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Dog house delight - Canterbury close to playing again at spiritual home

By James Phelps

11 August 2011 - The Daily Telegraph

THE Bulldogs are set for a famous return to Belmore with Canterbury to play their first game in 13 years at the spiritual home of the club.

As a $7 million upgrade to Belmore Sports Ground reaches its final stages, the Bulldogs are planning to hold their 2012 trial match against the Roosters at the 91-year-old ground they abandoned in 1998.

In a historic move that every Bulldogs fan has been waiting for, Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg said the club would return to the famous ground for trial matches, NSW Cup fixtures and junior representative games from next season.

"We are planning on holding a trial game there next year and certainly play all our other grades there all year," Greenberg said.

The entire club will also relocate to the new-look ground at the end of the year for the pre-season when long overdue upgrades have been finished.

With the renovations set to be complete in five weeks, The Daily Telegraph was given an exclusive tour of the new-look ground yesterday.

Although still very much a construction site, the skeleton of what will be one of the most impressive training facilities in Sydney was clearly visible.

"It is a state-of-the-art performance facility," Greenberg said. "Something that will rival any other club. This will do wonders for the club both on and off-the-field.

"One of the key parts of this is having our entire club in one place. It is not just about the on-field performance but to make sure the whole organisation jells together."

After walking through a brand new gate - a futuristic structure replacing the old turnstile tin-shed - we are taken into what will be the organisation's new heart.

Below the famous grandstand, which has finally had the red Winfield Cup signage removed, 5000 tonnes of dirt have been removed and been replaced with a state-of-the-art gym, including two gigantic ice-baths.

Four times bigger than the workout area at Homebush, it will include a 40m running track that begins in the gym and, impressively, ends on the field.

The head coach's office looks over where the players will work out while next door the old dressing rooms have been gutted and replaced.

Upstairs, next to the Steve Mortimer bar, which will be updated next month, there is a players' lounge, barbecue area and theatre.

New offices have also been built to accommodate all the Bulldogs' staff.

Outside, every seat in the stand has been replaced and a $1 million practice pitch has been built next to the ground.

"It is a culmination of three years' planning and lobbying," Greenberg said. "It is the Bulldogs returning to their local community. We are returning to our roots and every day we will be living in our local community, which is very important to us."

While an NRL match at Belmore remains a distant possibility with the Bulldogs contracted to play at ANZ Stadium until 2015, Greenberg refused to rule it out. "With additional funding and more attention to the infrastructure of the place, there is no reason why we couldn't," he said.

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