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Dogs' spiritual roam: The long wait is over as first grade action returns to Belmore

By Christian Nicolussi

26 June 2015 - The Daily Telegraph

THE old girl has scrubbed up all right.

For the first time in 17 years, Belmore Oval will host a game of first-grade rugby league -- and with a little luck, Canterbury will play at least one game at their "spiritual home" every season moving forward.

Rather than seeing the all-too-familiar rows of empty seats at giant stadiums, Monday night football fans will tune into Fox Sports and see a packed house at Belmore when the Dogs host Melbourne.

Canterbury officials are banking on a crowd of around 15,000, which is "5000 to 6000 more" than what they would have had at ANZ Stadium against the Storm on a Monday.

The Daily Telegraph spotted plenty of workers yesterday marking out the ground, running electrical cable, and tidying up the corporate boxes.

Trains passed every few minutes at the eastern end of the ground, while wooden seats were being painted at the western end.

The visitors' sheds featured an old-school whiteboard Storm coach Craig Bellamy might be tempted to use.

Fox Sports, who first floated the Monday idea to Canterbury boss Raelene Castle late last year, will move their main camera on the halfway line closer to the action so vertical beams that hold up the main roof won't appear on the vision.

Castle said Fox Sports chief executive Patrick Delany suggested late last year Belmore host a Monday night game. The club had already intended to celebrate their 80th anniversary with a Sunday afternoon game in round 20 at the venue against Cronulla.

"We're delivering the dream back for our generations of supporters whose greatest Bulldogs rugby league memories are at Belmore ," Castle told The Daily Telegraph.

"This is a test run for us this year, to see how we find it, and how the fans enjoy it. If they say, 'yes, this is what we want', we'll look to continue this as a regular part of our fixtures.

"Monday night certainly isn't the most financially beneficial night, but we think we'll have 5000 to 6000 more fans at Belmore on a Monday than we would have at ANZ Stadium playing the Storm.

"It's a fantastic win win win. It's a win for the broadcaster because Patrick Delany will have a full stadium. It's a win for the Bulldogs because we'll sell more tickets. And a win for the players because they get to play in front of a packed crowd on a Monday night." Fox are happy to push for more Monday games at smaller, suburban venues such as Leichhardt, Brookvale and Kogarah, rather than run the risk of empty venues like Allianz Stadium and ANZ Stadium.

A small portion of Canterbury supporters weren't on their best behaviour on Good Friday, and security measures have been put in place to make sure they don't play up in their own backyard.

"If we're to continue to have successful games at Belmore , we need to make sure everyone feels safe," Castle said. "Security has been an important part of building this event plan, and we're certain we've got that plan in place where everyone can come along and have a great family evening." Tim Browne and Sam Perrett were keen on the return to Belmore and the intimate feeling only suburban grounds could provide.



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