IF YOU'RE after a man that personifies the Bathurst Bulldogs through and through, then you can go no further than Dean Oxley.
Oxley, who coached Bulldogs to another Blowes Cup first grade title this year, has given 36 years of service to the club, whether that be as a player, a coach or administrator.
Hundreds of people that have come through the Bulldogs have been impacted by Oxley's work and service, which has influenced the club's strong culture.
And now his dedication and service has been honoured.
At the Bulldogs' annual general meeting on Friday, November 17, Oxley was unveiled as the club's newest life member.
Oxley, the current Bulldogs vice president, said he was a bit emotional when his honour was announced.
"You don't do it for the awards, but it is nice to be recognised," he said.
"It's pretty special. It's a bit of a big family out there at the Bulldogs."
Oxley first landed at the Bulldogs in 1987 as a player, through life member and late club stalwart Sandy Robinson.
"I was going to university at what was Mitchell College at the time," he said.
"I was playing for them but Sandy said to me, 'Have you thought about coming to Bulldogs?'
"In '87 I left uni and came over to the Bulldogs, where I started getting involved in a bit more of the professional side of the game, because it's always been a big, strong club."
Oxley would play rugby at the Bulldogs for the next 15 years, while he also coached the sport at St Stanislaus' College.
He was always busy as the head of the school's rugby program, which meant he was unable to commit to coaching at the Bulldogs.
But that all changed in 2013, when he left Stannies as a staff member, which freed up more time with the Bulldogs.
He started coaching first grade in 2018, where the Bulldogs lost to the Orange Emus in the grand final, before coming back to win it a year later.
Oxley stepped away from coaching first grade in 2020 and 2021, but returned in 2022 and 2023, where he secured back-to-back premierships.
"I've been fortunate to coach some good football teams and get some good results," he said.
"The 150th year is coming up for rugby in Bathurst, so it's pretty important to try and continue that trend for the sport in town."
And while he has enjoyed plenty of recent success as coach, Oxley remembers the 1994 premiership as a player as his most iconic moment.
"I believe that was a big breakthrough year for the club and there was a large group of guys that are still heavily involved with the club," he said.
"I think it's been a big part of the success moving forward, in my mind.
"We hadn't won since 1985, so that was a long period of time.
"We had made a lot of grand finals and had been undefeated throughout the round games, but then get to the semi-finals and we couldn't get across the line.
"So that breakthrough year in '94 meant a lot. We beat Dubbo in Dubbo and they were unbeatable. That's sport and that's why I love it, because it writes its own stories and they're normally pretty dramatic."
That 1994 premiership team included the likes of current Bulldogs president Phil Newton and committee members Col Kemp and Shane Cantrill.
Bulldogs would go on to lose the 1995 grand final, before bouncing back in 1996.
After that, Oxley took a bit of time away from the sport with his family, as the club went on to win in 1997 and 1998, before returning in the new century.
Oxley confirmed that he will stay on as coach of the Bulldogs first grade team in 2024, but indicated it would be his last year of coaching.
"I expect pretty high standards and that's something that can't continue," he said.
"The club will need a different voice and a different person to take it on. Whether that's Chris Plunkett and somebody else that's co-coaching.
"I'll definitely be coaching next year. It'll be a very important year for the club but it's also succession planning for the committee and coaching staff.
"We want to leave it in a good place."