Virgin Australia Stadium Mackay new home for Bulldogs v Storm
Friday 20 April 2012 12:00 PM
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will break new ground in late June when they take their round 16 Telstra Premiership clash with the Melbourne Storm to Virgin Australia Stadium, Mackay.
The match, which is scheduled for 2pm on Sunday 24 June, will be the first time the Bulldogs have played in the central Queensland city, the home town of Bulldog Ben Barba.
The Club has been working with the Stadium, Mackay Regional City Council and Mackay Tourism in recent weeks on arrangements to host the match after discussions with the South Australian Tourism, South Australian Government, South Australian Cricket Association and the Adelaide Oval – which has hosted the fixture since 2010 – broke down.
“As a Club we are very excited to bring this match to Mackay and Virgin Australia Stadium,” Bulldogs Chief Executive Todd Greenberg said.
“The Stadium, Council, Rugby League Community and Mackay Tourism were all very keen to bring the Bulldogs and Storm to central Queensland and we’re looking forward to getting there
“Since 2010 we have committed to taking two home games away from ANZ Stadium and to Bulldogs fans outside of our traditional heartland and Mackay aligns nicely to that strategy.
“We know that 10 percent of our supporter base lives in Queensland and this match will give those people a bit further north of Brisbane and the south east the opportunity to see the Bulldogs live.”
The Storm prevailed over the Bulldogs in the most recent meeting between the two sides, winning 12-6 at Melbourne’s AAMI Park in round seven of the 2012 season in a match Storm coach Craig Bellamy said was reminiscent to an end of season game.
Virgin Australia Stadium Chairman Greg Sutherland says the game will be a big focus for the local community.
“This is a major event for the Mackay Region and the Stadium Committee is appreciative of the confidence invested in us by the Bulldogs and the NRL,” Mr Sutherland said.
“They are bringing the game to the people and this is Mackay’s 150th year of European settlement and will add greatly to our celebrations. The Australian Government can also take credit for the game coming to a regional area as they provided the majority of funding for the new rectangle shaped complex.
“We will work with sporting clubs community groups and charities to ensure there are sufficient outlets for food and drink outlets and we have already looked at additional seating arrangements.
“This game will prove a big buzz for the region.”
Barba, who was recruited to the Bulldogs from the North’s Devils in Mackay, says playing in front of his home town is a prospect he’s relishing.
“I last played a game at home when I was 18, before I moved down to Sydney, so I’m really looking forward to being part of the match against the Storm in June,” Barba says.
“I was always keen to see the Bulldogs play a game in Mackay, but I’ve got to say I was expecting it to be a trial at some point in the future. To be playing a game for competition points makes it extra appealing.
“To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement, and my family is really looking forward to it as well. My Dad’s already been on the phone talking about it.
“Between my family and Dane Nielsen’s, who also comes from Mackay, I reckon we’ll have no problem filling the Stadium for the game itself. And when you consider that Billy Slater’s from a few hours up the road as well, so there’s going to be plenty of local flavour to the match.”
The Bulldogs have also extended their thanks to the people of Adelaide and South Australia for their hospitality in 2010/11, however Greenberg says barriers to hosting this year’s match back at Adelaide Oval proved insurmountable.
“Despite our repeated attempts over the past two years to make South Australia a destination point for the Bulldogs & Rugby League, unfortunately we were unable to agree to terms for 2012 and beyond,” Greenberg added.
“The Bulldogs Football Club conveys its thanks to the many staff at the SACA who provided wonderful assistance to our Club over the last few years in showcasing rugby league to the people of Adelaide.
“The Bulldogs would also like to thank the tens of thousands of people in Adelaide and the broader region is South Australia who attended our games and supported our Club over the last few years.
“Finally, we’d also like to thank the management team of the Australian Rugby League Commission and Fox Sports for everything they have done to make this game a reality at such short notice. The flexibility and support they have given the move is greatly appreciated.”