THERE was one night Karen Turner looked up from pouring drinks and could hardly believe about 40 Bulldogs were in her bar. The Royal Oak Hotel was where Western Bulldogs players chose to grab a meal when visiting in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Ms Turner is a life-long Bulldogs fan and used to allow a local supporters group to gather at the hotel. That was how it started. Bulldogs star Rohan Smith drew a big raffle one night, won by a North Melbourne supporter. Brad Johnson and Chris Grant visited and soon, it became the place where the team felt at home during community camps.
Times changed. Ballarat started to strengthen ties with other AFL clubs, like North Melbourne, but the past two years, Western Bulldogs have reclaimed this city.
Ms Turner was pleased to see support growing for her Doggies, especially for Saturday night’s preliminary final.
“Half the pub’s on my side now,” Ms Turner said. “I think everyone’s got a soft spot for the Bulldogs. We seem to be everyone’s second-favourite team.”