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  1. #1
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    Nov 2008
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    Outgoing Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon reveals true story behind Tom Boyd trade

    Outgoing Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon reveals true story behind Tom Boyd trade

    As he prepares to step down as Bulldogs president, Peter Gordon reveals the true story behind the mega trade that helped deliver the 2016 flag.

    Before the premierships and the profits and the glory, Peter Gordon was a budding saviour who would deliver a speech to save his football club.

    Gordon’s tenure, according to league chief Gillon McLachlan, would become one of the most significant from a president in the history of the AFL.

    Former Dogs president Peter Smorgon believes that tenure is deserving of becoming an official legend of the Bulldogs Hall of Fame along the likes of Doug Hawkins, Chris Grant, John Schultz, Charlie Sutton and Ted Whitten.

    It began that day at the Whitten Oval — new Bulldogs president Gordon was rallying the members to save his club, Footscray ,from the AFL’s ultimatum: Merge with Fitzroy or close down.

    His first line was this: “It’s better to die on our feet than live on our knees.”

    That rallying cry was the start of two terms as president that would save the club from oblivion and eventually turn it into a budding powerhouse free of debt, with recent AFL, AFLW and VFL premierships.

    Gordon, McLachlan and Smorgon on Friday reflected on the significant moments in the club’s history that have set the club up for the foreseeable future.


    In 1989 emerging lawyer Gordon became the youngest-ever president of an VFL club, his October 8 speech attempting to unite a club that was in court fighting a Fitzroy merger as loyalists like Irene Chatfield donated cash they could ill afford.

    That fightback rally kickstarted a $2 million fundraising drive that satisfied the VFL’s licencing requirements, and the club was saved.

    “It is one of the standout memories for me,” Gordon told the Herald Sun.

    “The line, ‘It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees’, I had credited to Midnight Oil and the song, The Power and the Passion.

    Gordon sings the line out loud, which shows as a rock star he’s a great AFL president.

    “Apparently they had appropriated it from some earlier philosopher, which I didn’t know at the time,” he says.

    “I remember it being a really overcast day and raining when I left home and now knowing if anyone would turn up or we would get rained out.

    “I remember being halfway through the speech and looking out and the people had just come from everywhere.

    “I had cues for the players to come out and the first decision we made as a board was that Terry Wheeler would be the coach. He had driven all night to be there and ‘Wheels’ came up and accepted the job.

    “The wall of sound hit me so hard. I can still remember it. It was the same noise that I felt in the last 10 minutes of the Grand Final.”


    “Even today I can’t even describe it. At around the time of the Tom Boyd goal, Gil McLachlan said, “Are you ready to go down onto the field?”

    “I was down there in the race and I have rarely heard a noise like it.

    “I had such a personal investment in Tom. I feel like it’s OK to say it. I made that decision (to recruit him from GWS on a massive deal). It was clearly a time of real drama for the club and a turning point and he was unproven and we had only had the most fleeting of meetings (before trading for him) and he had struggled to get his form and had been through some issues, including that year.

    “Since then he and I have maintained a really good friendship but for me the fact we were there at all was still bewildering to me and truthfully the inner Bulldog in me, the west Footscray boy, I just hoped we didn’t embarrass ourselves.

    “There was a feeling of dread when they kicked the first goal. Toby McLean kicked a goal with a few seconds to go at halftime and it kept us within a few points. The sense we might be humiliated was gone.

    “It was so surreal and then my friend Tom starts taking these marks in the third quarter and the moment in that last quarter… there is no other player who symbolises the grit and spirit of Footscray than Dale Morris. He brought down Lance Franklin in that tackle and then Tom kicks the goal. You can’t write that stuff.”


    Gordon dined with Smorgon and their wives on Thursday night as they reminisced about their famous embrace in the rooms after the Bulldogs defeated GWS in the epic 2016 preliminary final.

    Smorgon took over from Gordon in 1996 then handed the reins of the club back to him in 2012, with early battles soon replaced by a firm friendship.

    “When he led the fightback he literally saved the club,” Smorgon said.

    “One of the prime functions of a leader is to keep hope alive. Then when he took over from me his dream was to create more success on and off the field and the premiership is the testament to that.

    “I think no doubt one day he will officially be a Legend of the Western Bulldogs football club. That would be highly appropriate as the first administrator.

    “As the Bulldogs, we struggled for survival. It wasn’t just 1989, it extended into the 1990s and 2000s. Every time you picked up the newspaper there were too many clubs in Melbourne. How can 10 survive? There were AFL commissioners who thought the same things. Some of the interstate commissioners wanted to see two or three clubs (go).

    “There were tough times. He was pilloried from pillar to post (as Ryan Griffen walked and Brendan McCartney was sacked). How can you sack all those people?

    “But he didn’t take a backward step, he backed the judgement of his team and himself and look what happened.”

    Like Smorgon before him, Gordon’s countless hours did not include the significant funds he donated to the club.

    “If you don’t lead in that area, nothing much would happen,” says Smorgon of Gordon’s largess.

    “Peter has put his hand in his pocket but also his heart and soul in, too. He wears his heart on his sleeve and puts his hand into his pocket.”


    When Gillon McLachlan needed advisors in the AFL’s time of crisis, it was Gordon he called on along with Jeff Kennett and Eddie McGuire, to form his “coronavirus cabinet”.

    “He certainly prosecutes his position hard,” laughed AFL chief executive McLachlan on Friday.

    “We have been on different sides of debates, but I have learnt a lot from him. He has been a great help, particularly with that cabinet. I don’t think anyone could ever describe Peter as a yes man.

    “He has done an extraordinary job at the club. Leadership is about the scoreboard and his scoreboard is incredible.

