Footscray has won one grand final, which no-one under 70 remembers.
It's impossible to think of Footscray (or the Western Bulldogs as they are now known) as having ever been a more successful club than Hawthorn. However, the situation was very different early in the 1960s according to one writer:
... they must be classed as the most successful of the three babes of the League - Footscray, Hawthorn and North Melbourne - since they entered the League in 1925. ... their record is nowhere near as dismal as North and Hawthorn's - and St Kilda for that matter, even though they've been in the League much longer.Lou Richards made the claim in his book Boots and All published in 1963 on the strength of Footscray's 1954 flag and its near-miss in its 1961 grand final loss to Hawthorn, the latter team's first premiership. But Richards saw Hawthorn's flag as something of a fluke, in a chapter entitled 'Cinderella's Hawks':
As the Hawthorn Town Hall clock struck midnight on Sunday, December 31st, 1961, the greatest Cinderella story in League football history came to an end. The toasts finished and the champagne was gone, the effervescent bubble of premiership success went flat and Cinderella had to return to her rags. ... with the football world at their feet the Hawks suffered an inexplicable slide back down the ladder in 1962 and they cascaded to their far-too-familiar role as a member of the bottom four.Richards saw Hawthorn as a shooting star, while Whitten's Footscray was on the rise.
It didn't turn out that way.
But there are still a few old Footscray fans around who, this Saturday afternoon, hoping for a reversal of fortune, will relive the past.
They just don't know whether it will be 1954 or 1961.
Boots and All by Lou Richards. Stanley Paul & Co Ltd, Melbourne 1963
From Kitchen Hand's library of obscure Australian sporting history.