My Dad’s club the Bulldogs have not won a premiership in his lifetime. They are the only AFL club outside of Gold Coast and GWS not to make a Grand Final in my lifetime. But they don’t come to mind as having been particularly bad during the time I’ve been following football. Is their lack of premierships indicative of having been generally bad throughout their history, or more indicative of their not just being able to win the big finals?
First, historically they have been relatively bad compared with other clubs. The Bulldogs have won 45 per cent of their matches throughout their time in the VFL/AFL which, of the clubs that have been around more than ten years, is only better than North Melbourne and St. Kilda. (They’ve won closer to 50 per cent in the time I’ve been following football, which is likely why I feel they haven’t been too bad.) Still North Melbourne have won four premierships, several more than Footscray’s one. Melbourne have won 45 per cent of their matches too, and have managed to win 12 premierships. So there must be something to the Dogs not being able to win the big finals as well.
As you may have already known or guessed, unlike Melbourne, the Bulldogs have never really had any great sides. They’ve never won more than three-quarters of their matches in any season, which is the equivalent on having won no more than 16 matches in a 22-round season (which they did in 1985 and 1992). Melbourne have won more than three-quarters of their matches 12 times, including six times from 1955 to 1964. Brisbane, though they’ve never won the minor premiership, have done it twice. The Bulldogs have had some very good sides; they’ve just rarely been great.
The current Dogs side, by the rankings, also looks to be very good rather than great. But over their past ten matches, particularly over their past three, they have been great. Essentially they have been the equivalent of Hawthorn, which was neatly reflected by their coming close to beating the league’s best side on the weekend. Maybe then this is their best chance yet of finally bringing my Dad the premiership he’s kind of kept an eye out for.