After spending almost six years in San Antonio, Texas, US undertaking post-doctoral research studies aimed at identifying cardiovascular disease risk genes, I decided to try out this “gap year” idea.
It was definitely time to upgrade my Bulldogs International Supporter membership to Pedigree Platinum; I saw plenty of Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs interactions in my future.
The Bulldog’s opened their 2014 season in Brisbane unfortunately without grasping the two points on offer but returned the following weekend and with the ANZ Stadium home ground advantage executed a stunning victory over the Sharks.
I rose to watch these games at 1am and midnight respectively ensuring I caught the live stream into Vancouver, Canada where I was enjoying visiting buddies on the initial stages of my gap year.
The string of one-point field-goal victories were not only thrilling to watch (from San Antonio, Texas @4am) but made NRL history with the Bulldogs becoming the first team since the inception of the competition to achieve such a feat.
Returning to Australia’s Gold Coast mid-May and surprising my Mother with a trip to Sydney for the Bulldogs round eleven match against the Roosters was rewarded by the Bulldogs membership department who invited Mum and I to form part of the guard of honour welcoming the teams back onto ANZ turf following half time, recognizing Women in League round.
Although the team had enjoyed early season success, this was our first game without four of our origin stars Hodkinson, Reynolds, Morris and Williams who were in camp in the lead up to State of Origin game one.
The following day, Saturday May 24th, the Club hosted the very successful Member’s Day at Belmore Sports Ground. An opportunity for members to mingle with their favourite players, grab autographs and spur the team on with winning momentum.
Certainly a standout on the day was the chance to meet both CEO Raelene Castle and Coach Des Hasler.
Additionally, the big screen showed a replay of our Premiership winning 2004 Grand Final, celebrating ten years since the Club last hoisted the Provan and Summons silverware.
Providing an insight into the victory and a direct thread back through history was current player Reni Maitua who enjoyed success on that day back in 2004.
Reni’s prodigal son return to the Bulldogs this year has been about more than just footy; his accomplishments and drive despite personal challenges have inspired and provided support for many folk both from within sporting circles and the wider community at large.
I felt truly blessed sneaking a hug from him during the Member’s Day.
Two of the most-hard working cogs in the Bulldogs front-of-house machinery are the unsung hero’s of Membership, specifically Krystal and Arna who organized a special treat for select members; enter #SuperDogBox.
On the night where a quartet of Bulldogs was donning the famous sky blue jersey to represent NSW, 20 super-fans (and their guest) were invited to attend a viewing of the State of Origin game one at Bulldogs HQ.
I was super grateful to be extended an invite to this rare event, which included a goodies bag generously donated by Bulldog’s partnership sponsor Rashay’s.
Not only were the Bulldogs players instrumental in the defeat of the Maroon machine, their fans celebrated in luscious surrounds of the team’s video session room.
A Channel 7 news crew was allowed into the Club’s inner sanctum to record our victory applause.
What a triumph! What a life highlight.
Touring the player’s kitchen, relaxation area and enjoying a hit at table tennis while viewing the centre of excellence gym facilities in absolute awe of the equipment, set up and motivational words/images on the walls.
Such an experience would likely not have been possible had I not upgraded my 2014 membership. Understandably, I am more than happy to remain a committed Platinum member, hopefully for life.
Now we enter the aptly named ‘pointy end’ of the season, where the fat has been trimmed from the competition.
Essentially, what has gone before means very little; as supporters we are all aware anything can transpire in the NRL finals chapter.
Despite a golden point loss to the Gold Coast Titans in the final regular season round, the Bulldogs secured position seven setting them up for travel to Melbourne for the closing game of week 1 finals.
Twice during season 2014 we took the competitions points against Melbourne in significantly disparate encounters.
The two games were polar opposites in myriad of aspects; Round 4 illustrated a convincing 40-12 victory in front of our “home” fans from Perth, WA, it initiated a seven-game winning streak, propelling us to table leaders and ensuring our players were in contention for representative honours.
I streamed this game into San Antonio, Texas early that Saturday morning. The grinding win of round 18 provided plenty of contrasts.
Hosted by Melbourne this match was the season’s third lowest scoring match (tied with State of Origin game two), punctuated by formidably ferocious goal-line defense by an inspired Bulldogs outfit primed to ensure the Storm remained ‘in the bin’.
After successfully avoiding all social media and news reports, I caught a delayed telecast of the epic encounter at Café Oz, Paris.
Proudly prancing Parisian streets post-victory promoting Bulldogs with my alternate jersey.
This weekend we return to Victoria, hoping to be victorious and continue in our aspirations for this rollercoaster season.
I will be watching from “home” at 4:00pm Sunday, somewhere on Australia’s east coast.
Obviously, my sincere wishes for a fantastic match are directed to the entire team and support folk.
Gracious thanks for giving this supporter the Bulldogs “gap year” of a lifetime.
Always #proudtobeabulldog #togetherforever