North Bendigo’s family ties

FOOTY FAMILY: North Bendigo stalwart Keith Robertson flanked by grandsons Ryan Alford, Sam Robertson, Rob Bennett and Shaun Kellow. Picture: DARREN HOWE

FOOTY FAMILY: North Bendigo stalwart Keith Robertson flanked by grandsons Ryan Alford, Sam Robertson, Rob Bennett and Shaun Kellow. Picture: DARREN HOWE

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NORTH Bendigo stalwart Keith Robertson will be a proud onlooker on Saturday as four of his grandsons strive to win the Bulldogs their first premiership for 38 years.

The Bulldogs will battle Leitchville-Gunbower in the Heathcote District Football League grand final at Huntly, with the North Bendigo side featuring a strong family connection.

Co-coach Rob Bennett and players Sam Robertson, Ryan Alford and Shaun Kellow are all cousins and grandsons of Keith, who last month was one of the 11 inaugural inductees into the Bulldogs’ Hall of Fame.

“I’m very proud of all of them and hope they all go well on Saturday,” Keith said this week.

Bennett and co-coach Neville Massina have led the Bulldogs into back-to-back grand finals in their two years at the helm.

“The club has really turned itself around over the past few years and everyone is doing a great job,” Keith said.

“With the coaching, Rob and Neville have both done fantastic jobs to get the club into a couple of grand finals.”

As for his three playing grandsons, there were no favourites from Keith when asked who has had the best season of the trio.

“They have all been good.”

Robertson first became involved with North Bendigo in 1969, and by 1977 the Bulldogs had won three Golden City Football League premierships – 1974, ’76 and ’77.

But there has been no silverware since 1977 for the Bulldogs, whose flag drought is now 38 years.

“It has been a long wait and for all the work that has been put in, they deserve to win it on Saturday,” Robertson said.

“It would make a lot of difference to North Bendigo and would really help the supporters. We’ve got a great bunch of supporters and what we now need is success to really make the club rise.”

Ryan Alford, Sam Robertson, Keith Robertson, Rob Bennett and Shaun Kellow.

Ryan Alford, Sam Robertson, Keith Robertson, Rob Bennett and Shaun Kellow.

Those words of his grandfather and the significance of what a long-awaited premiership would mean for the long-time supporters of North Bendigo mean plenty to Bennett – himself a long-time Bulldog.

“It’s probably not as big a build-up as what we had last year (loss to LBU), but we all know that if we do happen to get over the line on the weekend, there’s going to be a fair bit of excitement for everyone involved at the club,” Bennett said.

As for the opportunity that presents to potentially end the Bulldogs’ drought with three of his cousins, Bennett said: “I’m probably harder on the three of them than anyone else, but if it happens to go the right way on Saturday, it’s something we’ll be able to savour when we’re pop’s age and sitting around having a couple of beers.”

Since the 1977 Golden City Football League premiership coached by John Plim, the Bulldogs have lost five grand finals – 1980 and 1982 in the GCFL, and 1998, 2012 and 2014 in the HDFL.

Meanwhile, as well as the senior football, Keith will also have a keen interest in the A-grade netball when his grandaughter, Sophie Alford, who won the A-reserve league medal last Sunday, lines up for North Bendigo against Colbinabbin.

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