AFL: Barry Hall caught in the Western Bulldogs fairytale ahead of Sydney Swans grand final

by admin on September 19th, 2018

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Barry Hall with Bob Murphy in 2012. Photo: Vince CaligiuriThe moment Barry Hall hoisted the 2005 AFL premiership trophy in the air, 72 years of heartache was lifted from the shoulders of the Sydney Swans faithful.

Eleven years later the Swans will again line up in the grand final, this time against the club Hall grew up cheering for and ended his career with in the Western Bulldogs.

While his eight-year stint in Sydney has left Hall a Swans man, he can’t help but get caught up in the Bulldogs’ fairytale run to the first Saturday in October.

It has been a long time coming for the Bulldogs. Since their lone premiership in 1954, they have staved off financial troubles, mergers, and come undone in countless preliminary finals.

Twenty years ago they truly became the sons of the west, leaving the Footscray moniker behind in favour of the Western Bulldogs title.

But it was ‘new brand, same story’ as the Bulldogs fell short in the 1997-98 preliminary finals. A decade later they bowed out at the same stage three years running.

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge’s arrival heralded a return to the finals in 2015, but a spate of injuries threatened to derail this year’s campaign.

Still, the Bulldogs have come from seventh to earn a spot in the grand final. Now years of near misses have Sydney’s 2005 premiership-winning skipper wishing for a Bulldogs victory.

“My brain says the Swans … but my heart is saying Western Bulldogs,” Hall said.

“The Swans have won it recently but I think the story of the Western Bulldogs, I don’t think anyone will be barracking for the Swans too much — they’ll want the Dogs to win.

“Probably because of the story — they’ve had injuries, they’ve had players leave the club, they were a struggling club financially and they haven’t won one for 60 years.”

Hall said the Swans would get the spoils on the back of their midfield, but expected “a good tight game” between two of the competition’s three best defensive sides.

The 289-game great tipped Swans star Luke Parker to win the Norm Smith medal.

“He loves the pressure situation — the way he plays footy he will suit finals,” Hall said.

But the romance of the Bulldogs isn’t lost on Hall.

Having spent the final two years of his career at Whitten Oval, Hall met those enduring a long wait between drinks with an unwavering faith in the club.

“They’re the people you want to see rewarded with a premiership,” Hall said.

“That’s probably another thing people don’t understand. It’s such a good feeling to break that drought when so many before you have failed. I hope the Dogs get to experience that.”

Hall and his Swans teammates were greeted with the reactions of success-starved fans upon their return to Sydney after their four-point defeat of West Coast in 2005.

A ticker-tape parade down Sydney’s George Street was celebrated by tens of thousands of fans before the Swans were presented the keys to the city.

The four-time All-Australian expected similar scenes if the Bulldogs snap their premiership drought, saying the fans would turn out in droves and paint Melbourne red, white and blue.

Hall’s premiership win was sandwiched by a grand final losses as a 19-year-old with St Kilda and the 2006 rematch with the Eagles where a mere point separated the sides.

Hall then departed to the Bulldogs for the “two most enjoyable years” of his storied career. There was only one flaw in his Bulldogs stint.

“The disappointment was not to win a premiership because there’s so many good people behind the scenes who should experience that,” Hall said.

The hype around the Bulldogs’ long-awaited grand final appearance has seen them attract the majority of the media attention. Hall said it was important for the inexperienced Bulldogs to keep their heads in check.

The Swans have been there and done it before. They have 13 players with grand final experience, and among them eight premiership players.

The Bulldogs have no players in their match day 22 with grand final experience after former Hawthorn player Matt Suckling was left out.

“The Swans have almost flew under the radar a little bit, which sounds stupid in grand final week,” Hall said.

“But they’ll be quite happy. They can slide into Melbourne, prepare well, and have a crack at a flag.”

Of arguably bigger interest in Sydney circles is the Cronulla Sharks’ long-awaited grand final appearance. Again something Hall was privy to.

The Swans were premiers in 2005 when Sydney’s Wests Tigers won the NRL decider. A year later, the Swans fell short when there were no NSW teams in the rugby league grand final.

“You do notice the difference,” Hall said.

“The landscape around you makes a big difference, too, particularly in Sydney.”


Saturday: Sydney Swans v Western Bulldogs at MCG, 2:30pm. TV time: Live on Channel Seven.

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