Western Bulldogs
Full nameFootscray Football Club Limited, trading as Western Bulldogs[a][1]
Nickname(s)Dogs, Doggies, Scraggers, The ‘Scray, Dish Lickers, Footscray.
2023 season
Home-and-away season9th
Leading goalkickerAaron Naughton (44 goals)
Club details
Founded1877 (entered into the VFL in 1925 as Footscray, renamed as Western Bulldogs in 1996)
ColoursRoyal blue, red, white
CompetitionAFL: Senior men
AFLW: Senior women
VFL: Reserves men
VFLW: Reserves women
PresidentKylie Watson-Wheeler
CoachAFL: Luke Beveridge
AFLW: Nathan Burke
VFL: Stewart Edge
VFLW: Rhys Sullivan
Captain(s)AFL: Marcus Bontempelli
AFLW: Ellie Blackburn
VFL: Joshua Chatfield
VFLW: Riley Christgoergl
PremiershipsVFL/AFL (2)Reserves/VFL (8)VFA (9)AFLW (1)
Ground(s)AFL: Marvel Stadium (56,347) & Eureka Stadium (11,000)
AFLW/VFL/VFLW: Whitten Oval (10,000)
Training ground(s)Whitten Oval
Other information
Official websitewesternbulldogs.com.au

The Western Bulldogs are a professional Australian rules football team that competes in the Australian Football League (AFL), the sport's premier competition.

Founded in 1877 as the Footscray Football Club,[a][1] and based in West Footscray in the old City of Footscray west of Melbourne, the club won nine premierships in the Victorian Football Association (VFA) before gaining admission to the Victorian Football League (which became the AFL in 1990) in 1925. The club has won two VFL/AFL premierships, in 1954 and 2016 and was runner-up in 1961 and 2021.

Much of the club's supporter base comes from Melbourne's traditionally working-class western region. Docklands Stadium, in the city's inner-west, has served as the club's home ground since 2000, while its headquarters and training facilities are at its original home ground, the Whitten Oval. The club also plays home games at Mars Stadium in the city of Ballarat west of Melbourne. The Western Bulldogs guernsey features two thick horizontal hoops—one red and one white—on a royal blue background. Fourteen players from the club are members of the Australian Football Hall of Fame, including inaugural inductee and Legend Ted Whitten. Marcus Bontempelli and Luke Beveridge serve as the club's current captain and head coach.

At the end of 1996, as part of a broader rebranding scheme, the club changed its name from Footscray to Western Bulldogs. The club has fielded a side in AFL Women's since the competition's 2017 inception, and also has a reserves side in the Victorian Football League and VFL Women's League.


1877–1924: Origins, VFA years and Championship of Victoria

The team that won Footscray's first premiership in 1898
Con McCarthy captained the club to VFA premierships in 1923 and 1924, as well as a victory in the 1924 Championship of Victoria.

Newspapers record Australian rules football being played in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray in the mid-1870s, during which time a local junior football club was formed.[2] In 1880, the club changed its name to the Prince Imperials in honour of Napoléon, Prince Imperial, the heir to French throne, who had recently died in battle. The club reverted to Footscray a few years later. In 1886, Footscray gained admission to the Victorian Football Association (VFA) after amalgamating with the Footscray Cricket Club to form a senior football club. The club tended to struggle over the next decade, occupying the lower rungs of the VFA ladder.

The club began to improve after the VFL breakaway of 1896, finishing on top of the VFA ladder in 1898, 1899 and 1900. As no finals were played, Footscray were declared premiers. The club played in and won its first finals match in 1903, against Richmond, the minor premiers, but lost the follow-up finals match to North Melbourne. After losing to West Melbourne in the 1906 VFA Grand Final, the club won its first premiership by defeating Brunswick in 1908. Another premiership followed in 1913.

1924 Championship of Victoria G B Total
Footscray 9 10 64
Essendon 4 12 36
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground Crowd: 46,100

The club entered two years of recess during World War I and returned in 1918. Still rebuilding, the club won the wooden spoon. From bottom to top in one year, 1919 saw the club win the premiership, and again in 1920. The club went back-to-back in 1923 and 1924.

The 1924 premiership would be Footscray's last in the VFA. After the 1924 season, the club challenged the premiers of the VFL, Essendon, to a charity match, otherwise known as the Championship of Victoria, for the benefit of opera singer Dame Nellie Melba's Limbless Soldiers' Appeal.[3] Footscray recorded an upset victory, winning by 28 points. The win was a significant factor in Footscray gaining admission to the VFL.

1925–1940s: Joining the VFL

In 1919, there were nine clubs competing in the VFL, due to the return of all the foundation teams plus Richmond after World War I, as well as University Football Club deciding not to rejoin the VFL. This caused one team to be idle every Saturday and the VFL was keen to do away with this bye each week. On the night of 9 January 1925, a committee meeting of the VFL, chaired by Reg Hunt of Carlton, decided to expand the league from nine clubs to twelve. It was decided in the meeting to admit Footscray, along with two other VFA clubs, Hawthorn and North Melbourne.

Footscray played their first VFL match against Fitzroy on Saturday 2 May at the Brunswick Street Oval in front of 28,000 spectators. Former Richmond star George Bayliss had the honour of kicking Footscray's first VFL goal, and although they ended up losing by nine points against an experienced league side, they earned great respect. Future Brownlow medallist Allan Hopkins was regarded as Footscray's best player that day.[4] The following week, playing their first VFL home game at the Western Oval against a strong South Melbourne team, the Tricolours recorded their first VFL victory by 10 points in front of 25,000 spectators with a strong team effort.[5]

Footscray adapted relatively quickly to the standard of VFL football despite losing some of their VFA stars, and by 1928 were already a contender for the finals, missing only on percentage in 1931. Though they slipped to eleventh place in 1930, 1935 and 1937, in 1938 they became the first of the new clubs to reach the finals. They fell back drastically in 1939, but played better during the war-torn 1940s, winning their first nine games in 1946.

1950–1954: First VFL flag

Further information: 1954 Footscray Football Club season and 1954 VFL Grand Final

Footscray players line up for the unfurling of the 1954 VFL Grand Final premiership flag

Between 1938 and 1951, Footscray failed to win any finals matches, losing all six of its semi-final appearances. In 1953, however, the club set a record by conceding only 959 points in the home-and-away season due to a powerful defence featuring Dave Bryden, Wally Donald, Herb Henderson and Jim Gallagher. Footscray finally won its first semi-final, against Essendon, but lost the preliminary final to Geelong, a key factor being the absence of star full-forward Jack Collins, who had been suspended for four matches at the end of the home-and-away season.

The Bulldogs went into the 1954 VFL season as premiership contenders. However, the season did not start well with losses St Kilda and Richmond, both of which finished in the bottom four the previous season.[6] In the following two matches, against South Melbourne and Carlton, the club returned to form with Jack Collins booting eight and nine goals respectively to help propel the Bulldogs to victory.[7][8] In Round 7 against Hawthorn at Glenferrie Oval, Footscray, led by Don Ross after Whitten injured his shoulder, came from 23 points down at the last break to kick seven goals and win by nine points.[9] With Richmond upsetting Collingwood at Victoria Park that same day, the Bulldogs went to the top of the ladder, where they would stay until Round 11, when they lost to Collingwood by ten points in a top-of-the-ladder clash at Victoria Park. Took out their first VFL premiership, beating Geelong and then Melbourne in the 1954 VFL Grand Final.

