In 2008, when working for a national sports magazine, I wrote an NRL season preview. In it, I noted that the Bulldogs looked terribly inexperienced, and that if some kind of misfortune were to befall their best player, Sonny Bill Williams, they’d have no chance.
I duly tipped the Bulldogs to run last. And what do you know, after Sonny Bill Williams left the club mid-season amid an acrimonious spat over money, the Doggies indeed claimed the wooden spoon. But not before I’d received some of the most vitriolic letters imaginable.
Boy did I receive hate mail for my prediction. Good old fashioned snail mail too, scrawled in illegible chicken scratch by people who could neither spell nor contain their anger inside the margins of the page. But that’s nothing compared to the abuse I’ve copped this week.
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I was born a Bulldog.
In 1982, Canterbury legend Steve Mortimer happened to be visiting my mum’s maternity hospital on the day I was born. My brother, a 9 year old Bulldogs fan, came to meet his new baby brother, and was decked head-to-toe in blue and white: jersey, shorts and socks. Mortimer heard about it and gave him a Bulldogs stick-pin to remember the day. I think he’s still got it. With a start like that, I had no choice, I was a Bulldog too.
Growing up, we spent plenty of Saturdays and Sundays watching the Bulldogs from the hill at Belmore. As a six-year-old I was beside myself when Canterbury won the Grand Final in 1988. I treasured the VHS tape of that game and watched it over and over I can still remember the tryscorers: Glen Nissen, Michael Hagan, Terry Lamb and David Gillespie.
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All league is local.
That’s what was forgotten 15 years ago, when the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs dropped the local area from its name and from its playing and training schedule.
In the last week we have seen the very best of how a local area can support a team, and even more importantly how a sporting team can uniquely support a local area. Before you accuse me of bias let me be clear, I am completely biased. It’s my local area and my local team. And I see both up close.
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