David Smorgon
David Smorgon

After 17 years in charge, Western Bulldogs president David Smorgon has walked away with a year to run on his final term and agreed to hand power to former club president Peter Gordon.

Smorgon's tenure saw a dramatic shift in culture at the club with a name change from Footscray to the Western Bulldogs a major stepping stone in the club's infiltration in Melbourne's western suburbs.

A successful lawyer, Gordon took the Bulldogs presidency in 1989 as an untrained businessman and won the fight against a proposed merger with Fitzroy.

In a poetic turn, Gordon and his board stood aside in 1996 and will now take back the reins from Smorgon, who was swayed to end his term early by an impressive succession report tabled at a Bulldogs board meeting on Tuesday.

Gordon paid tribute to Smorgon for his 'extraordinary' work and pledged to continue the club's bold push into the western Melbourne market.

"I would like to give a big thank you to David for his extraordinary work," Gordon said.

"I've got big shoes to fill. There has grown up a sense of 'this would have happened anyway'.

"It wouldn't have happened anyway without the passion, the commitment and the intelligence and intuition that David has.

"I think the fact that I understand that and in fact that I have sat in that seat before for seven years gives me a bit of an edge in the future, but time will tell."

One of Gordon's principal tasks will be to continue the Bulldogs' growth in western Melbourne.

"We represent in importance and in scope and in coverage to the western region of Melbourne all of the importance that the Giants hold for Western Sydney," he said.

"Our mission is to grow our identification with the western region and we need to work harder to do it.

Gordon said he had little faith the Bulldogs would survive after his first tenure ended in 1996 but denied earlier comments were he reportedly said he would only return if the club was in crisis.

"I think the club has a fine future. It's in a much better position than it was in in 1996 and I want to be a part of that and I want to make my contribution to it.

"For about the first 10 years after I'd left the job, I'd have said there's not a snowball's chance in hell.

"I don't think the Bulldogs are in crisis, I don't think they're in the position they were in 1989 or 1996.

"I think they have untrammelled and unprecedented opportunities to do something really special."

The Bulldogs designated a sub-committee, not including Smorgon, to identify his successor, listing Gordon and director Susan Alberti as the standout candidates.

The board unanimously back the committee's decision to appoint the Gordon ahead Alberti, former player Rick Kennedy and businessman Alan Johnston, who were also interviewed for the job.

Alberti was named vice-president and will join forces with Gordon when Smorgon officially stands down at the club's annual general meeting on December 20.

Smorgon said the meticulous Gordon had 'ticked off' every criterion in the hand over, including a joint visit to discuss the matter with the AFL on Monday.

"We are poised to move on to bigger and better things," Smorgon said after Gordon dubbed him the 'finest president the club has had'.

"The future of the Western Bulldogs is going to be brighter now with the man on my left here Peter Gordon.

"Peter Gordon in a man with a track record of success in whatever he gets involved with."

Gordon did not rule out a return to the club on the board for agitator Paul Dimattina despite the former player having a number of well-documented run-ins with Smorgon.

"I've had a couple of chats to Dima over the last week, we've agreed that we will catch up and I'm sure that we will over the next month.

"I approach all these things with an open mind. All Bulldogs are welcome back to the kennel... I don't have a closed door."

Dimattina, 37, announced in September he would not be challenging Smorgon's presidency but has put his name up for a place on the board.

Smorgon lambasted Dimattina in 2011 and challenged him to 'put up or shut up' and reiterated his thoughts on a potential spot on the board for the ex-midfielder saying: "I'll leave that to Peter, I think you know my answer."


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