1954 VFL Grand Final G B Total
Footscray 15 12 102
Melbourne 7 9 51
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground Crowd: 80,897

1955–1960s: Gradual decline

Footscray failed to capitalise on their premiership success, falling off in the latter part of the decade and finishing with their first wooden spoon in 1959.

The 1960s started promisingly, with the club bouncing back to reach the 1961 Grand Final, where they faced Hawthorn who were in their first Grand Final. This was the first VFL Grand Final not to feature any of the foundation teams. In front of over 107,000 spectators, the Bulldogs worked their way to an eight-point lead at half-time, but were clearly struggling with the physicality of their hardened opponents. Rover Merv Hobbs recalled eight players needing first aid, while ruckman John Schultz remembered: The selectors looked around and could see we were in a bad way. In those days, strange to realise, we didn't hydrate. We were told not to drink too much in case we got cramps. We just ran out of legs. And Hawthorn were brutal. They made every contest a physical clash. They wore us down.[10] In the second half, the Hawks, led by centreman Brendan Edwards, pulled away from the tiring Bulldogs, kicking ten goals to two to take out their first VFL premiership. This was followed by winning the 1963 and 1964 night premierships, although this success was not transferred into the season proper. The rest of the decade was a bleak era for the club, particularly between 1965 and 1969, when they finished in the bottom three every year.


Footscray legend E. J. Whitten played his 321st and final game in 1970 to become the VFL games record holder. (Pictured: Statue of Whitten outside Whitten Oval.)

Ted Whitten Snr. retired as a player in 1970 and held the record for the most VFL games played at the time (321 games); he would continue in a coaching capacity until the end of 1971. The club was relatively strong in the 1970s, but did not win a final; by decade's end they were back near the bottom.

The main stars of the decade included Gary Dempsey, the heroic ruckman who was badly burnt in Lara bushfire of January 1969 but managed to take out the game's top individual award, the Brownlow Medal, in 1975. Promising South Australian import Neil Sachse had his neck broken in a freak accident while playing against Fitzroy at the Western Oval. He was left quadriplegic. In 1978, Kelvin Templeton became the first Bulldogs player to kick 100 goals in a season, including a club record of 15.9 in Round 13 against St Kilda.


After muddling its way through a disappointing decade, having to sell many of its key players to survive, the Bulldogs would endure another tumultuous decade in the 1980s. To try and improve the club's fortunes, the committee appointed former Richmond champion Royce Hart as coach for the 1980 VFL season. Things hit an all-time low in 1982; the Bulldogs lost their opening round match to Essendon by 109 points and by the middle of the season, with only one win in 12 games and having lost the last eight matches, Hart was sacked and replaced with player Ian Hampshire, who promptly quit his playing duties.[11] One of the few bright spots in an otherwise dreary season was the performance of Western Australian recruit Simon Beasley, who kicked 82 goals for the season and proved himself one of the best full-forwards in the competition. He would go on to become the Bulldogs' record goalkicker.

Mick Malthouse was appointed senior coach in 1984, and a dramatic improvement saw them rise to second position in 1985 before a ten-point loss in the preliminary finals against Hawthorn. The club boasted a list of top players at this time, with Beasley, Doug Hawkins, Brian Royal, Rick Kennedy, Stephen Wallis, Peter Foster, Michael McLean, Jim Edmond, Andrew Purser, Stephen MacPherson and Brad Hardie.

The debt ridden club in 1986 was considered by the VFL extremely likely to fold if not for the lifeline provided by the VFL granting licenses to Brisbane and Perth.[12]

Things didn't bode well for the Bulldogs early in the 1987 VFL season. Hardie and Edmond had moved to the newly formed Brisbane Bears, while Hawkins' return from his knee injury was still some time away. By Round 3 they were sitting on the bottom of the ladder after heavy losses to Essendon, Sydney and Carlton. Footscray's revival started when, in one of the upsets of the season, they defeated the reigning premiers Hawthorn by 41 points in a display characterised by teamwork and desperation.[13] A seven-match winning streak mid-season saw them back in the Top Five. However, they just missed out on the finals when Melbourne defeated them in the last round in front of a record crowd at their home ground.

1989: Proposed merger and fightback

Discontent between players, officials and fans reached an all-time low during the 1989 VFL season. Club president Barrie Beattie was replaced by former Footscray board member, businessman and prominent racing personality Nick Columb in March. Things started promisingly with a 59-point win over a dispirited Carlton at Princes Park, with Subiaco recruit John Georgiades kicking eight goals on debut.[14] However, it proved to be a false dawn; the Bulldogs would only win five more games for the season, with one draw, to finish 13th. The prevailing mood was best captured in Footscray's last win of the season in Round 20 against eventual wooden-spooners Richmond; although the Bulldogs won by 78 points, a meagre crowd of 8,673 turned up to what many believed at the time would be Footscray's last home game at the Western Oval. Age journalist Garry Linnell wrote: "But saddest of all is that the suburb of Footscray has turned its back on the Western Oval and its football team. Without that support, one of the last remaining monuments to the days when Victorian football was a battle of suburban tribes has hit the dust."[15]

Faced with the prospect of running a club with declining membership and sponsorship, Columb learned that Footscray's debt situation was poor, and it reached the point when the VFL looked likely to appoint an administrator to wind up the club's affairs at the end of the year.[16] He decided the best way forward was a merger with Fitzroy, which was also in a weak financial position, although was not facing immediate bankruptcy. The two clubs announced a merger to form the Fitzroy Bulldogs, but the merger was derailed when the people of Footscray, led by lawyer Peter Gordon and a host of others, rallied to raise funds to pay off the club's debts. In further developments, former club player Terry Wheeler was named as Malthouse's replacement as senior coach, while champion veteran wingman Doug Hawkins was appointed captain. While Columb was branded by some as the villain of the story, the wisdom of hindsight shows that had he not instigated the merger, the Western Bulldogs would not exist as it does today.[17][18]


The Bulldogs began the new decade in promising fashion, finishing in seventh place with twelve wins in 1990, including one against eventual premiers Collingwood, when rover Steven Kolyniuk ran around the man on the mark and kicked a goal to put his team in front. Although they just missed out on the finals, there was much to look forward to, and the year was capped off with diminutive rover Tony Liberatore winning the Brownlow Medal.

After a disappointing 1991, the Bulldogs bounced back in 1992, finishing second on the ladder and making their first finals appearance since 1985. Danny Del-Re was an excellent full-forward, while champion veterans Hawkins, Royal, Wallis, Foster and MacPherson helped ensure the club played its best football in many years. Scott Wynd capped a magnificent year with the Brownlow Medal, while Chris Grant and Simon Atkins also had outstanding seasons.

In 1994 and 1995, the Bulldogs again made the finals, only to be eliminated by Melbourne and Geelong, respectively. Leon Cameron and Daniel Southern were stars. In August, Ted Whitten died from prostate cancer; such was his status in the game that he was given a state funeral. In his honour, the club renamed the Western Oval the Whitten Oval, and a memorial statue of Whitten was erected outside the stadium.