    “He has been a huge contributor to the AFL for many years. Both as a president of the Bulldogs, but equally as a leader in the industry. He leaves his second stint as president of the Bulldogs as one of the most significant figures in the history of that club.

    “He took over with double-digits in debt (over $10 million) and he leaves with significant cash reserves and an unbelievable community facility and a premiership. His period is one of the most successful tenures in AFL history.”


    Gordon admits he believed everything he had fought to achieve — the new $58 million Whitten Oval redevelopment, the eradication of debt — might have been for nothing when COVID hit.

    “There are things we had worked on for years. We had moments in April and May where we even thought, can we even afford to go on with the redevelopment in the COVID era?

    “It meant something to get out of poker machines and I am proud we achieved it, but I will confess bluntly I had sleepless nights where I thought, ‘Is it responsible to get out of it now when we might need that revenue in coming years?’.

    “Every part of the industry was confronted with something we have never seen before.

    “The darkest moment, and I hope he won’t mind me saying this, was that there had been real agitation around the war cabinet and amongst the presidents about whether we should go on with the season. The first game was Richmond-Carlton and there had been a lot of debate about a lot of things and my background is as a union lawyer doing health and safety-type work.

    “I was watching that game and seeing players shaking hands, hugging each other, sharing water bottles and I was so angry that by halftime I called Richard Goyder and said, ‘This can’t go on’.

    “If these are the standards we are going to apply we are going to send a message to the Australian community that is going to cost lives. If we can’t do better than this we have all got a responsibility to close it down. He agreed and he and Gil acted decisively.

    “The Pies and Bulldogs played the next night and everyone learned from that experience, but I remember being quite distraught in my study at halftime thinking, ‘What kind of message are we sending?’.

    “I felt really bad we had done the wrong thing. In a year of dark moments, that was the most personally upset as I was.”


    Peter Gordon’s decision to step down after a trio of towering achievements as the Bulldogs president will pave the way for the second female president in AFL history.

    The Bulldogs boss returned after his first stint helping save the club from an aborted 1989 merger with Fitzroy to help deliver the historic 2016 premiership.

    Then a club that had for so long teetered on the brink of financial oblivion was able to reduce a potential $10 million loss this year and emerge with a $1.8 million profit despite COVID.

    The Herald Sun revealed exclusively on Thursday that Gordon had decided it was the perfect time to step away, with vice-president Kylie Watson-Wheeler his certain replacement.

    Footscray-born and the senior vice president and managing director of Disney Australia, she is expected to be unanimously elected by the club’s members at December 21’s annual general meeting.

    Watson-Wheeler will join Richmond’s Peggy O’Neal, who has two more years left in her last term after helping the Tigers win three premierships following her election as president in 2015.

    Wheeler-Watson is Melbourne-based with two children, and after going to Dogs games in her childhood she attended a 1989 campaign rally.

    “In 1989, when the Bulldogs almost ceased to exist due to financial collapse, there was a Save the Bulldogs rally held at Whitten Oval, run by a young lawyer named Peter Gordon. I was in Year 12 and asked my dad if I could go,” she said recently.

    “He said, ‘No, you’re in study week!’. I promised I would take my homework with me. I sat on the gravel behind the goals at the rally, where Peter was hosting.”

    After four seasons as the club’s vice-president she will be seamlessly elevated into the presidency.

    Campaigning lawyer Gordon will depart with a long list of achievements after rejoining the club in his second stint as president.

    The club wiped its debt, won AFL, AFLW and VFL premierships, sold off its poker machines in the Edgewater project, and moved AFL games to Ballarat.

    He told members in a letter on Thursday night that it was the right time to move despite having another year on his presidential term.

    Gordon had admitted on Thursday the club had feared it might lose as much as $10 million given the COVID catastrophe, wiping out years of prudent financial decisions.

    But instead it declared a $1.8 million profit after having to stand down 70 staff immediately and then navigating its way through the 2020 season.

    “I did say in May this year that I might consider delaying my departure for another year because of the COVID crisis. But I have decided to leave now,” he said.

    “I have full confidence in our vice-president Kylie Watson-Wheeler, our board, our CEO Ameet Bains and our senior management to take the club forward.

    “Next, the club has in 2020 completed a tough but responsible re-structure, complied with its TPP and soft cap reduction obligations and posted a substantial profit (its seventh consecutive annual profit and its fifth consecutive year of total profits over $1,000,000.)

    “We have in recent months worked hard to put the building blocks in place for continued profitability in 2021, providing our members continue to support the club.

    The club has completed its exit from the gaming industry.

    The club has substantial cash reserves, far and away the greatest in its history.”

    “In all, I believe that the Western Bulldogs Football Club is in a strong position, and it’s a good time for me to move on and for the club to move on too.”

  2. Thanks GVGjr, HOSE B ROMERO, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, jeemak thanked for this post
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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    north-west willy
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    Re: Outgoing Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon reveals true story behind Tom Boyd trade

    Well played Peter.
    With our next President, Kylie Wheeler-Watson, also born in Footscray, it looks like a precedent has been set.

    By the way, wasn't Clive Palmer born in Footscray hospital?

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Wherever the dogs are playing
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    Re: Outgoing Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon reveals true story behind Tom Boyd trade

    Quote Originally Posted by HOSE B ROMERO View Post
    By the way, wasn't Clive Palmer born in Footscray hospital?
    Yes there are morons also born in Footscray
    Established 1877
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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  6. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    Re: Outgoing Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon reveals true story behind Tom Boyd trade

    Great work by a special man. Its not often you get an Administrator in the game who deserves a memorial along side great players, but in the case of PG it would be well deserved. The club has been blessed in the last 30 years to have 2 truly great Presidents. Thanks PG

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