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Underdogs dream on, hoping to hear a magic whisper

The hopes of the underdogs that always fly so high over the summer months were still floating as the season started, almost as if the warm air was keeping them there, high above the clouds.

St Kilda were on top, Gold Coast were winning games… And then the cold snap engulfed us and maybe, just maybe, brought with it the harsh winds of reality.

Round six went to the favourites or to those teams who enjoy a significant home-ground advantage. In just one week, the season felt like it shifted to something a little more predictable. All of a sudden, we were a long way from Iowa. Round six belonged to the realists, the dream crushers.

The Bulldogs, who had started with such a surge of momentum and emotion in the first two rounds all of a sudden look stilted and are staring down a date with Richmond on Saturday night, with the possibility of losing five in a row. It’s going to be a big night for the football club.

This week marks the 100-game milestone for Luke Beveridge as senior coach, but I don’t think Luke would even realise it. It wouldn’t be circled in his calendar, put it that way.

I’d love to be back inside the walls of the footy club this week. The cocktail of tension and opportunity often brings out the best in your leaders and I always found Luke to rise to these occasions.

His place in Bulldogs history is already assured, being just the club’s second premiership coach, but he still seems hungry to me.

My pessimism of ‘how would we go?’ was flipped on its head, when our coach kept whispering in our ear ‘how good could we be?’

Much has been made of that premiership year, so much already written, but it’s the early months of the previous year that my thoughts drift to when I think about my old coach.

At the time, we were a poor team coming off four losing seasons in a row and then we lost a handful of quality players, including our captain and the coach. A club in crisis, a laughing stock to some and, according to one highly respected media personality, ”jabronis” – a wrestling term for people who can’t win.

A lot of things happened over that summer. Many, many people brought the best version of themselves to help drag the club back into the light, but it was Luke more than anyone who lit the way.

I remember many nights, in my quiet moments of reflection, where I thought to myself, “How are we going to go this year?”

The season was still months away and I was already wrestling with my own faith. The rest of the world was telling me, and they were certain. The Bulldogs were no good. 

I couldn’t quite get a handle on Luke when he first arrived. He seemed almost aloof. Hard to blame him, I suppose; he was entering a football war zone. Emotionally, we were a bruised football club.

After years of losing, the players were like a pack of dogs that had been beaten too much. They spent most of their time just covering up, just like Springsteen said.

After observing the team and the club for a few weeks, Luke took charge and a whole new world of possibilities emerged. My pessimism of ”how would we go?” was flipped on its head, when our coach kept whispering in our ear ”how good could we be?”  It was essentially the same question, but it came from a very different place.

All of a sudden, we had a different kind of coach. Luke Beveridge is many things, but one thing that jumps out at you when you first meet him is his belief in himself. He’s not cocky, far from it, but his hand is steady in times of chaos.

It wasn’t just for the dreamers – the magnets and human battle ships of the plan remained – but they were closely linked to the spirit of the times. How good can we be?

Through a number of ways, he lifted our horizons and something magical happened. In a close win away from home, on a soggy SCG, we gathered in the rooms holding onto one another.

We waited for what our coach would say. It was then, that the man who believed in us when no one else did, told us with tears in his eyes that he was proud of us. I believe much of what followed really began when he uttered those words.

The wheel turns, of course, and this is a different Bulldogs team with different challenges. He’s not my coach any more, but sometimes, I still listen out, hoping to hear a whisper.

Western Bulldogs star

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