Blow that Whistle!
Boxing judges are professionals and would never support a fix, the AFL would never make directives for rule interpretations to benefit one club over another, and the Bulldogs didn’t receive a favourable umpiring that won them the 2016 premiership. While it is nice that so many people have faith in the sincerity of the millionaires that run the world of boxing and the AFL, there is a down side to delusion.
The Western Bulldogs' history is delusional and it shows a strong desire to show pride in Australia's British roots. This perhaps explains why the club has developed a kind of Anglo bogan image that has largely been rejected in the multicultural suburb of Footscray where it came from. Furthermore, it helps explain why the club's off field survival is reliant on handouts from the AFL while its on field success is reliant upon #freekickbulldogs in reference to a level of umpire bias that is un-parralled in the sport.
The club was established in 1883 and named the "Imperials" in tribute to the British Royal Family. They were later called the "Tricolours" due to their patriotic colours of red, white and blue.
For a number of reasons, Footscray was not invited to join the VFL breakaway in 1896; however, in the VFA, Footscray won 8 premierships. After winning the VFA premiership in 1924, Footscray played Essendon, the VFL premier, in the so called ''Championship of Victoria''. Footscray won by 26 points. The victory led to Footscray receiving an invitation to join the VFL the following year.
In 1938, they changed their name from "Tri-colours" to the "Bulldogs". It has been said that this was because a Bulldog accidently led them onto the field; however, the club had been referred to as Bulldogs for decades earlier. The Bulldogs' name seemed to retain British pride but in a way that had a bit more of the bogan than royal feel. In 1954 they won their first and only VFL premiership.
In the 1970s, as the inner city suburbs of Collingwood and Carlton began to be gentrified with an influx of yuppies and migrants with little interest in football, Footscray got an influx of Vietnamese refugees. For reasons that can be debated, Carlton and Collingwood were able to get their migrants interested in football; however, Footscray could not. As a result, it tittered on the edge of extinction and was only saved due to the generosity of other clubs.
In 1996, the club responded to the lack of local support by changing its name to the "Western Bulldogs". The name change was made in the hope that the Bulldogs could represent suburbs outside of the Footscray demographic. In that regard, it could be defined as the marketing equivalent of "white flight". By dropping Footscray from its name, the multicultural image of the Footscray suburb had far less influence when defining the image of the club. Instead, the club marketed itself as the western suburb battlers.
As well as changing its name, the club tried to improve its financial position by cultivating support from politicians. It intially found an ally in Prime Minister John Howard. Even though Howard's true love was the English games of rugby league and cricket, he was a committed Monarchist and the Bulldog's image naturally attracted him. Howard announced that government would contribute $8 million to spearhead a redevelopment of the Bulldog's home ground.
Julia Gillard was another prime minister that seemed to be attracted to the Bulldogs. As a British migrant and a former industrial lawyer, the Bulldogs' image perhaps reminded her of herself. Certainly, the Bulldog's felt that she was the type of person that personified their image so they made her the club's number 1 ticket holder.
The success in gaining funding from Howard and Gillard seemed to make the Bulldogs believe that the welfare model was the best way to improve their financial bottom line. Reflecting this fact, in 2013, new Bulldogs president Peter Gordon ( from industrial law firm Slater & Gordon) decided that not only should government be targeted, but so should other clubs. Gordon proposed a plan for other clubs to take the risks by investing in blockbuster matches and business development. The AFL would then impose a tax on these clubs and the proceeds of the tax would be given to the Bulldogs. Gordon's plan was the business equivalent of a worker trying to get ahead in life by enlisting a lawyer to help him say, ‘done me back, need the compo mate.’
Perhaps to avoid the necessity to allocate excessive funds to the Bulldogs, in 2016, it appeared that the AFL decided that it would try to give the club some help on the field. Perhaps it considered allowing a Bulldog mark to be one-hand one bounce or letting them take a second shot on goal if their first one just missed.
In the end; however, umpiring was used as a more subtle way for the AFL to help the Bulldogs. AFL is a sport where directives are given to umpires about how rules should be “interpreted”, and these directives are changed from week to week. As a result of these directives, the rules that players need to abide by are not constant. Furthermore, the AFL can issue directives about interpretations that it knows will favour one team over another. In 2016, the directive seemed to be that throwing the ball shouldn’t be penalised if not obvious or an "attempt" to hand ball had been made. By co-incidence, this "interpretation" favoured the Bulldogs who had invested in quick ball movement.
Aside from the directives on interpretations, the AFL seemed to be in favour of appointing umpires to Bulldog games who were inclined to adjudicate the 50/50 decisions in the Bulldog’s favour at crunch times of the game. This was easy to do as AFL is a game where a free kick can be plucked out of almost every contest and subsequently justified on video evidence. Specifically, in any given contest, around 30 rules in the AFL rule book encyclopaedia are at risk of being transgressed. When there are around 30 players in the contest, the probably of a rule being transgressed is almost 100 %. Most transgressions are let go as they are deemed minor. All umpires needed to do is notice the rule transgressions by teams playing the Bulldogs in each contest but ignore them by the Bulldogs. Troy Pannell was one umpire that was particularly talented in only noticing transgressions by teams playing the Dogs. In one game against the Adelaide Crows, Pannel awarded 17 frees to the Dogs and just one to Adelaide. Perhaps it was a "mere co-incidence" but after demonstrating that his "interpretation" of rules favoured the Bulldogs' style of play, Pannel was appointed to umpire three Bulldogs games in a row; all of which resulted in a lop sided free-kick count. In total, the count was 75 to 38.
