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Bulldogs head for old heartland

By Adrian Proszenko

13 March 2011 - The Sun-Herald

THE Bulldogs are going back to Belmore. The Rabbitohs have returned to Redfern, and now Canterbury will return to their spiritual home.

The Sun-Herald can reveal that the Dogs will again set up their training and administration base at Belmore in time for the 2012 season. The club hopes to play a "Back to Belmore " trial in future seasons, and chief executive Todd Greenberg left the door slightly ajar on the prospect of hosting the occasional NRL fixture down the track if further government funding is forthcoming. ANZ Stadium will remain the home ground.

The federal government has pledged $5 million and the state government $2.5 million towards phase one of the $8 million redevelopment.

As the artist's impressions show, the quaint suburban ground will be transformed into a state of the art facility - including altitude chambers, recovery centre, player lounges and lecture theatres - that will be the envy of other teams.

Future NSW Cup, Harold Matthews and SG Ball rep programs will be played at Belmore.

"We're hoping for the start of the 2012 pre-season, basically from November 1, that we will be back at Belmore in a training and administration sense," Greenberg said.

"We're greatly appreciative of the federal government funding and state government funding.

"That has enabled us to move our club back into our community, which has significant benefits on so many different levels when we can base ourselves back in the Belmore district."

Canterbury legend Terry Lamb, now a club ambassador, welcomed the impending move back to their traditional heartland.

"It's fantastic. We've been out of there for the past three years now, and it's just not the same," Lamb said. "Just walking on to the ground for training, there's a bit of spirit and great memories about it.

"We always called it home. It's got an aura about it. When the trains went past, they used to slow down when we're playing a game of football so they could watch a bit of the game."

Lamb, who once scored all 24 points in a match against Wests at the ground, said he hoped Belmore could one day host an NRL match.

"Wouldn't it be great? You look at who we could play there, and perhaps a team like Parramatta - we shared Belmore Oval at one stage in the '80s - or maybe Western Suburbs," he said.

"It would be very special if we did, but we'd have to do a lot of work, especially to the grandstand."

The Bulldogs were always tough to beat at Belmore Oval, enjoying a winning rate of 59.4 per cent at the ground. That figure was significantly higher during the 1980s, when the "Dogs of War" turned it into a fortress.

The club is on the brink of signing its 13,000th member and plans to boost that number to 20,000 by 2013, meaning Belmore 's capacity is likely to be too small for first-grade action.

However, Greenberg wouldn't rule out an NRL match at some stage. "That's something we'd be delighted to see happen," he said.

"There would need to be a second phase of government funding for us to upgrade the venue and the infrastructure around it.

"That's not in our short-term plans, but it would be nice to think that one day there could be an NRL game played there again."

The players at present endure a nomadic existence when it comes to training, dividing their time between venues including Wilson Park at Silverwater and the Athletic Centre at Homebush.

The new facility will be shared with Canterbury council, allowing the Sydney Olympic football team to host matches, as well as other community activities.

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