By Adrian Proszenko
28 June 2015 - The Sun-Herald
Des Hasler doesn't have many happy memories of Belmore Oval from his playing days.
"It was always a tough game," Hasler recalled. "One that you'd always know was going to be a grind. One that, more often than not, you knew Terry Lamb would be man of the match."
Hasler's more recent interactions at the grand old ground, as coach of Canterbury, are more pleasant. The Bulldogs have again made Belmore their home base for training purposes, exposing them to their fanatical fans on a daily basis. But on Monday, for the first time in 17 years, Belmore Oval will host a first-grade fixture.
Hasler said the clash with Melbourne would bring back memories for the older generation of supporters, while exposing younger ones to a unique experience. "The Canterbury club is celebrating its 80th year and there are not many traditional grounds like this," Hasler said.
"There's only really Brookvale, Leichhardt and Penrith Park to an extent.
"It's great that we have been able to hang on to our heritage and still infuse it into the modern game. Having this one and the Cronulla game is good, it's great interaction for the local community."
Belmore has been buzzing in anticipation. A crowd of about 16,000 is expected for the blockbuster, a figure about 6000 higher than if it had been held at traditional home ground ANZ Stadium.
Hasler said the venue's proximity to the leagues club put the Bulldogs into a centre of activity for the local community.
"Both are institutions and are vital for the local community," he said.
"They provide so much employment, so much enjoyment and so much support. That's important for a community to identify with. We're very fortunate."
Fox Sports boss Patrick Delaney is encouraging clubs to shift Monday night fixtures to regional grounds in a bid to boost attendances and there could be more games shifted from larger venues for the timeslot.
Bulldogs CEO Raelene Castle said: "We love ANZ Stadium and think it's an opportunity to have our world-class venue and this also allows us to have our local venue that brings people back to our history and roots.
"Coming here brings those memories alive again and makes it very special. It brings the future and past together. For the players that train here every day, the current crop will remember their heroes playing but have never actually had the chance to play an NRL game at Belmore. This will bring their dreams to life as well."
It will be a special occasion for Josh Reynolds, the only local junior in the squad. The former Blues pivot will be celebrating his 150th NRL game at a ground he visited as a child to watch heroes Lamb and Jim Dymock in action.
"It's going to be a great game against Melbourne, they are a great team. They will come here and hopefully we can make it a bit of a fortress. We're not going to play here lots of games but the games we do play here, I know for myself I'm going to want to lift."