had a chance to break their premiership drought. Here is the long list of failings since that dreadful day in ’97…

  • 1997: Grand Final Loss
  • 1998: Controversial sacking of Stan Alves
  • 1999-2000: Tim Watson coaching failure
  • 2000: A league record 26th Wooden Spoon
  • 2001: $1m coach Malcolm Blight signed then sacked after 15 rounds
  • 2004: Preliminary Final loss
  • 2005: Preliminary Final loss
  • 2006: Grant Thomas sacked, Ross Lyon signed
  • 2008: Preliminary Final loss
  • 2009: Grand Final Loss
  • 2010: Grand Final Draw
  • 2010: Grand Final Loss

4 Grand Finals, and 3 Preliminary Finals. And couldn’t win any of them! So we ask why? Why are St Kilda making it to at least the secondlast week of the season on a consistent basis, but not winning any premierships?

Western Bulldogs

In 1925, Footscray Football Club entered the VFL. Since then, they have made it through to the Grand Final on 2 occasions, and along with the Saints, they have only the one premiership.  Their only flag coming in 1954. The Bulldogs had a close call in 1989 when they almost merged with Fitzroy.

Footscray has always been a battling suburb, and with the ever-increasing costs in football, the club has found it hard to secure sponsors, members and supporters. After surviving the merger scare, the club started to improve in the 90s. The club changed its name from Footscray to the Western Bulldogs at the end of the 1996 season, and with this started an on-field resurgence.

However, the Bulldogs still haven’t been able to make it to a Grand Final since the loss to Hawthorn in 1961. Along with the Saints, 1997 was the start of a more consistent finals contender, yet, still no ultimate success…

  • 1997: Preliminary Final Loss
  • 1998: Preliminary Final Loss
  • 1999: Out of finals in straight sets
  • 2002: Terry Wallace quits as coach
  • 2003-2004: Peter Rhode’s Coaching failure
  • 2003: Wooden Spoon
  • 2005: Signing of Rodney Eade
  • 2008: Preliminary Final Loss
  • 2009: Preliminary Final Loss
  • 2010: Preliminary Final Loss

After 5 Preliminary Final losses in 14 seasons, the football world must start to wonder if the doggies will ever make it to another Grand Final!

Some may say, “At least we made it that far,” or they may think that making it to a Preliminary or Grand Final is successful. Perhaps it is that attitude that is the reason they can’t get over the line at the business end of the season.

So what’s the solution? Where to now for these two struggling clubs? Will they just keep losing every year when it counts? Or will something click into place and give the battlers of the competition some success?

The season is over for both clubs. I don’t think either team will make the finals, after making the top 4 in the last 3 seasons. I think it’s time for change at both clubs. Both coaches have been at the helm for some time, and as Geelong have proven this season, a fresh face, with a different structure, can rejuvenate a team, and give them the mental edge when the going gets tough. All is not lost. The Cats were also in a premiership drought for many years. Coming so close on many occasions without achieving the ultimate success. Both St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs need to have a close look at how things turned around at Kardinia Park.

There is always luck when it comes to winning premierships. Form, injuries, and everything else must fall into place at the right time. There is no harder task in footy than to go all the way and win on that last Saturday of the season. It requires a mental edge over your opponents, a winning game plan, and most importantly, a champion team. So when it comes to St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs, the problem isn’t the lack of champion players, the problem is the lack of a champion team. A history that has been unsuccessful, and a future that is uncertain.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning” – Benjamin Franklin



5 responses to “One win wonders… The sorry tale of St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs

  1. As a Western Bulldogs supporter, I agreed with everything said about the club in this article. Massive cultural change needed, close enough is NOT good enough

  2. The only suggestion on how to improve contained in the article is to change the coach. Hopefully someone can follow up this article with some genuine analysis and some other proposals on how to improve.

  3. Steven Williamson

    It’s a bit harsh to criticise a team for losing 3 preliminary finals when in the same period they have won 4. All things being equal, 50% is the pass mark in a two horse race and the Saints have that covered.

  4. Still a proud and passionate member. #1 in my eyes. Go the Mighty Saints.

  5. Rian Prestwich

    Why you digging into the saints so hard ATM man? Everyone has form slump, and if every team in the AFL was bound to win every premiership they entered, well that would be impossible.

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