By David Riccio
9 February 2014 - Sunday Telegraph
CANTERBURY want to host their first NRL match in 17 years at their spiritual home of Belmore Oval next season.
The historical move back to the ground the Bulldogs last called home in 1998 will coincide with the club's 80th anniversary celebrations.
Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle confirmed to The Sunday Telegraph ahead of today's trial match against South Sydney -- which will be played at the 94-year-old ground -- that planning had already begun to return for an official NRL match in 2015.
"As part of our strategic plan there is an aim to get Belmore to a stage where we could bring an NRL game back home and we continue to work towards that," Castle said. "We also believe that would be a very nice fit for our 80th anniversary celebrations in 2015." While consideration for who the Dogs would play in the Belmore match remains premature, it's likely they would host an out-of-town team like Melbourne Storm or North Queensland Cowboys.
A crowd of close to 10,000 is expected for today's trial match, but club officials believe that Belmore would cater for almost 15,000 for an official NRL match. In recent years, Belmore Oval has undergone a $7m upgrade. The Dogs players and coaching staff now boast world class training facilities, a high performance unit, gymnasium and offices. A second stage of development to the ground and precinct is dependent on state funding.
The Bulldogs are currently contracted to play their home games out of ANZ Stadium. A one-off return to Belmore next season would be supported by the NRL despite a strategic plan over the next five seasons to force every club into bigger stadiums and away from traditional home grounds.
Dogs coach Des Hasler has named a 33-man squad to face Michael Maguire's Rabbitohs. Canterbury's squad includes NRL regulars co-captain Michael Ennis and Frank Pritchard, Greg Eastwood, James Graham, Josh Morris and Tony Williams.
Josh Reynolds, Reni Maitua and David Klemmer have all been rested. Souths squad also features several NRL stars, including new recruits Lote Tuqiri, Joel Reddy and Joel Picker.