Today was a game day fan experience that I’ve been wanting to do since the mid 90’s when I watched the Canterbury Bulldogs defeat Manly in the 1995 ARL Grand Final.
I started the fan journey with a 25-minute train ride from Central Station to Belmore station before walking around the local streets to soak up the suburb and the game-day vibe. Blue and white streamers, balloons, and posters lined the shopfronts and it was evident that the locals really get behind the Bulldogs and game days here.
The trip out to Belmore Sports Ground was enjoyable as I talked to a few Bulldogs fans on the train about Terry Lamb and the Dogs on what was a glorious Sunday afternoon in Sydney for my third and final game day this weekend in town.
Hopping off the train at Belmore it was a quick walk following the Bulldogs fans the short distance to the Belmore ground entrance and through Terry Lamb reserve park. The Bulldog’s street art livened up the concrete facades while gate staff were pleasant, smiling, and wished us a good day at the match.
I had wanted to check out some of the plaques, murals, memorbillia and the Canterbury Leagues Club which is adjacent to the train station however time got away from me as I wanted to get to the ground early. I’ll endeavour to check these out next time I’m out this way as I hope to be back for another game day at Belmore down the track.
It was really exciting upon entry to just soak up this gorgeous suburban footy ground from the grassy hill to the Peter Moore scoreboard and canteen. I walked around the length and breadth of the venue taking in all the angles from the Bulldog’s front entrance to the white bench seats and the main stand.
The food and beverage selection consisted of local food trucks and canteens selling standard footy fare like pies and chips along with kids’ favourites in cotton candy and ice cream while gourmet food items were also on offer and looked tasty from local businesses. Prices were standard from $5-15 while mid-strength cans of beer were $8 with only one beer variety available in Great Northern for obvious reasons given the one-off event here and the planning involved for catering. As for the beer tray price watch, these were free here. It’s always interesting to see the little things like the price of beer trays. Over this weekend they’ve ranged from $1.50 to 80c to free!
The fan engagement for kids and families was quality with face painting and kids jumping castle but even more, kids were just having fun rolling down the hills and passing or kicking footies with their families which looked like an enjoyable experience.
Toilets were scattered on either side and lines were only really heavy at halftime with men and women being able to get in and out fairly quickly from what I could witness.
The hill was absolutely packed and looked incredible today with Bulldogs, Dragons, and Illawarra Steelers fans with 16,991 fans turning out to make this a huge sell-out crowd. It was a real carnival footy vibe with fans fully engaged in the community spirit of suburban footy as well as reconciliation week and the focus of the Indigenous round.
The Indigenous focus for NRL Indigenous Round featured a respectful welcome to country, singers, and music on the land of the Dharug, Eora & Bediagal Peoples.
The dogs tried to come back a few times but the Dragons pulled away too quickly and ran out 34-24 winners on a sunny but very windy and chilly day at Belmore. I was very glad I brought my heavy retro Bulldogs jersey to the game as it was very chilly on the hill by 4pm.
The merchandise tent and mobile store had fans lined up as items like the indigenous jersey and retro cord Bulldogs caps went flying out the door. I really liked seeing the use of the old Bulldogs logos too around the venue and on merchandise and hope other teams start to bring these back as well.
I also thought that it was clever that some fans had brought in their own milk crates to enable their kids to get a better vantage point on the hill as well.
The exit from the match was easy with the train station right at the stadium and within a 5-8 minute walk before the 20-odd minute train ride back to the Sydney CBD.
I was so excited today to tick off another Australian sporting venue in Belmore Sports Ground and would encourage any fan to get out here the next time they bring a game day here as it is truly something special to witness at such an iconic ground.