As the bias became obvious, hashtags such as #freekickbulldgs dominated social media and even made the mainstream press. Defenders of the AFL tried to counter by likening those who made accusations of bias as akin to conspiracy theorists who think the moon landing was fake. In their logic, there was no way that the multi-millionaires that ran billion dollar industries would be motivated by anything other than the highest moral ethics. Afterall, it was only through having high moral standards that they became rich in the first place. The same defenders of the AFL are the same people who think WWF is real and that boxing judges would always deliver a fair verdict as they are professionals.
Irrespective of whether it was called “interpretation” instead of bias, and “affirmative action ” instead of cheating, statistics clearly showed that the Bulldogs rode their free kicks into the finals, through the finals and even into the grand final.
In the grand final against the Sydney Swans, the umpiring became so horrendous that it was impossible for the AFL to pretend that something didn't stink. Overall, the Western Bulldogs received 20 free kicks to the Swans’ eight. The differential of 12 was the biggest in a grand final since the three-umpire system was introduced in 1994. Furthermore, a key Swans player suffered medial ligament damage which ended his match after his knees had been taken from beneath him in a clear violation of the rules. No free kick had been paid to the Swans as it had been a key moment of the game. A post-match review by the AFL broke from the usual stated line that umpires were always correct to state, the umpiring was "below the level expected."
Despite the extremely harsh words by AFL standards, the three umpires Matt Stevic, Simon Meredith and Scott Jeffery continued to officiate the big games in subsequent season. Like other umpires, they had learnt that, while there may not have been a directive in writing to favour the Bulldogs, there was an understanding that they had little to fear in making a mistake in favour of the Bulldogs. They had also learnt that post-match reviews (grand final the exception) never found any cause for concern when free kicks favoured the bulldogs. It seemed that with the AFL not wanting to favour the dogs with even more money off the field, it had decided that it was on the field where help would be directed.
Roy Morgan research
2001 when compared to other Australians
Historically, the Western Bulldogs have been too hopeless to have a rivalry; however, in recent times, they have become like a yappy dog which is ignored as a non-threat. The dog bites onto the leg and proves to be quite persistent and formidable until eventually it is sent packing. Sydney, Richmond and Essendon have all found that the Bulldogs have risen to the occasion to the extent they have become annoying. As the level of annoyance has risen, so too has the desire to see the dogs fail.
In 2017, the term “Great Western” was coined in reference to a perceived rivalry with Greater Western Sydney. Both teams receive AFL welfare for survival and both aim to represent the west of their respect cities (and a bit more with GWS). Furthermore, both teams receive benefits that aim to increase their competiveness on the field. In GWS’s case, it is favourable draft and academy concessions. In the Bulldogs' case, it is sympathetic umpiring. In the 2016 preliminary final, it was the battle between draft concessions and umpiring assistance, with umpiring assistance eventually proving triumphant.
Western bulldogs jokes
1)What do you say to a Bulldogs fan that has a job?
2)Why can't Bulldogs supporters get a drink at the Whitten Oval?
3) A Footscray fan took his bulldog to the pub and was enjoying a few beers until the footy scores appeared on the TV. When it was announced that the Bulldogs had lost, the dog went mad, knocking over tables and snapping at other drinkers. "What's got into your dog?" asked the barman. "He just can't handle it when Footscray is beaten" explained the fan. "Geez, what does he do when they win?" "Don't know. I've only had him for two seasons.".co
4) Rodney Eade, the coach of the Western Bulldogs, hears of new young recruit who lives in Bosnia. Eade catches a plane to war torn Bosnia and tracks the young boy down. He risks life and limb dodging bombs, bullets and grenades but finally find him and convince him to come to Australia.
The boy does a full pre-season,plays all the practice matches and gets picked on the bench in the seniors for the first game of the year. Ten minutes into the first quarter, Chris Grant goes down with a severe knee injury. Eade turns to the boy and says "This is it son, go to centre half forward and show us what you can do."
The boy proceeds to play the greatest debut game in AFL history. He kicks 9 goals, takes mark of the year, and kicks the winning goal after the siren from outside 50. The Western Bulldogs chair him off the ground and give him three cheers back in the rooms.
Eade tells the team what the boy from Bosnia has been through and that he is a model lesson for all. Eade then pulls the boy aside and says "Go into my office son, ring your Mother and tell her what you did today". He proceeds to do so.
"Mum", he says down the phone, "Guess what I did today? "I don't care what you did today his Mother replies. "I tell you what happened here today", she goes on. "Your Dad was murdered, our house torched, our car blown up, your sister raped and your brother abducted." "Gee," says the boy. "I feel a bit responsible for what happened". The Mother replies "So you should be. If it wasn't for you we wouldn't have shifted to Footscray."
|Was this more interesting than a news update of players in a recovery session standing around in the ocean looking cold or of a team 'training without incident'?|