Our time is now, Ballarat: come out snarling

This is it – AFL is coming to Ballarat this week. This has been a long journey to make a reality of what many thought highly improbable.

It seemed like a pipe dream until Western Bulldogs signed a partnership with the state government and City of Ballarat to bring AFL matches for premiership points and Brownlow votes here.

We have the stadium, we have the game just days away and now we really need to show our colours. We need to prove we are a ‘Dogs-friendly city.

We only get once chance at creating a good impression to the nation when AFL rolls in to town. We need to show we both take our football seriously and can have some fun with it.

The week ahead creates plenty of opportunity to be part of celebrations. A Bull-Doggie-Do to launch the final countdown was a great example of bulldogs of the animal variety and their humans getting dressed up to gather the pack. Most wore Western Bulldogs’ jumpers and colours – red, white and blue – but there was at least one bulldog in a Geelong Cats’ guernsey and another, perhaps most daring, sporting a Port Adelaide scarf. Judy’s Power-mad owner Shane Garland said that was what football was all about, being able to wear your colours proudly and have fun in rival club territory.

You need not be a big Bulldogs’ supporter to appreciate the enormity of what is about to be achieved. Plenty of offices about town, including those of a couple of Tigerish MPs, have decorated their windows in red, white and blue. This kind of support is usually reserved for finals in a club’s home base. 

Ballarat has not really had anything that quite compares to this, our own AFL team. 

Some are concerned about stadium costs, especially when other infrastructure within city limits might also need attention. What the stadium will bring is another level of civic pride. Infrastructure is important, but an event of this scale will really shine the spotlight on our city. Indirectly, increased tourism and attention means fixing other city niggles will follow.

But we need to get this game right.

As a community, it is really important to get behind this game. This chance is unique to prove why we are a major sporting city. We know we can host big sporting teams. This week, Ballarat was confirmed to host upcoming Women’s National Basketball League and A-League soccer friendlies.

This is a whole new game. So, it is time to come out snarling.