Ballarat's Bill Dunstan, part of Western Bulldogs' historic ‘mighty west’

LIFE-long Bulldogs supporter Bill Dunstan was working at the club when Footscray won night premierships. Big team celebrations spilled into his unit.

PROUD: Ballarat's Bill Dunstan is a former Footscray club secretary, a role he held for five years. The life-long fan remains Bulldog through and through, cheering on a new generation Western Bulldogs outfit. Picture: Kate Healy

PROUD: Ballarat's Bill Dunstan is a former Footscray club secretary, a role he held for five years. The life-long fan remains Bulldog through and through, cheering on a new generation Western Bulldogs outfit. Picture: Kate Healy

That was the thing about his place backing on to the then-Western Oval – players and fellow staff always knew where to find the club secretary quickly when he was not in his office or about the ground.

Night premierships fun. But it was not a VFL/AFL premiership.

Mr Dunstan was a fan at the game in 1954, the Bulldogs premiership game. His eyes sparkle when recalling the unbelievable scenes with everyone flooding back to the Western Oval.

Growing up in Ballarat, Mr Dunstan barracked for Footscray and knew people within the club, but it was never his intention to work there. It took a bit of convincing for Mr Dunstan to take up the secretary post, but it changed his life and created friends for life.

“I wish more young people would get involved in sport, because it can do so much good. You don’t have to be a champion, just be associated with a club,” Mr Dunstan said. “It’s not only the social side of it, there is the knowledge you pick up meeting various people. You learn and accept challenges.”

Mr Dunstan was secretary in an era when players like Ted Whitten, Charlie Sutton, Jack Collins, Kevin Delmenico and Ronnie McGowan pulled on the red, white and blue. Top full back David Darcy keeps in close contact, as does his son Luke, a Bulldogs’ club champion.

“Training life was different then,” Mr Dunstan said. “You looked after blokes who were knocking off work at 5.30pm before training, some worked Saturday mornings before games...There were not the facilities. There might be one bit of equipment for weights but no scientific approach to training. Some players used to ride their bikes to the ground.”

Back in the late 60s, being secretary meant “you were everything”: business and team managing. Work was demanding and Mr Dunstan held the role for five years before taking a break to run the Wool Exchange hotel in Geelong.

Mr Dunstan later returned to Ballarat, running Bunch of Grapes Hotel and re-associating himself with Redan. He is a life member of Footscray, Redan, Ballarat Yacht Club and an inaugural member of Ballarat Sportsmen’s Club.

He remains Bulldog through and through, hoping this latest litter will clear the preliminary final on Saturday night and bid for an elusive AFL premiership – because it felt like forever since that premiership feeling with the Doggies.

“They’re trying to live up to expectations that they’re a good team,” Mr Dunstan said. “Even if they don’t win, it’s thrilling just to play a preliminary final.”