ALF North West: Bulldogs celebrate 40 glorious years

Gunnedah and District AFC mark their 40th anniversary in 2017, and will commemorate the milestone with a reunion next month to honour the many players, officials and supporters who have been involved with the club since the Bulldogs’ induction into AFL in the North West region.

CHAMPIONS: Gunnedah's undefeated 1986 premiership side blazed one of the most cherished paths in sports.

CHAMPIONS: Gunnedah's undefeated 1986 premiership side blazed one of the most cherished paths in sports.

The celebration on June 10 will include a function at The Gunnedah Services and Bowling Club. At the event, the best 22 players to have pulled on the red, white and blue will be named.

Gunnedah-born and former junior Bulldog James Knight, who is now a respected ABC journalist, has been appointed master of ceremonies for the evening.

Earlier that day, the current Bulldogs squad will take on the Moree Suns in round nine of the Greater Bank North West AFL competition and wear special 40th anniversary jumpers.

The names of the 22 players selected in the club’s best all-time team will be printed on the jumpers, which will be up for auction that evening.

Tasked with selecting the squad were club legends Brian Lenton, John Woolostan and David Chapman, all former presidents of the club whose combined Bulldogs history covers the four decades.

Much deliberation took place during the process, but of the final 22, nine started out for the club as local juniors.

Names whispered to feature include current Sydney Swans ruckman and AFL grand finalist from last season Sam Naismith, and Sydney first grade representatives Nathan Lenton and Scott Hardy.

Club legend Brian Lenton, in consultation with Tom Lyle and Bill and Gary Jones, founded the club in 1977. The following 40 years has seen the Bulldogs enjoy premiership success on five occasions.

In just their second season, under the guidance of captain-coach Lenton, the Bulldogs registered their first flag, and Lenton was the catalyst as he led the club in back-to-back premiership glory.

Recognised as the club’s premier player, Lenton on multiple occasions kicked 100 goals in a season, and in one game registered a staggering club record of 21 goals.

However, after a glorious entry into the competition, it wouldn’t be until 1986 that the Bulldogs tasted their next premiership success.

Lenton had taken a break from coaching in the early 1980s, but when he was back at the helm in 1986, the club repeated the feats of 1978 and 1979 with back-to-back flags.

The 1986 premiership side was particularly impressive, with the side going through the season undefeated, which culminated in a 40-point thrashing of Moree in the grand final.

One of the notable figures of the 1987 success was former Queensland rugby league five-eighth Terry Donnelly, who had returned home after he had a distinguished league career.

He later went on to coach multiple local league sides to premierships.

The Bulldogs’ last premiership triumph was in 1991, with Lenton back as coach.