By Mick Roberts
15 February 2012 - The Torch
AFTER more than a decade, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs returned to where it all began nearly 80 years ago in a trial game against the Sydney Roosters on Sunday.
Despite going down to the Roosters 28-16, the Bulldogs' first NRL game of the 21st century at Belmore Sports Ground has been branded a huge success.
Played in front of a crowd of around 12,000, Back to Belmore president Luke Brailey said the venue's transformation from an ageing venue to a state-of-the-art sporting facility was now complete.
Back to Belmore was formed in 2005 to bring local sport back to where many consider is the Bulldogs' spiritual home, and resulted in a multimillion redevelopment of the ground.
"Sunday's match on the hallowed turf is the reaffirmation of that vision," he said.
Managed by Canterbury City Council, the development of Belmore created around 40 jobs during construction and involved building new training facilities, including a gym, as well as additional office space.
Bulldogs legend Steve "Turvey" Mortimer said his last game on Belmore was in 1976, and he wouldn't have missed Sunday for the world. He told the Torch there was a sense of nostalgia resonating around the ground.
"You know what stood out most to me ... It was the large number of families dressed in blue and white," he said. "There were babies and toddlers wearing Bulldog jerseys, along with their parents. There was a strong sense of family on the day, and that's where the future of rugby league lies."
Winger Steve Turner said leading the Dogs out for the second half was a privilege he would long remember.
"The obvious importance of the day ... it was something special to be able to lead the team out," Turner said.
"I remember watching games at Belmore on television when I was a kid. Like Leichhardt and Kogarah, Belmore's a special ground, and to see the grandstand packed was awesome."
Turner signed a one-year contract extension with the Dogs in 2011 after he joined the club from the Melbourne Storm prior to the start of the 2010 season.