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Top Dog: Dimattina to challenge for Bulldogs presidency


Jon Pierik

PAUL Dimattina is ready to challenge David Smorgon for the presidency of the Western Bulldogs and wants to take power within weeks as part of a major reshuffle of the board.

As another board battle brews, former president Peter Gordon last night told The Age he was more open to returning to the top post — but only if asked by Smorgon.

The Bulldogs believe that Dimattina, a former player and wealthy restaurateur, wants the top job when Smorgon voluntarily stands aside after the 2013 season, but Dimattina wants to fast-track this process.

Dimattina, Gordon and prominent criminal defence lawyer Rob Stary have been interviewed in recent weeks by a Bulldogs sub-committee comprising vice-president Ian Veal and fellow board members Gaye Hamilton and Geoff Walsh to take charge late next year when what would be a 17-year reign by Smorgon ends.

But Dimattina, 37, has told friends in recent days change must be made immediately and he intends to phone Smorgon, one of the AFL's most respected administrators, within days to instigate a "bloodless" coup.

Veal yesterday handed an interim report to the board for consideration but interviews are ongoing. "It's fair to say there will be some movement sooner rather than later," the Dimattina camp said last night. "The place is at a very low ebb and the members are crying out for change to bring energy and enthusiasm back to the place."

A defiant Smorgon last night said he was not concerned about Dimattina's intentions.

"Good on him — been there and done that," he said.

Dimattina, who played 131 games between 1995 and 2003, last year called for change but Smorgon said the time was not right for him to stand down.

Dimattina then adhered to a request by Dogs chief executive Simon Garlick to stop his agitation.

"I think that former player [Dimattina] is one of the ones that has been spoken to by the nominations committee," Smorgon said.

"He is entitled to his views, like a lot of other people have been entitled to their views. I have always said my successor is not for me to determine, it's for the board to determine."

The Bulldogs finished 15th this season, with just five wins under rookie senior coach Brendan McCartney and were criticised for having a modest membership of 30,007.

The Bulldogs cited tough economic conditions and a rebuilding phase for their low attendances.

It's understood another board member, Sue Alberti, has been interviewed by the sub-committee. Walsh is also interested in the top role.

Gordon had been president from late 1989, when the financially stricken Bulldogs fought off a merger with Fitzroy, to 1996 when Smorgon took over. He confirmed that the sub-committee had sought his opinion as part of a major club review but said he would only replace Smorgon on two conditions. "One was if it was in the circumstance of '89 and the other was if David asked me to do it. I am not saying I would do it, but I would consider doing it," he said.

Gordon, formerly of Slater and Gordon lawyers, but now with Gordon and Legal, praised Smorgon's contribution and insisted he be allowed to stand down of his own volition.

Stary, who was defence lawyer for gangland figure Carl Williams, confirmed that he had also been interviewed by the Dogs but said he did not have the time to be president.

But he is keen to join the board and said change is needed to reinvigorate a club that has been unable to sell itself.

"I have been approached informally. I am keen to get on the board, but I don't have the time to be president," Stary said. "Dimattina would be good because he has support at the grass-roots level."

He also said Gordon would be a fine president.

If he was to win power, it's believed Dimattina would ensure the Bulldogs fielded a stand-alone VFL team in 2014 and would name this club, Footscray, as the Bulldogs had been known until 1997.

The Bulldogs' current VFL affiliate is Williamstown.

It is understood Dimattina has a group of businessmen backing him, most of whom would require a seat on the board. But this group does not include former players. Those close to Dimattina maintain he is ready to handle any challenge Smorgon throws at him and he has the capital to invest in the club, an area Smorgon challenged him on last year.

The Dimattina camp had originally wanted Chris Grant, who is currently football director, to become president but the former champion forward does not have the time.

41 comments so far

  • I hope this isn't just another Merry-go-round with Dimma. The club is in a building phase due to some questionable drafting over the recent past (not last year) along with the loss of young key players to other clubs. Lets hope there is a bigger picture mentality in play than just Egos wanting to be heard.

    Date and time
    September 19, 2012, 9:25PM
    • The Bulldogs desperately need new blood running the show. Paul Dimattina would be ideal. Young yet experienced, knows his football, understands business and seems a very decent bloke too.

      Frank Connolly
      Date and time
      September 19, 2012, 9:31PM
      • If anyone is going to replace Smorgo it should be Dimma. Young, enthusiastic, successful and a strong public profile. Respected by all members. It definitely is time for a facelift and I only hope this does succeed.

        Date and time
        September 19, 2012, 9:44PM
        • Never mind naming a VFL club Footscray, about calling the AFL club its proper name of Footscray, like it should be? "Western" Bulldogs is soulless marketing rubbish. Do not be ashamed of your roots, embrace them!

          Date and time
          September 19, 2012, 9:54PM
          • I think its hard to be parochial when your team represents a compass reading. I feel the same for Greater Western sydney , It's only that GWS works so well as an acronym , sounding like and used like a 3 syllable word , otherwise I'm not a fan of zone names that have no meaning for suburb , city , state , province or national relevance other than the game.

            Date and time
            September 19, 2012, 10:20PM
          • Should be Footscay AFL club

            Date and time
            September 19, 2012, 11:30PM
          • FOOTSCRAY FOOTSCRAY FOOTSCRAY!! For cryin' out loud, I might even move back to Aus it that happened. Gotta be Footscray. There is no such place as "Western".

            Dr Strangelove
            Date and time
            September 20, 2012, 1:51AM
          • Most die hards I know still call them Footscray, and it was and still is North Melbourne. I think the name changes were meant to be preludes to relocation. Hopefully Demetriou changes his name to what he wants to be called, Demi God, and then he can relocate.

            Date and time
            September 20, 2012, 8:15AM
          • For heavens sake, get a grip! Do you think West Coast have the same ill-feeling with their name. Do you really think it makes a difference? Rather than worry about the things that matter, like your playing list, you're more worried about the name. Move on.

            Date and time
            September 20, 2012, 10:58AM
          • Sorry but as much as I loved Footscray, and am proud to actually live in West Footscray about two blocks from the Whitten Oval, renaming to the Western Bulldogs is by far the best thing the club has done in decades. Footscray as a suburb is tiny compared to the growth potential of the entire western suburbs. Tradition is fine as long as it doesn't impede progress. Loved Footscray. Love Western Bulldogs even more.

            Born A Bulldog
            West Footscray
            Date and time
            September 20, 2012, 1:52PM

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