“Our aim clearly would be to improve on last year and last year we played finals.”
The club takes heart from the fact no senior players were lost and the additions they made complement their precociously talented midfield.
That bullishness is not limited to their on-field prospects but beyond with the club announcing this week they had recorded their sixth consecutive profit just one week after revealing they had sold their gaming assets, although they will continue to draw rent on the Peninsula Club in Dromana.
Bains said selling the gaming assets was more important to the club than the revenue they provided because it ensured all the club’s activities were aligned to the community programs they run in the west through their Community Foundation, focusing on diversity, youth leadership, men’s and women’s health and social inclusion.
“We could not have done this three or four years ago,” Bains said.
Now the club is looking to build beyond that, aiming to reach 50,000 members for the first time and continuing their ambitious development of Whitten Oval, which will turn it into a community and sporting hub for the western region.
Convincing governments to contribute to such proposals is increasingly competitive but the Bulldogs are confident their community programs stack up positively in comparison to other AFL clubs.
Bains said the club has traditionally underplayed their work in the community but the sense of what is possible has shifted in recent years since the club added an AFL and AFLW premiership to the trophy cabinet.
Motioning with his hand, Bains makes the point that the Western Bulldogs are elevating their goals in relation to what is possible now that the club is stable and competitive.
“We need to start thinking of ourselves as [up] here, not here, so when we are thinking about what we do next we are actually thinking about up here and that is an ongoing challenge,” Bains said.
The Bulldogs also have one of the most highly rated prospects in next year’s draft Jamarra Ugle-Hagan tied to their club via their Next Generation Academy and have retained their first-round pick for next season.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.