BULLDOG Ray was unsure whether Ballarat would get so lucky again to have thousands of footy fans packing into Sturt Street to see the AFL Premiership Cup.
Western Bulldogs made Ballarat, its adopted regional home, one of the first stops to show off the game's Holy Grail in a sign of thanks for the support. That was 2016, the season before the 'Dogs stepped out on Mars Stadium for the first AFL match for premiership points in Ballarat.
A snap lockdown and lingering tight, but slightly eased restrictions has prevented the full red-white-and-blue activation Ballarat Bulldogs' president Ray Neville had hoped to achieve in the city ahead of Western Bulldogs' AFL Grand Final showdown against Melbourne on Saturday.
But he was still excited.
"I've noticed a few businesses around town, their doors might be shut but they have Bulldogs gear in the windows - there's still that support in Ballarat even though we haven't been able to do much," Mr Neville said.
"After 2016 when we won, the Cup was up here and there were thousands of people up the street - to have something like that, I don't know if we'll get that lucky again but maybe there will be something later or next year. Ballarat is Bulldogs' second home and even with COVID, they still played two games here this season."
Mr Neville said this Bulldogs' campaign had a completely different feel.
The 2016 flag ended the club's 62-year premiership drought after finishing the season ranked seventh and storming through finals. Mr Neville said the feel of a roaring 100,000-plus crowd at the MCG was incredible.
This time, it is rival Melbourne vying to break a premiership drought dating back to 1964. Due to COVID restrictions, the showdown will be in Perth.
Mr Neville has decorated his workplace, the CDC bus depot, and will enjoy watching from home.
He said Melbourne deserved to be in the final, having finished top of the ladder. He felt the 'Dogs were the other best club this season, despite a below-par final three games that ruined their top-four chances and likely cost captain Marcus Bontempelli the Brownlow Medal as the league's best and fairest player.
IN OTHER NEWS
Come Saturday, Mr Neville hoped Ballarat could get behind the city's adopted team and hopefully enjoy the spoils of premiership glory as soon as could be allowed.
Western Bulldogs remain committed to a kennel in Ballarat on and off the field, with a strong suite of community development programs.
Mr Neville said a premiership would help mark a great return to Mars next season - and hopefully this time with crowds.
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.