Under the tightly focused management of club president David Smorgon, driven coaching by Terry Wallace, and the on-field leadership of Chris Grant (who narrowly missed a Brownlow Medal in 1996 and 1997) and Tony Liberatore, the club had a successful period through the mid- to late 1990s, making the finals from 1997 to 2000. The 1997 season is remembered for the club's cruellest loss, to eventual premiers Adelaide in the preliminary final by two points after leading for much of the game and appearing to be headed for their first grand final since 1961. Rohan Smith, Brad Johnson, Chris Grant, Jose Romero, Paul Hudson and company were catalysts in a fine season.

The Bulldogs would again feature in the finals in 1998, after heavily defeating West Coast in the qualifying finals, they met Adelaide again in the losing preliminary final. The Bulldogs eventfully lost by 68 points against the reigning premiers who went on to claim their second consecutive premiership in the grand final that following week.

The Bulldogs would make their third consecutive top 4 finish in 1999 but they suffered consecutive finals losses to West Coast and Brisbane.

In late 1996, the club changed its playing name from Footscray to the Western Bulldogs to market the club more broadly (specifically the western suburbs of Melbourne).[19] To coincide with the change, the club moved their home games from the Whitten Oval, originally to Optus Oval from 1997 to 1999, and then to the newly built Docklands Stadium for the 2000 season.


Main articles: Western Bulldogs season 2009 and Western Bulldogs season 2010

Western Bulldogs players during warm-up against Collingwood in 2004

During the 2000 season, the Bulldogs handed the eventual premiers, Essendon, their only loss for the year. That victory secured the Bulldogs a place in the finals for the fourth consecutive year. They would bow out in the first week of finals after being defeated by the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba. The Bulldogs missed out on the finals over the next two seasons; in 2001, six players were in New York City during the September 11 attacks while they were attending the 2001 US Open.[20] Terry Wallace left the club with one match left in 2002 and assistant coach Peter Rohde took charge. Philanthropist and long-time Bulldogs supporter Susan Alberti was elected to the club board in December 2004. After two miserable seasons, the Bulldogs appointed Rodney Eade as coach in 2005. Improvement was immediate, with the Bulldogs winning 11 games and finishing ninth on the ladder in 2005, missing out on the finals by just half a game. Missing the finals dealt a blow to both players and supporters of the team, as late season success led to the team being considered real premiership contenders.

In 2006, the Bulldogs continued to play well despite a disastrous run of injuries throughout the year; with five players having to have knee reconstructions, including captain Luke Darcy. Despite this setback, the Bulldogs finished the home-and-away season with 13 wins (see 2006 AFL season), making it to the finals for the first time since 2000, with Scott West and Brad Johnson continuing their excellent play. They won the Elimination Final against Collingwood in front of 84,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and reached the semi-finals before being defeated by eventual Premiers the West Coast Eagles at Subiaco Oval.

On 5 August 2006, Chris Grant broke the Western Bulldogs record for the most senior AFL/VFL games at the club. On this day he played his 330th game, breaking Doug Hawkins' previous record of 329 games.

Looking for new markets, the club had played one game every year at the Sydney Cricket Ground and one "home" game each year at Marrara Oval in Darwin. On 16 August 2006, the league announced that the Bulldogs' Sydney "home" game would be played at Manuka Oval, Canberra in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Brad Johnson was the club's captain from 2007 to 2010.

Prior to the 2007 season, the Bulldogs made a splash by trading for Brisbane midfielder Jason Akermanis. They were premiership favourites early on in 2007, but yet again injuries took their toll, and they faltered in the last seven rounds, losing six games and drawing one, to finish 13th.

In the 2008 pre-season they traded away Jordan McMahon to Richmond and Sam Power to North Melbourne. They also recruited ruckman Ben Hudson and forward Scott Welsh from Adelaide and back Tim Callan from Geelong in what was a very successful trade week. In 2008, the Bulldogs were widely predicted for the bottom four after the pre-season, but had a successful home-and-away season, finishing in third place with fifteen wins, one draw and six losses (five of which occurred in the season's last seven games). The team's finals campaign began with a loss to Hawthorn by 51 points at the MCG in the first qualifying final, but won the subsequent semi-final against Sydney by 37 points. The Bulldogs lost their preliminary final match against reigning premiers Geelong.

Much was expected of the Bulldogs following their 3rd-place finish in 2008. They began the 2009 season with a 63-point thrashing of Fremantle in Perth, and then recorded solid wins over North Melbourne and Richmond before losing their next three games to West Coast (in Perth), Carlton and St Kilda. The Bulldogs then notched up their first away win against Adelaide since 2001, kicking eight goals to one in the third quarter to win by 32 points. The following week, they survived a determined effort from Melbourne, winning by 7 points, before succumbing to Geelong in one of the best and closest games of the season. They proceeded to win their next five games, including a 93-point drubbing of Port Adelaide in Darwin and an 88-point win over the reigning premiers Hawthorn. After a bit of a dip in form including losses to Collingwood, St Kilda and West Coast, the Bulldogs rebounded with an 18-point win against Brisbane at The Gabba. That was followed up by a 14-point win over Geelong. In the final round of the home-and-away season, the Bulldogs needed to defeat Collingwood by more than 22 points to reclaim third place on the ladder. The Bulldogs managed win by 24 points, earning the right to play Geelong in the first week of the finals.[21]


There was media expectation that the Western Bulldogs would again feature in the top four in 2010 after doing so in 2008 and 2009. The pre-season delivered the Western Bulldogs their first competition victory since 1970 as they defeated St Kilda by 40 points in the NAB Cup Grand Final, with new recruit Barry Hall starring with seven goals and winning the Michael Tuck Medal for being the best player. However, after a promising pre-season, the Bulldogs failed to make their first grand final in 49 years after being demolished by Collingwood in the first round of the finals, coming back against the Sydney Swans and losing again to St Kilda in the preliminary final, captain Brad Johnson's last game.[22]

The pain of three consecutive Preliminary final exits took its toll in 2011. After a 55-point thrashing at the hands of Essendon in the opening round, the season never looked on track. The Bulldogs lost 9 of their first 12 games, including 7 from 8 games between Rounds 5 and 12. Following a 49-point loss to Essendon in Round 21, coach Rodney Eade was sacked by the Western Bulldogs after seven years at the helm. The club finished the year with wins against Port Adelaide and Fremantle and a loss against Hawthorn. The Bulldogs finished 2011 with a 9-win, 13-loss record for the season. Shortly after the 2011 season was completed, long-time Geelong and Essendon assistant Brendan McCartney was appointed as the senior coach on a three-year contract. During the following months, the Bulldogs assembled a coaching panel consisting of senior coach McCartney, former Geelong and St Kilda ruckman Steven King, former Sydney Swans and North Melbourne midfielder Shannon Grant, former Bulldogs champion and 300 game player Rohan Smith, and former Bulldogs and Port Adelaide player Brett Montgomery.

In October 2012, long-time president David Smorgon stepped down from the role to be replaced by former president Peter Gordon. Smorgon served as president from 1996 to 2012, overseeing two rebuilding phases, the erasure of much debt and a period of stability after decades of uncertainty surrounding the club's future.

In 2013, the Bulldogs ended their affiliation with Williamstown Football Club, establishing a reserves team in the Victorian Football League for the 2014 season. The team played under the name of Footscray and the decision proved an instant hit on and off the field, with supporters of the AFL club taking a strong liking to the newly established VFL team. The success flowed onto the field as well, with the club securing the VFL Premiership in its first season in the competition since 1924, defeating the Box Hill Hawks by 22 points in the VFL Grand Final.

