By Andrew Webster & Adrian Proszenko
May 4, 2008 - The Sun-Herald
BULLDOGS superstar Sonny Bill Williams wants his club to abandon their new-found home at ANZ Stadium and return to Belmore. And he has the backing of the majority of NRL players, who voted overwhelmingly against clubs taking their home games to Homebush.
"I don't think it's a good atmosphere," Williams said. "Myself, personally, I'd love to be back at Belmore and make that our home ground."
The comments are sure to rankle management at the Bulldogs, who relocated from Belmore Sports Ground in the club's heartland this year. The Doggies have played all their home games at Homebush for the past three years but Williams was adamant it has forfeited their home advantage.
"If you go to Brookvale or you go down to Melbourne, they have that. Out at Homebush, the simple fact is we don't.
"Unless there are 40,000 people there - which doesn't happen every week - the atmosphere is not that good." Other players polled by The Sun-Herald echoed Williams's sentiments.
"My own club plays there and it's like being on the moon," said one of the respondents. "It's our own home games but it never feels like it."
Another senior player added: "No team should ever play there. The fans don't like it and neither do the players.
"The players enjoy going to the traditional grounds like Leichhardt or Campbelltown." Another player nominated Homebush as the hardest ground to win at, even though it is officially his club's home ground.
Of the 100 players polled, only 12 backed the trend for clubs to shift home games to ANZ Stadium. However, the increasing financial pressure on NRL clubs, due mainly to the increased poker machine taxes on league clubs, is likely to force more of them to make the controversial move.