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Belmore classic shows the NRL must not abandon suburban grounds

Moses Mbye of the Bulldogs. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Roar Guru
30th June, 2015
34

How good was the spectacle of Monday night football between the Bulldogs and Storm at Belmore Oval? What a way to bring life back to what was fast becoming a boring concept.

I catch as many games as I can each weekend but I must admit unless my team was playing on a Monday than I wasn’t very interested.

I just wanted the round to finish, find out if I got my tip right and see if my fantasy team got up.

The main reason for this was the lack of atmosphere, due to games played at big stadiums with tiny crowds. Now I of course understand that Monday games exist for TV but last night the Bulldogs proved we can have the best of both worlds.

It was great to watch. The stadium could only hold 16,000 but it was packed to the rafters. It reminded me of games played long ago with fans watching from balconies, in trees and standing on fences in their backyards.

Despite playing on one of the smallest grounds capacity wise, the match still recorded the highest Monday night attendance of the year.

The atmosphere was electric. How good was it hearing the crowd beg for Josh Reynolds entrance midway through the second half, no doubt he would have felt on cloud nine last night despite playing less than fifteen minutes.

The Dogs belting out the team song capped the night off perfectly and was the perfect advertisement for our great game.

I have written about the importance of football at suburban grounds many times and now after last night I hope their importance is clear for all to see, especially those in charge of making the key decisions.

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I find it ludicrous whenever I hear that ANZ and Allianz are the future. Nothing beats a packed hill out at Brookie, Leichhardt, Cronulla or Kogarah. The list goes on.

Manly struggle the pull attendances at the best of times, take them away from Brookie to play at a bigger stadium and it will become borderline embarrassing.

I was out at Leichhardt on Sunday to watch the game as a neutral fan, solely because of the atmosphere. There’s no chance I’ll ever bother going to see the Tigers play the Panthers at Moore Park.

It’s sad to hear of the loss of profits the clubs suffer when they play at these smaller venues, but a solution to that is the NRL making up the difference to ensure these iconic venues are here to stay.

And these one off Monday night relocations might just be the start of something. We already know crowd numbers are going to be low for these fixtures so why not take them elsewhere.

Clubs can move their games to a rural area, the Rabbitohs can take a game to Redfern, the Sea Eagles can relocate to Manly Oval for the night, Melbourne can play at a suburban ground down in Victoria and the Roosters can take a game to Henson Park.

We must not forget how good footy is at a suburban ground.

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