Following a disappointing 2014 AFL season, the Bulldogs endured a tumultuous off-season. It began when Ryan Griffen, who was widely regarded as the club's best player and had only been captain for one season, shocked the football world by requesting a trade to Greater Western Sydney. He later cited the stress of captaincy as his reason for nearly giving up the game altogether.[23] Two days later, senior coach McCartney handed in his resignation to the board. President Gordon agreed that the decision was in the best interests of the club and also stressed to the press that the club was not in crisis.[24] Adam Cooney requested a trade out of the club, and Shaun Higgins joined North Melbourne via free agency. On November 14, the club's coach selection panel, headed by club champion and football director Chris Grant and including CEO Simon Garlick, football manager Graham Lowe, former captain Luke Darcy and former West Coast coach John Worsfold, appointed former player Luke Beveridge as the Bulldogs' new senior coach.[25] Beveridge had recently served as an assistant coach at Collingwood and Hawthorn, and was due to take up a position at St Kilda as director of coaching before applying for the job as Bulldogs coach.[25] In a series of important first steps, he decided to keep the existing coaches and appointed veteran Robert Murphy as captain.

In January 2015, Simon Garlick announced his resignation as club CEO, having first taken on the position in December 2010. Having been at the Bulldogs for more than 13 years as a player and administrator, Garlick felt the time was right to "start a new chapter in his life".[26] President Gordon paid tribute to Garlick for his work in keeping the Bulldogs competitive during what had been a difficult period for the club.[26] After losing over 700 games of experience during the off-season, the Bulldogs were expected to again struggle in 2015, and those feelings were further strengthened when Tom Liberatore, the reigning Charles Sutton Medallist, went down with a rupture to his anterior cruciate ligament in the NAB Challenge match against Richmond.[27] However, the Bulldogs exceeded expectations to finish the home-and-away season in sixth position to feature in the finals for the first time since 2010. In the elimination final, they lost to Adelaide by 7 points in front of over 60,000 fans at the MCG, the largest crowd at any Bulldogs game since the 2010 finals.

2016: AFL premiership

Main article: 2016 AFL Grand Final

2016 AFL Grand Final G B Total
Western Bulldogs 13 11 89
Sydney 10 7 67
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground Crowd: 99,981[28]

The Bulldogs fought through numerous injuries in 2016 to finish 7th in the home and away season. In a series of against-the-odds finals victories, the club eliminated the previous year's runners-up, the West Coast Eagles, in Perth;[29] thwarted Hawthorn's bid for a fourth successive premiership;[30] and, away from home, scraped through against Greater Western Sydney to qualify for the Grand Final for the first time in 55 years. In doing so, it became the first club to reach the premiership decider from such a low position on the ladder.[31]

The club ended a 62-year premiership drought with a 22-point victory over minor premiers the Sydney Swans. Jason Johannisen won the Norm Smith Medal, with Liam Picken (WB), Tom Boyd (WB) and Josh Kennedy (SYD) close behind, while coach Luke Beveridge gave his Jock McHale Medal to captain and club veteran Robert Murphy—who suffered a season-ending knee injury in round 3—saying, "This is yours, mate. You deserve it more than anyone."[32] This gesture, described as "one of the most touching" in football history, was met with a standing ovation by the crowd.[33][34] Murphy, though thankful, returned the medal to Beveridge the following day, saying he could not keep it. They decided to gift the medal to the Bulldogs museum.[35]

2017–18: Post-premiership disappointment

Despite a promising start to the 2017 AFL season, which saw the reigning premiers win five of their first seven matches,[36] the Bulldogs lost six of the next eight games.[37][38] A four-game winning streak towards the end of the season proved to be a false dawn, as the Bulldogs failed to secure a spot in the top eight after losing the last three games of the season. They finished tenth with an 11–11 win–loss record, becoming the first team since Hawthorn in 2009 to miss the finals the year after winning the premiership. The club would farewell two long-serving veterans: the retiring captain Murphy and ex-captain Matthew Boyd.[39]

2018 proved to be an even more difficult year for the club. Tom Liberatore suffered a second season-ending knee injury in the opening round 82-point loss to Greater Western Sydney; he would be the first of eight Bulldogs to have their season ended by injury.[40] They suffered six heavy losses in the first half of the season and would win only once between Round 9 and Round 19, with the sole win in that period a thrilling two-point upset win over finalists Geelong in Round 15.[41] Injuries aside, there were also issues with inconsistent form – players such as premiership heroes Jordan Roughead, Caleb Daniel, Shane Biggs and Fletcher Roberts spending time in the VFL – and a forward set-up that was struggling to function effectively.[40]
Improved form in the final four rounds of the season saw the Bulldogs win three consecutive games and lose gallantly to reigning premiers Richmond,[42] to finish 13th with an 8–14 win–loss record, becoming the first team since Adelaide in 2000 to miss the finals in successive years after a premiership triumph.[43]

2019–22: Return to the finals

Defying expectations that they would again miss the finals, the Bulldogs were one of the surprise packets of the 2019 season.[44] The season started well enough with victories in the first two games, defeating Sydney by 17 points in Round 1[45] and then kicking nine goals in the last quarter against Hawthorn to win by 19 points in Round 2.[46] However, they then lost their next four matches.[47] The Dogs would continue to have up-and-down form, winning their next two[48] before losing four of five afterwards.[49] Staring at a third consecutive year out of the finals with a disappointing 5–8 record at the end of Round 14,[50] the Bulldogs would go on to win seven of their last nine matches of the season, securing a spot in the finals for the first time since the 2016 premiership after defeating Adelaide by 34 points in Round 23.[51] They would finish the home-and-away season in seventh position with a 12–10 win–loss record.[52] Despite having strong form heading into the finals and having defeated eventual finals opponent Greater Western Sydney by 61 points in Round 22,[53] the Bulldogs were thrashed by 58 points in their elimination final encounter with the Giants, who would eventually go on to play in that year's grand final.[54]

The Western Bulldogs entered the 2020 AFL season looking to improve on their strong finish to 2019. They had strengthened their squad during the off-season trading period, recruiting key position players Josh Bruce from St Kilda[55] and Alex Keath from Adelaide.[56] Veteran defender Easton Wood, who had been acting captain in the 2016 premiership and then served as official captain after Bob Murphy retired, stepped down at the end of 2019 and was replaced by Marcus Bontempelli in an almost unanimous player vote, with Lachlan Hunter as his deputy.[57] Bontempelli would be supported by a leadership group which included Wood, Jason Johannisen, Mitch Wallis and Josh Dunkley.[57]
After losing the traditional season opener to Collingwood, the season was then plunged into chaos when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Australia, causing the competition to be suspended for over two months. After significant modifications in consultation with state governments, the AFL resumed the season in mid-June, having cut the home-and-away season to 17 rounds, shortening quarter lengths to 16 minutes plus time-on, and not permitting crowd attendances at Victorian venues due to government-imposed restrictions. As state borders began to close in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, the Victorian-based teams flew out of Melbourne after Round 5 and spent the rest of the season based in interstate quarantine hubs; the Bulldogs would be based in Queensland. The Bulldogs secured their spot in the 2020 finals series after another strong finish, winning five of their last six games and ending in seventh position on the ladder with a 10–7 record. Their Elimination final opponents, sixth-placed St Kilda, also finished with the same win–loss record but a higher percentage. The match, which was hosted at the Gabba, was a close-fought affair; the Bulldogs worked their way to a five-point lead at quarter time, only for the Saints to take control in the second and third terms to lead by 24 points at the last change. In a desperate bid to keep their season alive, the Bulldogs made one last charge in the final minutes to reduce the margin to under a goal with two minutes remaining, but the Saints held on by three points, winning their first final since 2010, which had also been against the Bulldogs.[58]
Despite another disappointing early finals exit, there was still much to celebrate in terms of individual recognition; diminutive playmaker Caleb Daniel had a career-best season, winning the Charles Sutton Medal and All-Australian honours, while Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae earned their second consecutive All-Australian blazer. Also promising was the continued development of the younger players; Aaron Naughton (for the second straight year) and Bailey Smith were named in the 22 Under 22 team, while Laitham Vandermeer won the Chris Grant Best First Player award.

