The Western Bulldogs of 1997 came agonisingly close to breaking the club’s grand final drought and at least one old Dog can see parallels between Luke Beveridge’s team and his snarling pack.
Steve Kretiuk is a prime example of the hard-working, uncompromising Bulldogs of the late 1990s who were labelled “blue collar” by many.
He played in the side who led Adelaide by 22 points at three-quarter time of the ’97 preliminary final.
Of course, the Darren Jarman-led Crows ran rampant in the final term to win by two points and break Bulldogs’ hearts.
That would be the third of a run of seven losing preliminary finals for the Dogs.
But Kretiuk believes Beveridge’s team is ready to secure the club’s first grand final berth since 1961.
“In ’97 we had a true pack mentality,” Kretiuk told AAP.
“We had something special and played like a team that desperately wanted success.
“Unfortunately we fell short but this team, I feel, have an even greater unity and belief in their system.
“I think that we had just as much talent in our side back then, but these guys are coached to the second.
“Everyone knows their role at any given time in the game.”
Kretiuk, who played 170 games for the Dogs, runs his own personal fitness business and coaches Hoppers Crossing in the Western Region Football League.
He’ll watch the preliminary final against Greater Western Sydney on his iPad from Krakow, Poland, where he’s holidaying and visiting relatives.
He could be forgiven even a hint of regret if he allows his mind to wander to that fateful Saturday at the MCG in 1997, but he doesn’t see it that way.
“I always say if we were good enough we would have won,” he said.
“In finals there are no excuses – the better team that plays the best on that day deserves to win and progress.”
Kretiuk played alongside Beveridge, who played 31 games for the Dogs in 1993-95, and Giants coach Leon Cameron.
He admits Beveridge has reignited his passion for the Bulldogs since he took over at the end of the 2014 season.
“I love the way they play and the way they’ve united as one since Bevo took over,” he said.
“I truly believe they can beat any team on any given day if they continue to have that desire and willingness to win from all 22 players.”