I'm 95 percent certain I can speak for everyone when I say that the Western Bulldogs' rivalry with Greater Western Sydney is amongst one of the hottest rivalries in AFL football right now. However, I really think that there is one rivalry that I don't think has gotten enough recognition over the last couple of decades in particular is the between the Western Bulldogs and St. Kilda.
The Western Bulldogs and St. Kilda have played in 158 matches from 1925 until now, with the Saints leading the head-to-heads 81 wins to the Bulldogs' 74 with three draws thrown into the mix as well, and ever since I've been a Bulldogs' supporter, I've witnessed numerous contests between these two sides that have provided wonderful moments and moments that'd make your heart break.
As both teams prepare to battle for the 159th time this Saturday, I thought I'd go through a few of their games in detail over the past 17 years in a two-part series. I look over and reminisce about these games, and it has always made me wonder:
'Is The Western Bulldogs And St. Kilda The Most Underrated Rivalry In The AFL?'
Round 9, 2000 - The Crying Game
Western Bulldogs 16.9.105
St. Kilda 16.8.104
It was a Friday night at a venue that had only opened it's doors at the start of the 2000 AFL season. What was then known as Colonial Stadium (Now Etihad Stadium), was treated to a classic between the 12th-placed Western Bulldogs and the last-placed St. Kilda. The Saints headed into the contest win-less after eight rounds of footy, only securing having secured two premiership points in a draw back in round three against West Coast.
St. Kilda gave it an almighty contest against the Bulldogs. After being down by 12 points at half-time, the Saints blew the Bulldogs apart with an eight goal to one third quarter, leading by 31 points at the final break. The Bulldogs, staring down at a fifth successive loss managed to dig deep, and piled on six goals to St. Kilda's one, with Chris Grant leading the charge, the Bulldogs hung on by a point in a heartstopper, arguably robbing the Saints of their first win in season 2000.
This game was notorious for a 23-year old key defender by the name of Max Hudghton, who was spotted by the cameras crying and hitting himself at the final siren, as he couldn't believe what had transpired. Some people might've ridculed that, and label him things such as a 'sook', but that's just a man, passionate about his footy and incredibly disappointed in the result. The Saints would only win two games for the year and finish the year 16th, whilst the Bulldogs would go onto play finals, finishing 7th.
Round 6, 2003 - The Fists Are Flying At The Telstra Dome
St. Kilda 15.10.100
Western Bulldogs 12.13.85
I can vividly remember watching this game on the couch at home, and what I thought was going to be a business as usual game on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Etihad Stadium (It was called Telstra Dome at the time), took a turn for the worst when both sides engaged in a full-on melee at quarter time of what was a fiercely contested match.
It threatened consistently to boil over late in the first quarter with little scuffles here and there, and it eventually managed the boiling point when Heath Black charged at Bulldogs' veteran Brad Johnson, and then it was on as almost every player from both sides of the fence were at one another, even club officials were in amongst it0. A very green Ryan Hargrave was given a three-week suspension for striking Black in the jaw during in the melee, leaving him with a broken jaw, whilst 19 other players were handed fines for wrestling, totalling over $65,000.
Once the dust settled at the quarter time break, it was the Saints that proved to be too good for the Bulldogs, leading at every break to take the win by 15 points in what was a very spiteful contest. The loss condemned the Dogs to it's fifth loss on the trot and go on to finish the 2003 season in last place, whilst the Saints faired better, notching up 11 wins, but finished 11th.
Round 12, 2004 - The Upset Of The Season
Western Bulldogs 15.13.103
St. Kilda 11.14.80
Leading into this game, St. Kilda were sitting comfortably on top of the AFL ladder, winning it's first 10 games of the season, only to have been handed an embarrassing 36-point loss to the Sydney Swans, who were only just hanging on to their spot in the eight. A week later, the Saints were eyeing this game against the lowly Western Bulldogs as an easy victory, but unfortunately for the Saints, nobody told the Bulldogs this.
In front of a mediocre crowd of 28,306 at the MCG, the Dogs hung in there with the Saints and gave them a contest, trailing by 15 points at half time. The Dogs began an incredible rally that nobody could have predicted, kicking five goals to one to take a 10-point lead heading into the final break. Many expected the Saints to control the last quarter, but it never eventuated as the Bulldogs, led by Scott West's 40 disposals and Rohan Smith's four goals, pulled off one of the upsets of 2004, downing St. Kilda by 23 points.
The win provided the Bulldogs' fourth win of 2004, but they could've only register one more win for the rest of the year to finish in a disappointing 14th place, whilst St. Kilda faded away just a little, but still finished inside the top four with a record of 16-6, but were knocked out in the Preliminary Final by Port Adelaide.
