Ballarat basks in AFL glory as Western Bulldogs host Hawthorn | Photos

HAWTHORN coach Alastair Clarkson can hardly wait to see the continued development and growth of Ballarat’s football stadium. 

He admits bias – a proud west Victorian boy, from Kaniva, who boarded in Ballarat Clarendon College.

The Hawks have their own boutique stadium in Launceston, but Clarkson was rapt with what he found at Mars Stadium on Saturday, despite a loss in the pre-season hit-out against Western Bulldogs. 

This was the second official AFL match for the redeveloped stadium.

“They’ve done some terrific work...What they’ve done with this oval and development of the game in this region is first class,” Clarkson said. “The facility they’ve put on – in terms of the change facilities, the coaching box, the state of the ground – we couldn’t have been more pleased with this as a venue for a trial game.”

Official attendance was 4,565 for Western Bulldogs’ pre-season hit-out against Hawthorn.

Renewed push to develop kennel hosting duties

SUPPORT is growing for Ballarat to host an in-season Western Bulldogs’ AFLW match.

This builds on the 3000-strong crowd for practice match in mid-January almost matching the 4,565 crowd attendance for the Bulldogs’ AFL men against Hawthorn at Mars Stadium on Saturday.

Bulldogs’ chief executive officer Ameet Bains, who joined the club late last year, said it was important to keep building on Ballarat as a home. Ballarat and the Bulldogs hosted the city’s historic first AFL premiership game last season, and the Bulldogs are set to return for two more, plus the weekend’s JLT Series hit-out.

Mr Bains said there was potential to expand AFLW in the Ballarat kennel, particularly as the women’s competition evolved. The Bulldogs only have three home games, all at their Footscray base, in a seven-round AFLW season.

“That AFLW game having 3000 people here in mid-January was amazing. Moe is hosting a Collingwood AFLW game this weekend, so there’s no reason why another regional venue like Ballarat couldn’t host a match,” Mr Bains said.

“We’re building on that support here too. As a club, we’re really grateful with all the community support.”

This pre-season men’s visit was a far-more low-key event but Mars grandstands were still full, with spectators dotted across the mounds. 

Bulldogs’ cheersquad leader Harvey White said it was still a passionate crowd as the club settled into Ballarat.

White too, called for AFLW matches in Ballarat so the women could also feel more of what was fast feeling like a kennel.

“We loved going to Cairns where we had home games, but now it’s all Ballarat,” White said. “You might think Cairns would be better for the weather, but if Ballarat can keep providing this type of atmosphere here, we love it.”