The Bulldogs headed into the 2021 AFL season with the aim of progressing past the first week of the finals series. They had been one of the big winners in the trading period,[59] recruiting Mitch Hannan from Melbourne, Stefan Martin from Brisbane, and Adam Treloar from Collingwood, while managing to keep Josh Dunkley after he had requested a trade to Essendon.[60] They had also secured promising Next Generation Academy member Jamarra Ugle-Hagan as the Number 1 pick at the 2020 AFL draft. For much of the season, the Bulldogs had been one of the clear standout teams, winning nine of the opening ten matches and appearing on track to win their first minor premiership after defeating Melbourne in Round 19. However, an ill-timed late season slump saw the Bulldogs consigned to a third consecutive year without the double chance, finishing outside of the top four by just 0.5% after the Brisbane Lions supplanted them in the final round. Despite the disappointing end to the regular season, the Bulldogs were finally able to progress to the second week of the finals after a thumping 49-point win over Essendon in the first elimination final. The Bulldogs would then go on to progress to their first preliminary final since 2016 after an enthralling one-point win over Brisbane in the semi-final, before securing a second Grand Final appearance in six years after thrashing Port Adelaide by 71 points in the prelim. However, the Bulldogs were comprehensively outplayed by Melbourne in the grand final, losing to the Demons by 74 points.

The Bulldogs were looking to atone for their galling grand final defeat ahead of the 2022 season. However, the Dogs were very inconsistent and were fortunate to qualify for a fourth consecutive finals berth, finishing eighth with a 12–10 win-loss record and narrowly supplanting ninth-placed Carlton by 0.6%. The Bulldogs started their elimination final encounter with Fremantle strongly, leading by as much as 41 points during the second quarter, but would fade out dramatically to lose by 13 points.

2023-present: Rebuilding period

The Western Bulldogs continued to perform inconsistently in 2023. The Bulldogs stayed in contention for the finals right throughout the season, but costly losses to cellar-dwellers Hawthorn and West Coast in the final stretch of the season eventually scuppered their hopes of a fifth consecutive finals appearance. Greater Western Sydney defeated Carlton in the final match of the home-and-away season and secured their spot in the 2023 finals series at the Bulldogs' expense. The Dogs ultimately finished ninth with a 12–11 record to miss out on September for the first time since 2018.

During the 2023 offseason, superstar midfielder Bailey Smith suffered an ACL tear at training, ruling him out for essentially the entire 2024 campaign.


Nickname and mascots

Footscray captain Paddy Scanlan with the club's first mascot, 1928
Sid served as the Western Bulldogs' mascot from 2009 to 2017.

Footscray went by a variety of nicknames during the VFA years, including the Bone Mill Fellows, the Saltwater Lads, and, most popularly, the Tricolours, in reference to the club guernsey.[61] Footscray came to be known locally as the Bulldogs during the 1920s. At a club social function on 1 November 1920, "a red, white, and blue flag, bearing the words "bulldog tenacity" blazoned in gold, and bearing a picture of a typical bulldog, was presented to [then president David] Mitchell on behalf of the club".[62] As early as the 1922 season, an image of a bulldog was being stamped on the football club's members' tickets.[63] In a game against Collingwood at the Western Oval on 23 June 1928, a bulldog mascot was "led onto the field at three-quarter time ... to the wild applause of the callow youth",[64] and was photographed with Footscray captain Paddy Scanlan.[65] In another report on the same match, mention was made that "the Bulldogs were contesting every inch in the air", indicating a widening use of the club nickname.[66]

The real-life mascot for the Western Bulldogs is a bulldog named Caesar.[67] He can be seen walking around the perimeter of the ground prior to each match. He then waits for the players to come out on the ground; they give him a pat as they run past to the banner. Sid, the club's previous real-life mascot, officially retired his club jumper at Etihad Stadium on 6 May 2017 and was given a lap of honour for his seven years of service to the Western Bulldogs.[61] Sid died in 2019 at age 9.5 years old.[68]

During home games, Caesar has a reserved area at the Footscray End (Gate 7), where fans can come and give him a pat and have their photo taken.


Western Bulldogs' club song is sung to the tune of "Sons of the Sea".

Sons of the west,
Red, white and blue,
We come out snarling, Bulldogs through and through.
Bulldogs bite and Bulldogs roar, we give our very best.
But you can't beat the boys of the Bulldog breed,
We're the team of the mighty West![69]

Before the club changed its name from Footscray to Western Bulldogs, the club song was called "Sons of the 'Scray", sung to the same tune but with different lyrics. The club song for the women's team is called "Daughters of the west"


The E. J. Whitten Stand at Whitten Oval (demolished 2022), the club's training base and administrative headquarters
The Western Bulldogs play their home games at Docklands Stadium (here pictured in 2009), located in Melbourne's Docklands area

The club played its home matches at the Western Oval, located in the inner-western Melbourne suburb of Footscray, from 1884 until 1997 (except for a brief period at nearby Yarraville Oval, from 1941 to 1943). Home to the club's training facilities and administrative headquarters, the oval, nicknamed "The Kennel", was officially renamed Whitten Oval in 1995 in honour of club legend Ted Whitten, who died earlier that year. It underwent a A$20 million redevelopment in 2005.[70]

Melbourne's Princes Park became the Western Bulldogs' primary home ground from 1997 until 1999. Since 2000, the club has been based at Docklands Stadium (currently known as Marvel Stadium), and as of 2017, two home games will be played each season at Eureka Stadium (known as Mars Stadium for sponsorship reasons) in Ballarat.[71][72]


Uniform evolution

Below are some significant uniforms in the history of the Western Bulldogs. Most are generalisations and saw minor changes over the period of their use.




1925–34, 1936–74


In 2014, the Bulldogs accepted an offer from comedian and supporter Danny McGinlay to write the messages that appear on the club's banners. While AFL clubs traditionally use banners to celebrate milestones or to write motivational messages, McGinlay's "amusing pieces of throwaway banter" at the expense of opposing clubs have acquired cult status in the game, and occasionally proved controversial.[73][74]

House painted in Western Bulldogs colours in Melbourne's western suburbs

In popular culture

William Ellis Green ("WEG"), cartoonist for The Herald, began a VFL/AFL Grand Final tradition in 1954 after drawing a full-page caricature of the Western Bulldogs mascot. It is the most valuable and sought-after of WEG's Grand Final posters.

Martin Flanagan's 1994 book Southern Sky, Western Oval[75] reflects on the Western Bulldogs' fight for survival when it faced a merger with Fitzroy in the late 1980s. The award-winning documentary Year of the Dogs gives an inside look at the Western Bulldogs over the course of the 1996 AFL season.