Round 6, 2006 - The Justin Koschitzke Incident
St. Kilda 14.8.92
Western Bulldogs 12.6.78
It was another sunny afternoon at the Telstra Dome, with the Western Bulldogs looking to get back onto the winners list after being handed their first defeat in emphatic fashion against Adelaide the week prior to this showdown. The Dogs fancied their chances against the 2-3 Saints, but after an even first term in which both sides put three goals on the board, the Saints broke clear for a 27-point half-time lead.
This game will always be remembered for the clash between Daniel Giansiracusa and Justin Koschitzke in the third quarter on the far broadcast wing. Midway through the term, Nathan Eagleton brought the ball up on the wing with Koschitzke providing the chase, Eagleton's team mate Giansiracusa came at Koschitzkeat full-pace to provide a legal block, only to have their heads clash upon contact. Whilst Giansiracusa slowly got up, Kosi eventually got stretchered off the ground, with what was later revealed to be a fractured skull. This prompted his St. Kilda team mates to begin a small melee in the Dogs' attacking half of the ground, this led to ordinary umpiring which saw a free kick to the Bulldogs overturned to the Saints, but players continued to push and shove and get into each other.
The Saints however, thanks to six goals from Fraser Gehrig, managed to hold on to a spirited Bulldogs' outfit to record a memorable 14-point win. Both sides would go on to play finals, with the Saints, finishing 6th bowing out in the first week, whilst the Bulldogs, finishing 8th, went on to beat Collingwood comprehensively in the first week, before being knocked out by the eventual premiers in West Coast.
2009 Preliminary Final - The One That Got Away
St. Kilda 9.6.60
Western Bulldogs 7.11.53
This would be the third meeting between the two clubs in the 2009 season, after the Saints defeated the Dogs by 28 points back in round six and then 45 points in round 17. St. Kilda went through the 2009 home and away season with a record of 20-2, finishing on top of the AFL ladder and were considered the heavy favourites heading into this Preliminary Final showdown. But it was the Bulldogs who got the upper hand, kicking the only two goals of the first term, but were incredibly unlucky not to be up by more, given the score at the first break was 2.5 to only two behinds.
The Saints threw some goals at the early stages of the second term, but thanks to a pair of goals from Mitch Hahn, the Bulldogs held for a seven-point advantage at half-time. The lead was quickly eradicated in the second half, when the umpire controversially awarded Nick Riewoldt a free kick after Brian Lake bumped the Saints captain off the ball. This free kick would shift momentum in the Saints' favour as they kicked the following three goals to open up an 11-point lead by the 10-minute mark of the third quarter. But the Bulldogs weren't to be deterred, as they took the lead back late in the term with two goals of their own, before a Stephen Milne goal in the dying seconds gave the Saints the lead ahead of the final term.
Bulldogs' captain Brad Johnson goaled in the fifth minute of the last quarter to give the Bulldogs the lead, they had numerous opportunities at goal to get put the Saints away, but they just couldn't capitalise on any of them. In the end it was Riewoldt at the other end who proved to be the antagonist for the Bulldogs as he kicked two crucial final quarter goals to take his tally to four of the night as St. Kilda held on for a seven-point win, advancing the Saints to their first Grand Final since 1997. The Saints would go on to lose to Geelong in the Grand Final by a couple of kicks.
2010 Preliminary Final - Farewell Brad Johnson
St. Kilda 13.10.88
Western Bulldogs 8.16.64
12 months on from the Bulldogs' Preliminary Final heartbreak to the Saints, they were given a chance to make amends as they matched up against St. Kilda in another Preliminary Final, however, the road for the Bulldogs was a little more bumpy than 2009. Despite finishing in the top four, the Dogs were belted in the first week by Collingwood, and only scraped by the Sydney Swans in the Semi Final the following week, and coming up against a Saints team who had the week off, things weren't going to be easy, but given that it was going to be Bulldogs' captain Brad Johnson's final year, the Dogs were determined to give him a premiership medal that he had well and truly deserved.
A three goal to one opening term got the Bulldogs off on the right track, however might've been considered a bit fortunate to be in front at quarter time, given the Saints kicked an inaccurate 1.5, the Dogs continued to make it a scrap, restricting the Saints to only three goals for the entire game up until half-time, as six points seperated both the Bulldogs and the Saints. However the lead wouldn't last much longer, as the Saints opened up the floodgates kicking seven of the next eight goals to open up a 31-point lead at the final break. Two quick goals from the Saints within the opening five minutes of the final term put the dagger in any hopes of a miraculous Bulldog comeback.
With the game out of reach, trailing by 43 points, the Dogs put some respectability to the scoreboard by adding three of the last four goals of the match, but the damage was already done. St. Kilda were going through to another Grand Final at the expense of the Western Bulldogs, but this time, the Sons of the West farewelled a 364-game champion, who kicked over 550 goals in his career and provided a number of wonderful moments for the Bulldogs' faithful, but sadly, like many champions before him, he wasn't able to win himself a premiership medallion.
Stay Tuned On Bulldogs Centre Wednesday As We Bring To You Part Two Of The Two-Part Series