Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon admits there had been dark times when he despaired his club would never make it to an AFL grand final.
Gordon had to fight tooth and nail to keep the wolves at bay during his first stint as president – from 1989-96 – of the then financially crippled club.
And as he soaks up the club’s first grand-final week since 1961, Gordon can’t help but cast his mind back to how the Dogs had arrived there.
“What I love about it is the struggle … it’s just a story that if you keep pushing hard enough, then finally the door breaks down,” Gordon said.
“(The club) was in receivership (in 1989) and it was days away from being wound up. The VFL had plans to raffle off our players to various other clubs … it was closer to extinction than any other club that has survived has ever been.
“And it’s not the only time. In 1996, we had our struggles and I know that in the 16 years of David Smorgon’s presidency before I came back, there were various moments when the sheriff was nearly at the door.
“It’s been a history of struggle, the Bulldogs embody struggle, and I guess the moral to the story is if you continue to struggle and you continue to believe, then eventually a week like this will come along.
“I hope Bulldogs supporters are further rewarded on the weekend.”
Gordon has been a constant presence at the club this week, chatting with fans and watching the team train during breaks from official business.
He’s been thrilled with the number of members, supporters and past players who have come down to Whitten Oval to experience the grand-final week atmosphere.
The club remains unsure exactly how great a financial windfall the grand-final appearance will provide but, whatever it is, the days when that might be the difference between survival and extinction are long gone.
“It’s 2016 and we are not the club that, back in 1989, was fighting for survival,” Gordon said.
“We’ve broken a lot of records this year … 40,000 members would have been a dream for me when I first became president in 1989 and we had 4000 members.
“We’ve broken records in revenue, we’re going to declare a healthy profit this year and we’ll be able to invest back into Whitten Oval.
“As someone who’s been involved in it for such a long time and seen so many people work so hard … this is the realisation of a dream.”