Footscray Bulldogs merchandise is seen to be worn in 1992 film Romper Stomper by the main character 'Hando'. The film revolves around the exploits and downfall of a violent skinhead gang based in Footscray.

In season 1 Degrassi Junior High episode 'It's Late!' character 'Wheels' is seen wearing a 1980s Footscray Bulldogs VFL long-sleeve jumper.[76]

Membership and attendance

Western Bulldogs cheer squad

Compared to other Victorian AFL clubs, the Western Bulldogs have had historically low membership numbers. However, the club broke its membership record in 2006 and continued to sustain these figures before another significant increase in 2010. In 2015, the club reached 35,000 members for the first time, and ended the season with an official tally of 36,213.[77] In 2016, the Bulldogs equalled the club's previous year's tally by mid-May,[77] and again reached record-breaking membership numbers by July, with 39,459 fans having signed up.[78] It was also the second successive year in which the club had recorded double-digit percentage growth in membership.[78][79]

Year Members[80]
1984 6,491 - 7th 18,789
1985 8,030 Increase 1,539 2nd 21,624 Increase 2,835
1986 8,433 Increase 403 8th 22,036 Increase 412
1987 3,452 Decrease 4,981 7th 16,886 Decrease 5,150
1988 5,351 Increase 1,899 8th 15,910 Decrease 976
1989 5,168 Decrease 183 8th 22,036 Increase 6,126
1990 10,983 Increase 5,815 7th 22,290 Increase 254
1991 9,598 Decrease 1,385 10th 17,457 Decrease 4,833
1992 9,391 Decrease 207 2nd 20,909 Increase 3,452
1993 11,478 Increase 2,087 9th 21,085 Increase 176
1994 9,339 Decrease 2,139 5th 20,578 Decrease 507
1995 12,212 Increase 2,873 7th 21,989 Increase 1,411
1996 10,650 Decrease 1,562 15th 18,072 Decrease 3,917
1997 15,054 Increase 4,404 3rd 19,334 Increase 1,262
1998 20,064 Increase 5,010 2nd 23,832 Increase 4,498
1999 20,491 Increase 427 4th 24,023 Increase 191
2000 18,056 Decrease 2,435 7th 30,572 Increase 6,549
2001 19,085 Increase 1,029 10th 29,660 Decrease 912
2002 20,838 Increase 1,753 12th 25,518 Decrease 4,142
2003 21,260 Increase 422 16th 25,038 Decrease 480
2004 19,295 Decrease 1,965 14th 26,097 Increase 1,059
2005 21,975 Increase 2,680 9th 28,320 Increase 2,223
2006 26,042 Increase 4,067 8th 33,253 Increase 4,933
2007 28,725 Increase 2,683 13th 28,777 Decrease 4,476
2008 28,306 Decrease 419 3rd 30,275 Increase 1,498
2009 28,590 Increase 284 3rd 32,877 Increase 2,602
2010 34,842 Increase 6,252 4th 30,447 Decrease 2,430
2011 32,125 Decrease 2,717 10th 26,294 Decrease 4,153
2012 30,007 Decrease 2,118 15th 23,317 Decrease 2,977
2013 30,204 Increase 197 15th 22,132 Decrease 1,185
2014 31,725 Increase 1,521 14th 22,265 Increase 133
2015 35,991 Increase 4,266 6th 23,478 Increase 1,213
2016 39,459 Increase 3,468 7th 30,699 Increase 7,221
2017 47,653 Increase 8,194 10th 31,473 Increase 774
2018 43,246 Decrease 4,407 13th 25,372 Decrease 6,101
2019 44,373 Increase 1,127 7th 26,747 Increase 1,375
2020 38,876 Decrease 5,497 7th 3,894 Decrease 22,853
2021 46,541 Increase 7,665 5th 31,981 Increase 28,087
2022 50,941 Increase 4,400
2023 56,302 Increase 5,361

Playing lists

Current squad

Senior list Rookie list Coaching staff

Head coach

Assistant coaches

  • (c) Captain(s)
  • (vc) Vice-captain(s)
  • (B) Category B rookie
  • Upgraded rookie(s)
  • italics - Inactive player list
  • Long-term injury
  • (ret.) Retired

Updated: 5 April 2024
Source(s): Senior list, Rookie list, Coaching staff


Guernsey sponsors
Period Front sponsor Back sponsor Above Number
1978–81 Pyrox
1982 KB
1983–86 Eastcoast
1987 Hunters
1990–97 ICI Dulux (back sponsor from 1994 onwards)[81]
1998 Orica Dulux[82]
1999–2001 Vodafone
2002–2008 Leaseplan
2009–2017 Mission Foods Mission Foods
2018–2020 Mercedes Benz
2021–2023 Coinspot Pedigree
2024–Present Allied Express [83]

Administrative positions


Current major sponsors

Premier Partners

Apparel sponsors


Prominent people who have supported the Western Bulldogs include:

Number-one ticket holders include:

Match records

(Correct at end of round 3, 2021)

Honours and achievements


Competition Level Wins Years Won
Australian Football League Seniors 2 1954, 2016
Reserves (1919–1999) 6 1936, 1945, 1962, 1988, 1994, 1998
Under 19s (1946–1991) 1 1954
Victorian Football League Seniors (1877–1924) 9 1898, 1899, 1900, 1908, 1913, 1919, 1920, 1923, 1924
Reserves (2014–present) 2 2014, 2016
AFL Women's Seniors 1 2018
Other titles and honours
VFL Night Series Seniors 4 1963, 1964, 1967, 1970
Finishing positions
Australian Football League Minor premiership
(McClelland Trophy)
0 Nil
Grand Finalist 2 1961, 2021
Wooden spoons 4 1959, 1967, 1982, 2003
AFL Women's Minor premiership 1 2018
Wooden spoons 1 2023

Hall of Fame

Further information: Australian Football Hall of Fame

The Footscray-Western Bulldogs Hall of Fame was established in 2010 to honour "those whose involvement and contribution to [the] club has been significant, memorable and worthy of celebration."[97]

Players who have been retired for at least two years are eligible for induction, and while individual playing records, including club and representative games, club and individual honours and premierships are considered, candidates "must also have given outstanding and devoted service to the club".[97] Officials and administrators are also eligible for induction.

The current Hall of Fame selection committee comprises: David Smorgon OAM, Darren Arthur, Terry Wheeler, Ray Walker and Mike Sheahan.[98]

