WESTERN Bulldogs keep saying they want to make their Ballarat kennel a strong fortress. They plan to keep building in a clash against Gold Coast Suns, a team so unfamiliar and unacclimatised to our arena.
But Queenslanders have tried to fool us in our house before. They have seized a true Ballarat winter’s day – the kind that chills you deep in your bones, the kind that make you cry but your face is too numb to feel the tears – without fear.
The lesson: to make Mars Stadium a fortress, it demands more than rely on conditions to give you an advantage but the smarts to play them to your advantage.
We could think the Suns would struggle in a Ballarat chill.
That day, a decade or so ago, it was North Ballarat Rebels who got played by a Queensland state team in TAC Cup under-18s. In the heart of a Ballarat winter, they used rugs as a shield against us.
The Queenslanders only made limited appearances in the competition, mostly to prepare for the national carnival. They made the trek not just south, but to a stadium with a reputation for being one of the coldest and windiest in Victoria.
Arriving in Ballarat should have been a shock.
While our Rebels braved the conditions, the Queenslanders buried their interchange in warm blankets up in the stands behind their interchange bench. In the quarter-time huddles, coaches urged supporters and support staff to gather in close to act like a wind-shield for the players.
Gold Coast Suns will hardly be whipping out the blankets and snuggies on Saturday. Ballarat is expected to be a relatively balmy, sunny 17C after Friday’s cold blast.
The Bulldogs know Mars Stadium well. They have trained here and played here enough by now to feel confident this is their turf, especially against a team about to make its first Mars landing.
But again, it takes more than knowing how to play Mars to achieve a true home ground advantage.
The Bulldogs need us to come out snarling for them.
Press Box has long outlined the great benefits the Bulldogs are delivering off the field as part of bringing AFL to Ballarat: community camps and community development programs from men’s and women’s health, to youth leadership and children’s literacy.
Press Box has also detailed the on-field benefits, like tourism boost and what hosting the game’s highest ranks right here can do for football development about the region.
The Bulldogs home ground advantage is in us continuing to show up with plenty of bark, not the hype of the first AFL match in town has passed.
- READ MORE:Why we love this Mars-terpiece
A near-capacity crowd is once again at Mars.
We will not have the added injection of South Australian travellers crossing the border. They are fans who, to be honest, seem more willing to trek to Ballarat for their team than Melburnians.
This does not matter.
This ‘Dog House is for western Victorians. The more we realise what a gem we have got, everyone so close to every bump and every mark, the more this will transform into a serious kennel fortress.