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Fans in shock as Dogs run away from home: Heritage is history

By Justin Vallejo

February 15, 2008 - The Daily Telegraph

BELMORE Oval, the once-proud heart of the Canterbury Bulldogs, was home to some of the most epic battles in rugby league.

A place where giants of the '70s and '80s bled for the game, their fans, and a patch of dirt wedged between the railway line and Leylands Pde.

As the club faces one of its biggest off-field upheavals - with former teammates warring over control of the Bulldogs - the main stage of some of its greatest moments is changing forever.

The dilapidated grandstands and fading memories will make way for a lawn bowls green and aquatic centre after the NRL club terminated its lease and cut all ties to their heritage - effective from February 29.

Bulldogs legends call it a sad day. A day when the soul of the club was dumped like an unwanted puppy. For Geoff "Wild Man" Robinson it was a reflection of the direction the game has gone in search of sponsorship.

"Every game I played there was a special memory, running out there and having 20,000 people yelling out "Go Wild Man," he said. "You can't replace those memories and if they shut down Belmore without leaving some sort of tradition there I'll be devastated."

The Bulldogs stopped playing at Belmore in 1998 but kept it as their home base for training and offices. But it fell into disrepair and will return to the ownership of Canterbury City Council once the club's lease runs out at the end of the month.

A report tabled at last night's council meeting outlined a number of possible long-term uses for the site, including the indoor sports and leisure centre and an outdoor lawn bowls green. Council will also consider an open space park and playground, a sports field, an oval, a town green and parking.

Belmore locals like Lacey Eisenstein were shocked yesterday to hear the field were they watched heroes play and train could become a pool. "The saddest part is my son Anwar will never get to see any of that," she said.

Canterbury Mayor Rob Furolo said the time come had to turn the stadium into something that would be of benefit to the community.

"The real loss is the fact that the Bulldogs have chosen not to have Belmore home ground games and I think the community is poorer for that," he said.

Not everyone has given up. Back to Belmore lobby group president Luke Brailey is confident their candidates for the club board on Sunday's annual general meeting will win and overturn the decision.

Former Bulldogs chief executive Steve Mortimer, however, said their new home ground at Sydney Olympic Park was the future. "Belmore holds many wonderful memories but I think it's just evolution," he said.

 


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