Footscray-Western Bulldogs Hall of Fame
Doug Hawkins (2014) John Schultz (2012) Charles Sutton Ted Whitten * Chris Grant (2018)
Norman Ware (2018) Allan Hopkins (2018) Arthur Olliver (2023) Gary Dempsey (2023)
Victor A. Samson David De Coite Archie Clarke William Harris Norman Ford
John F. Craddock James Cuming Vernon Banbury Con McCarthy Joseph Marmo
Arthur Gregory Jim Cassidy Roy Cotton
Simon Beasley George Bisset (2012) Peter Box (2018) Jack Collins
Wally Donald (2012) Herb Henderson (2012) Harry Hickey John Jillard (2014) Brad Johnson (2014)
Tony Liberatore Alby Morrison Bernie Quinlan (2018) Don Ross (2018)
Brian Royal (2012) Joe Ryan (2012) Rohan Smith (2014) Kelvin Templeton Stephen Wallis (2018)
Scott West (2012) Scott Wynd (2012) Jim Gallagher (2023) Robert Murphy (2023) Dale Morris (2023)
Roy Russell Peter Gordon David Smorgon (2018)
Footscray's first VFL finals appearance In 1938, 13 years after being admitted to the VFL, Footscray became the first of the "new" teams to qualify for a VFL finals series, and faced Collingwood in the First Semi-final at the MCG on Saturday, September 3rd. In front of over 68,000 spectators (a record at the time), the Bulldogs acquitted themselves well against the previous year's Grand finalist, and only poor finishing in the second quarter prevented them being in front at half time. While Footscray did grab the lead briefly at the start of the second half, the experience and class of the Magpies was telling as they kicked six goals in as many minutes and eventually ran out winners by 39 points.
The 1954 VFL premiership During the 1954 season, the club started the season slowly, losing the first two matches by small margins, before an 87 point victory over South Melbourne. On the back of performances from Captain/Coach Charlie Sutton, club legend Ted Whitten and Leading Goalkicker Medalist Jack Collins[99] The club would make finals for only the 8th time in their history,[100] in beating Geelong in the semi-final they would eliminate past demons, with Geelong defeating them in the previous seasons preliminary final.[101][102] This win would take them to their first Grand Final, with Melbourne joining them. A bumper crowd of 80,897 would pour into the MCG with police having to seat crowd members on the ground itself to avoid injuries. By half time, Collins had kicked 3 of his eventual 7 goals and pushed the Bulldogs to a 53-30 lead. By the final break, they were 6 goals ahead, eventually coming out 51 point winners (6.3, 8.5, 12.9, 15.12 (102)) to (1.4, 4.6, 6.7, 7.9 (51)). Rover John Kerr was judged best for the Bulldogs, with Collins 7 goals an incredible effort. Over 20,000 people were present at the Western Oval sparking celebrations that continued for over 10 hours after the game had finished. [103]
The Neil Sachse Incident On 12 April 1975 at the Western Oval, in only his second game for the Bulldogs, star South Australian recruit Neil Sachse was the victim of one of Australian rules football's most tragic on-field incidents. Late in the game, the North Adelaide premiership player collided with Fitzroy defender Kevin O'Keeffe in what then Bulldogs club president Dick Collinson described as a "freak accident".[104] Sachse was stretchered off and transferred to the spinal unit at the Austin Hospital, where he would spend months adjusting to life as a quadriplegic. He would later establish the Neil Sachse Foundation with the aim of finding a cure for spinal cord injury
The 2018 AFLW premiership The Western Bulldogs had been among the first AFL clubs to have a women's team with Melbourne and the Bulldogs playing the first women's exhibition matches from 2013,[105] before the AFLW began formally in 2017.[106] After finishing with only two wins in the 2017 season, the Bulldogs began the 2018 season losing Izzy Huntingdon and Daria Bannister to injury in the first two rounds, before inaugural captain Katie Brennan was sidelined with an ankle injury. Despite this, the Bulldogs finished the season with only two losses for their first minor premiership, and a berth in the Grand Final against the Brisbane Lions, the previous season's runner up. Despite a goalless first half, and trailing the Lions by 6 points leading into the second half of the game. Three goals from Deanna Berry, Kristen McLeod and Monique Conti in the 3rd quarter and a diving defensive mark by Naomi Ferres in the dying seconds sealed a 6 point win for the Bulldogs and their first AFLW premiership.[107]

Team of the Century

In May 2002, the club announced a team of the greatest players from the last century.[108]

Club records

VFL/AFL ladder positions (1925–present)

Finishing Position Year (Finals in Bold, Premierships in Italics) Tally[100]
1st nil 0
2nd 1954, 1985, 1992, 1998 4
3rd 1938, 1953, 1946, 1997, 2008, 2009 6
4th 1942, 1944, 1948, 1951, 1956, 1961, 1999, 2010 8
5th 1931, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1974, 1976, 1999, 2021 8
6th 1940, 1941, 1943, 1957, 2015 5
7th 1928, 1932, 1933, 1964, 1970, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2016, 2019, 2020 17
8th 1971, 1986, 1988, 2006, 2022 5
9th 1929, 1934, 1947, 1949, 1963, 1973, 1979, 1993, 2005, 2023 10
10th 1926, 1927, 1936, 1937, 1950, 1952, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1980, 1991, 2001, 2011, 2017 15
11th 1925, 1930, 1935, 1939, 1958, 1969, 1978, 1981 8
12th 1959, 1967, 1982, 2002 4
13th 1989, 2007, 2018 3
14th 2004, 2014 2
15th 1996, 2012, 2013 3
16th 2003 1
17th nil 0
18th nil 0

Notes: The Top 4 teams made finals until 1971, Top 5 between 1972 and 1990, Top 6 between 1991-1993 and Top 8 from 1994 onwards.[111]

Individual awards

Brownlow Medal winners

Main article: Brownlow Medal

Allan Hopkins, the club's first Brownlow Medalist
Leigh Matthews Trophy winner Luke Darcy

Note: Chris Grant gained the most votes in 1997 but was not eligible to win the award due to suspension

Norm Smith Medal winners

Main article: Norm Smith Medal

Leigh Matthews Trophy winners

Main article: Leigh Matthews Trophy

Coleman Medal winners

Main article: Coleman Medal

Club awards

Main article: Charles Sutton Medal

The Charles Sutton Medal is awarded annually to the Bulldogs player adjudged best and fairest by the coaches over an entire AFL season, including finals. Other club awards include the:

Reserves team

Footscray Bulldogs
Full nameFootscray Football Club Limited[1]
2023 season
After finals6th
Home-and-away season6th
Leading goalkickerBuku Khamis (41 Goals)
Club details
Founded1925, re-established in 2014 (as a reserves side)
CompetitionVictorian Football League
CoachStewart Edge
Captain(s)Lachie Sullivan
PremiershipsVFL/AFL reserves (9) VFL (2)
Ground(s)Whitten Oval (12,000)

The Footscray Bulldogs are the reserves team of the club, competing in the Victorian Football League.


In 1925, the year Footscray was admitted to the VFL, the club's reserves team began competing in the VFL reserves grade competition. The team won six premierships between 1936 and 1998, and were runners-up five times between 1938 and 1986.

Following the demise of AFL reserves competition at the end of the 1999 season, the reserves team was dissolved and a joint reserves affiliation was established with the Victorian Football League's two western clubs − Werribee and Williamstown − for the 2000 VFL season. From 2001 to 2007, the Bulldogs were solely aligned with Werribee, and from 2008 until 2013, solely aligned with Williamstown.

After a fourteen-year recess, the club re-established a stand-alone reserves team to compete in the Victorian Football League from 2014 onward.[115] The new reserves team was formally named the Footscray Bulldogs, reflecting the club's original name prior to the decision to trade as the Western Bulldogs in the AFL from 1997. They play home games at Whitten Oval.[116]

In its inaugural year, Footscray claimed the VFL premiership, defeating the Box Hill Hawks by 22 points in front of 23,816 at Docklands Stadium.[117] Their second premiership came in 2016, defeating Casey by 31 points.

Footscray claimed the minor premiership in the COVID-19 pandemic-affected 2021 season.

