WESTERN Bulldogs head of development Chris Maple says whatever happens on the field this weekend, the result will be great for Ballarat.
Maple, who lives in Ballarat, has felt first-hand the excitement the Bulldogs have generated about town this year, especially in finals.
This weekend the club will play for a spot in an AFL grand final and attempt to capture the Bulldogs’ second Victorian Football League flag in three years (Maple coached Footscray’s premiership in its inaugural season).
Next year Ballarat will host the Bulldogs in an AFL match for premiership points in a redeveloped Eureka Stadium.
“It’s exciting for the town and the whole western side of the state: the Grampians, Wimmera and Warrnambool,” Maple said. “AFL football will be on their doorsteps. We have a good record at Etihad Stadium but we want to make Ballarat our home ground advantage as well.”
Maple said it was pleasing to see a lot more Bulldog people, including lots of young school children, about Ballarat.
The vibe in the Kennel was buzzing, with two teams preparing for massive matches.
Western Bulldogs have not won a VFL/AFL premiership since 1954. And it is the club’s only VFL/AFL premiership.
The Bulldogs face new AFL franchise Greater Western Sydney interstate in a preliminary final on Saturday night. External hype is massive about what this modern Bulldogs outfit could achieve if reaching a grand final.
Maple said the team, including staff, were not feeling the pressure of history.
“We haven’t really talked it. This group is focused on making their own destiny,” Maple said. “We haven’t talked about previous history...There was a lot more people at training on Tuesday, a lot of well-wishers and a lot more media attention, but it is just another week.”
Bulldogs like Tory Dickson, Lin Jong, Jason Johannisen, Tom Campbell, Jack Redpath and Mitch Honeychurch were all part of the club’s 2014 state flag. Maple said having players like that potentially in the AFL mix, shows the club can win the big games.
There is another pack of young Bulldogs hungry for a taste of big game experience, looking for their opportunity, set to be unleashed for Sunday’s VFL grand final against Melbourne-aligned Casey Scorpions.
The club has been winning fans with their excitement brand of football and this will all be on our turf next year.