AFL North West: Gunnedah stalwart John Woolaston to make first grand final appearance

CLUB LEGEND: John Woolaston has been through all the highs and lows with the Gunnedah Bulldogs over the past 15 years. Photo: Vanessa Hohnke
CLUB LEGEND: John Woolaston has been through all the highs and lows with the Gunnedah Bulldogs over the past 15 years. Photo: Vanessa Hohnke

AFTER 160 games spread over 15 years, Gunnedah stalwart John Woolaston will finally know what it’s like to play in a grand final for the Bulldogs first grade side.

“I’m over the moon to be playing in a grand final but to play at home is going to make it all the more special,” Woolaston said.

“There’s probably a bit more pressure to perform [at home] but we’ll just go out and play how we play and hopefully we give it a good shake.”

The high of a home grand final comes after plenty of lows over the years.

Wooden spoons, forfeits, low numbers – Woolaston has been there for all of it.

“We’ve had a few wooden spoons, there’s been a couple years when we looked like pulling out of the competition,” he said.

The worst slump of all fell not that long ago in the grand scheme of things.

“In 2013 and 2014 – they were some of those years where we did forfeit a couple of games,” Woolaston said of the tough times.

However, through the tough times, the Dogs “stuck with it”.

“You struggle to find the motivation to keep going with it but that’s when you have to knuckle down and keep going,” Woolaston said.

Those horror years have quickly turned into two of the club’s most successful seasons in recent history.

The Bulldogs made it to the preliminary final in 2016 before being the first team into this year’s decider.

Woolaston said the form of the past two years all started from the top.

“Big credit goes to the coach Greg Piggott,” he said.

“He’s done an awesome job with the boys and we’ve had some good talent come through as well.

“It’s a great bunch of blokes to play alongside and I can’t wait to play in the grand final with the boys.”

At 38 years of age, Woolaston is no spring chicken – or as he puts it, “getting a bit long in the tooth”.

He holds the games record for the club and there’s been no secret to sticking around this long – just a desire to play.

“I just like playing,” he said.

“I’m still there getting around. I just can’t get the ball off the ground like I used to and get off the ground as much as I once did.”

The Bulldogs will meet the Nomads in the big dance this Saturday at Wolseley Oval.