Individual records (VFL)

Women's teams

The team is led through the banner by vice-captain Ellie Blackburn in round 5, 2017

In June 2013, the Western Bulldogs fielded a women's football side against Melbourne in the first AFL-sanctioned women's exhibition match, held at the MCG. The two teams competed annually over the next three years for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup.[119] In 2016, when the AFL announced plans for AFL Women's, an eight team national women's league competition, the Bulldogs were asked to submit an application for a license alongside other AFL clubs.[120] The club was one of four Melbourne-based clubs to be granted a license that year.[121]

The club's first players were marquee signings Katie Brennan and Ellie Blackburn.[122] They were joined in August by priority player Emma Kearney who had previously worked in an off-field role at the club.[123] In October, the club completed its inaugural playing list by adding 22 other senior listed and two rookie players in the league's draft and signing period. Former Monash Blues (VAFA) coach Paul Groves was named as the team's first head coach and football manager in August 2016.[124] The following month, the club signed three-year sponsorship agreements with Priceline, Bob Jane T-Marts and Pancake Parlour.[125]

The team's training base and administrative headquarters are located alongside the men's team at the Whitten Oval, and as part of the initial application, it plans to play home games at Whitten Oval, Eureka Stadium and Docklands Stadium.[120] The club has also fielded a team in the second-tier VFL Women's league since 2016, the league's inaugural year.[126]

In 2018, the Western Bulldogs and Carlton women's teams held the first Pride game in the AFLW, to celebrate gender diversity, promote inclusion for LGBTIQA+ players, and to help stamp out homophobia. After being joined by other clubs, in 2020, the first full AFLW Pride Round was held in 2021, supported by all 18 clubs in the league.[127][128][129]

2018 AFL Women's Grand Final G B Total
Western Bulldogs 4 3 27
Brisbane 3 3 21
Venue: Ikon Park crowd: 7,083

Current squad

Senior list Coaching staff

Head coach

Assistant coaches

  • (c) Captain(s)
  • (vc) Vice-captain(s)
  • Injury list

Updated: 5 April 2024
Source(s): Players, AFL Women's, Coaches

Season summaries

AFL Women's

Western Bulldogs AFLW honour roll
Season Ladder W–L–D Finals Coach Captain(s) Best and fairest Leading goalkicker
2017 6th 2–5–0 DNQ Paul Groves Katie Brennan Ellie Blackburn & Emma Kearney Ellie Blackburn (6)
2018 1st 5–2–0 Premiers Paul Groves Katie Brennan Emma Kearney (2) Brooke Lochland (12)
2019 7th ^ 2–5–0 DNQ Paul Groves Katie Brennan & Ellie Blackburn Monique Conti Katie Brennan (6)
2020 12th ^ 1–5–0 DNQ Nathan Burke Ellie Blackburn Isabel Huntington Kirsten McLeod (5)
2021 8th 5–4–0 DNQ Nathan Burke Ellie Blackburn Ellie Blackburn (2) Isabel Huntington (12)
2022 (S6) 7th 4–5–1 DNQ Nathan Burke Ellie Blackburn Ellie Blackburn/Kirsty Lamb Bonnie Toogood (10)
2022 (S7) 7th 7–3–0 Elimination finalists Nathan Burke Ellie Blackburn Ellie Blackburn Gabby Newton (8)

^ Denotes the ladder was split into two conferences. Figure refers to the club's overall finishing position that season.

VFL Women's

Western Bulldogs VFLW honour roll
Season Final position Coach Captain Best and fairest Leading goalkicker
2016 6th Debbie Lee Bree White Bree White Alexandra Quigley (25)
2017 6th Debbie Lee Bree White Bree White Alyssa Mifsud (12)
2018 6th Debbie Lee None Naomi Ferres Alyssa Mifsud (7)
2019 Runners-up Sean Kavanagh Mickayla Ward Ellie Gavalas Danielle Marshall & Mickayla Ward (10)
2020 Season cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2021 7th Sean Kavanagh Riley Christgoergl Simone Ruedin Nell Morris-Dalton/Danielle Marshall/Gemma Lagiola/Mary Sandral (5)
2022 12th Kirby Bentley Riley Christgoergl Eliza Vale Mary Sandral (7)
2023 11th Rhys Cahir Mary Sandral Jorja Borg/Dominique Carbone Jaimi Tabb/Imahra Cameron (8)

Sources: Club historical data and VFLW stats


See also


  1. ^ a b "Footscray Football Club Limited" is the name of their parent company according to their ABN which also includes businesses such as hotels and a travel agency. The official name of the AFL team, in particular, is "Western Bulldogs". The VFL reserves team is called the Footscray Football Club. From 1997-2020 on the back neck of their AFL jumpers there was the initials "FFC" and since 2021 "FFC" has been on the front of the jumper


  1. ^ a b c "Current details for ABN 68 005 226 595". Australian Business Register. 12 July 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  2. ^ So Close: The bravest, craziest, unluckiest defeats in Aussie sport by Patrick Mangan, Hachette Australia, 2013 – ISBN 9780733630248
  3. ^ Lionel Frost (25 September 2006). "Did the 1924 Bombers throw their last game?". AFL. Telstra Corporation Limited. Archived from the original on 10 July 2009. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  4. ^ "Saturday's Results". The Argus. No. 24, 566. Melbourne. 4 May 1925. p. 9. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  5. ^ "FOOTSCRAY'S FINE VICTORY". The Argus. No. 24, 572. Melbourne. 11 May 1925. p. 17. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  6. ^ "TIGERS WIN ALL WAY". The Argus. Melbourne. 26 April 1954. p. 17. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  7. ^ "COLLINS LEADS REVIVAL". The Argus. Melbourne. 3 May 1954. p. 16. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  8. ^ Bickford, George (10 May 1954). "Collins beats Carlton". The Argus. Melbourne. p. 16. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  9. ^ Buggy, Hugh (30 May 1954). "BULLDOGS CRASH THROUGH 7 GOALS TO SNATCH GAME". The Argus. Melbourne. p. 11. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  10. ^ Baum, Greg (23 September 2016). "AFL finals: New Dogs pulling off old tricks at Footscray". The Age.
  11. ^ Quayle, Emma (27 May 2003). "Stick together, say the Dogs of '82". The Age.
  12. ^ How the West Coast Eagles went from the brink of collapse to financial powerhouse By Clint Thomas for ABC 15 March 2019
  13. ^ Prenesti, Sam (21 April 1987). "Footscray pulls out a do-or-die victory". The Age. p. 39.
  14. ^ Linnell, Garry (3 April 1989). "Dogs' new litter leaves Blues flat". The Age. p. 32.
  15. ^ Linnell, Garry (21 August 1989). "Apathy rules as the West gives up on the Bulldogs". The Age. p. 36.
  16. ^ Michael Stevens (4 October 1989). "No choice". The Sun News-Pictorial. Melbourne. p. 72.
  17. ^ Mark Stevens (4 September 2009). "The 20-year miracle".
  18. ^ Unleashed – A History of the Footscray Football Club
  19. ^ "Historical Timeline | Western Bulldogs". westernbulldogs.com.au. Retrieved 27 November 2022.
  20. ^ AFL legend Luke Darcy reveals September 11 run-in with Michael Jackson, Lleyton Hewitt (news.com.au) - retrieved August 28, 2020
  21. ^ Jennifer Witham (30 August 2009). "Bulldogs win secures third".
  22. ^ Peter Hanlon (14 March 2010). "The difference – one big forward". The Age. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  23. ^ "Ryan Griffen was close to quitting AFL before joining GWS from Western Bulldogs". ABC News. 16 October 2014.
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