How a lolly for a mouth guard saved Dog’s career

Sleeping in his mother’s car and using a lolly as a mouthguard were just some of the things Western Bulldogs midfielder Dominic Bedendo did to kickstart his AFL career.

Years later, after being selected with pick number 55 in the 2020 AFL Draft, the 21-year-old has his mum to thank for helping him fight the odds and make it to the big time.

Now, with three years on an AFL list under his belt after his 2021 debut, Bedendo opened up on the struggles he and his mother faced to get there.

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“It’s really helped me become the person I am today,” Bedendo told 9News Melbourne.

“I don’t know where I’d be without her (mum), she’s such an amazing woman. So strong and independent.”

With no money in the midst of a housing crisis at the age of 15, he and his mum were forced to live in their car on the side of the road as he navigated his hopeful career in the AFL.

“That’s when we were living on the side of the road. It was a tough time for us,” Bedendo said.

During the toughest period of the youngster’s life, the Sandringham Dragons gave him a call and invited him down to train with the squad.

Bedendo had his big break, but was faced with a problem not many would ever have to endure to play football.

“At that stage, we couldn’t afford a mouth guard, so me and mum (came) up with a bright idea to use a redskin as a mouthguard,” he said.

“Ended up going out there (for the Dragons) and got about five minutes in and I had to eat it.”

Despite the set back, Bedendo still remembers his success on field that day.

“I think I kicked seven or eight (goals),” he laughed.

Despite his setbacks, the midfielder never let it cloud his hopes of some day playing AFL, hiding his life living in a car, then caravan, from his footy mates and coaches.

“We’d park around the corner of the school, then go to the Sandy (Sandringham) Dragons trainings. I don’t think many people know that,” he said.

“Sometimes I wouldn’t have a lift to training. Sometimes I’d run to and from training. I felt like I always got a step above my teammates.”

His extra efforts due to his situation have helped Bedendo stay that “step above” his Bulldogs teammates in 2023, after he won the club’s 2km time trial during November.

And after an injury-riddled 2022 season, Bedendo is ready to build on his two senior games.

“I just want it more now. You put in the work and you just love to see the rewards,” Bedendo said.

As for his biggest supporter, of course she’ll be along for the next part of her son’s ride.

“When I play a few games next year, you’ll be able to hear her,” he said.

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