Top Dog: Dimattina to challenge for Bulldogs presidency

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.

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