Can Dogs finally end their premiership drought?

Jarrad McVeigh (Swans) and Easton Wood (Bulldogs) hold aloft the premiership cup in Melbourne.
Jarrad McVeigh (Swans) and Easton Wood (Bulldogs) hold aloft the premiership cup in Melbourne.

A SYDNEY supporter rang into Melbourne radio last Saturday morning to say he would be barracking for GWS in its preliminary final with the Western Bulldogs that night.

It's not that he had any allegiance to the Giants or had a particular disliking for the Bulldogs.

It was simply because he didn't want his Swans to be the bad guys in the following week's grand final - the ones to try to prevent the premiership cup going to Whitten Oval.

Every man and his dog wants to see the long- suffering side from Melbourne's working-class west taste the ultimate success - even die-hard Swans fans wouldn't begrudge them (but just not this year).

Not only do the young Bullies play with a flair that endears them to the general footy watcher, but they have endured six decades of pain and suffering. Their one and only VFL/AFL premiership came back in 1954, their last grand final berth in '61.

In the 55 years since, at their best they have only been good enough to finish in the top four, losing seven preliminary finals (1985, 1992, 1997-98, 2008-10).

At their worst, they were almost put out of their misery until the cash-strapped club was ultimately granted a last-minute reprieve from a merger with Fitzroy in 1989.

Even as recent as 24 months ago, the Bulldogs were on their knees again when coach Brendan McCartney was sacked, and captain Ryan Griffen walked out. They had finished the year in 14th place and were seemingly heading further south.

No one would have expected them to bounce back so quickly and so well under the leadership of coach Luke Beveridge - to the point of achieving what far more credentialled Bulldogs sides failed to do: win a grand final berth ... and from a starting position of seventh no less. No team has progressed through the finals from so deep.

As it stands, the club formally known as Footscray has played 1344 games since that success at the MCG in 1954 when the great Charlie Sutton held aloft the cup.

It is now the longest active wait for a flag and the second longest of all-time.

Brad Johnson in his final game - the 2010 preliminary final
Brad Johnson in his final game - the 2010 preliminary final

Bulldogs greats Bernie Quinlan (366), Brad Johnson (364), Doug Hawkins (350) and Chris Grant (341) have played more games without a grand final than any other footballers.

They will watch on with envy tomorrow as Zaine Cordy (10 games), Josh Dunkley (16), Toby McLean (18), Joel Hamling (22), Caleb Daniel (33), Fletcher Roberts (36), Tom Boyd (37), Shane Biggs (41) and Clay Smith (46) live out their dream.

The Bulldogs' torment has been one Sydney fans can certainly empathise with.

After all, the Swans still hold the record for longest premiership drought in VFL/AFL history - 1476 games between 1934 (when known as South Melbourne) and 2005.

Even after they had their club ripped out from under them and sent to Sin City, there were dark days, with the Swans of 1992 a basket case.

Any sentiment from opposition fans, however, has been swept away by Sydney's rise to become a superpower.

Its own drought-breaking premiership in 2005 was followed by a second flag hung from the Harbour Bridge in 2012.

Then they went out and bought high-priced recruits Kurt Tippett and Lance Franklin.

While the Bulldogs won't have a single player with grand final experience in their line-up, with ex-Hawk Matt Suckling missing out, the Swans have 14.

Sydney Swans player Lance Franklin takes during a training session, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, in Sydney, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. The Sydney Swans will play the Western Bulldogs in the AFL Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Sydney Swans player Lance Franklin takes during a training session, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, in Sydney, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. The Sydney Swans will play the Western Bulldogs in the AFL Grand Final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING MICK TSIKAS

Swans superstar Lance Franklin will be contesting his fifth premiership decider with the aim of becoming only the 30th player to win a flag with two separate clubs.

But, while many still see them as being 'cashed up', they must be respected for their ability to regenerate under coach John Longmire.

They don't have the benefit of the controversial COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) now and were even banned from trading for a couple of seasons.

They may only have six members from the 2012 premiership team left to run out tomorrow, while also fielding as many as eight players with less than 50 games of experience.

The story of Tom Papley, for instance, who has gone from full-time plumber to rookie Swans goalkicking sensation, belongs in the blue-collar world of the Bulldogs.

Still, the so-called "Bondi Billionaires" are fighting a losing battle when it comes to winning the sympathy vote against the "Battling Bulldogs".

And you can't help wonder if the time has finally come for the old 'Scraggers' to finally once again live up to their motto, Cede Nullis - 'Yield to None'.



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