Earlier this week, a few very lucky members were randomly selected and invited to join Bulldogs legend, Terry Lamb for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Belmore Sports Ground as part of our ’18 Ways to Say Thank You’ campaign.
There are certain times as a Bulldogs member that you get to experience more than just your teams’ efforts on the field. While the thud of a James Graham hit up at ANZ Stadium is music to any Bulldogs fan’s ears, it’s only the tip of the iceberg; there’s just so much more to the proud football club we all support, which we rarely get to experience.
It’s nice then, once in a while, to be rewarded for your loyalty and to see a little more of the club you’ve spent your whole life supporting. “18 Ways to Say Thank You” is a campaign the club has created that aims to do exactly that; by offering signed photographs, representative game tickets, home game seat upgrades and even personalised tweets from players, the Bulldogs are making an effort to thank some of its loyal members at complete random. At least since I signed up in 2009, the recognition of members has been one of the many ways in which the Bulldogs are among the best in the NRL.
On Tuesday morning, it was my turn. I was lucky enough to be selected for a guided tour of the training centre and headquarters at Belmore, along with Mary and Patrick, who have been members since long before I was even born. As a student who one day dreams of working for the great club, you can imagine my excitement at the chance to go behind the scenes and see all the facilities.
The surreal experience began in reception, when the legendary Terry Lamb poked his head in and introduced himself. Everyone knows how much ‘Baa’ loves the club and how hard he works to promote membership, so when he told us he’d be leading us around the building I had to pinch myself. We walked outside, down the stairs and immediately met with CEO Raelene Castle, who was friendly and personally thanked us for our support. Not before I’d tucked my shirt in and fixed up my hair, of course – I wanted to look presentable in front of my future boss.
From there it was into the home change room, and while it’s mostly utilised by the NSW Cup side these days it was humbling to stand in the room that had produced names like Mortimer, Peponis, Johns, Hughes and the man standing alongside me, Lamb. Facilities may have changed somewhat since then but the NRL squad mostly use the flash locker room under the ‘newer’ end of the grandstand.
We moved towards the upgraded side of the building and into the physio room, where Josh Jackson was recovering from an outstanding performance against the Dragons on Sunday afternoon. Moving further along the corridor, where we noticed each round’s players’ player and coach’s award posted along the walls, we entered the state-of-the-art gym, where a hand full of players were training or had just arrived. It was almost overwhelming to be greeted by the players whose names I’d been screaming from the stands just two days previously – James Graham, Josh Reynolds and Michael Ennis, as well as the emerging St Christopher’s junior Lachlan Burr. Then we met Jim Dymock and some of the staff who keep players motivated and ensure the smooth running of one of the country’s biggest sporting franchises, before taking in the multi-million dollar sprint facilities and hyperbaric chamber.
After that, however, came my favourite part of the whole experience. We returned through the gym and walked out the tunnel that leads onto the hallowed Belmore turf – following the same path as the Bulldogs teams that led us to 14 grand finals and 7 premierships until our final first grade game at Belmore in 1997. When we came onto the ground we were greeted with cheering and a round of applause by Tim Browne and about half the first grade team, who were stretching near the tunnel after a brief ballwork session. The players were more than willing to pose for photos and seemed relaxed and genuinely happy – but as the outright leaders of the National Rugby League, why wouldn’t they be?
We quickly visited the minitheatre and lounge area to conclude an experience that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. I strongly believe that initiatives like this are what separates the Bulldogs from the rest of the NRL (as well as the fact that we’re on more competition points – did I mention that?), and we were all grateful for the unique opportunity. Here’s hoping the boys in blue and white can return from New Zealand with their seventh-straight victory and make me even prouder to be a Bulldog.
Words: Simon Masterton
It’s not too late to join our team for 2014 and reap the benefits of being a Member. Secure your spot in the VIP Member only area at our upcoming Members and fan day at Peter Moore Field on Saturday, May 24.
With prices now reduced to reflect the 4 home games and 1 reciprocal game past, now is as good a time as any to join our team for 2014.
Head to www.bulldogs.com.au to join and how you’re #proudtobeabulldog