Western Bulldogs in Melbourne 'forever' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Western Bulldogs in Melbourne 'forever'

By Sam Lienert 04/06/2008 07:02:49 PM Comments (0)

The Western Bulldogs believe the $25 million redevelopment of their training base has levelled the playing field with richer AFL clubs and established them in Melbourne's west forever.

The club launched the first stage of the Whitten Oval redevelopment, the Elite Learning Centre, which houses a new gymnasium and other player training facilities which have been in use for several months.

Bulldogs president David Smorgon said few could have envisaged such an "incredible, modern" facility would have been built at what was an "outdated, dilapidated" ground when the club last played a home game there in 1997.

He said there were many cynics when the redevelopment was first proposed, given the Bulldogs' financial struggles in the past.

"For decades people wanted to merge or relocate us or fold us," Smorgon said. "Well, not any more, we're here to stay.

"We're here to stay as we've always stood, representing the western region of Melbourne.

"... This redevelopment once and for all firmly establishes that we will be here forever."

Coach Rodney Eade said the spacious, high-tech centre meant the Bulldogs would no longer be handicapped by inferior training facilities.

"The AFL are trying to do the right thing (to create an even competition) with salary cap and draft and all that and they're working extremely well," Eade said.

"But as you see, the clubs' spend in football departments, some are $3 million more than us, and certainly (there is a difference in) facilities.

"This is no doubt going to even that playing field up."

Eade said the enthusiasm of his players had lifted since moving into the new centre and would be further boosted with additions still to come, such as ice baths and spas, a theatrette and players' recreation room.

Captain Brad Johnson said he was looking forward to real ice baths, rather than standing in wheelie bins, with the ability to conduct training warm-ups and recovery sessions indoors and use up-to-date gym equipment other welcome changes.

"Every day you walk in the place and something's changed," he said.

"It's amazing for the footy club and the younger guys are really going to cherish this, as us older guys are as well.

"Certainly with everything that will happen over the next year or so as well, it's just a massive lift for the club."

Smorgon said past players had tried to use the poor standard of facilities to create an "us against them" mentality against bigger clubs, but that had a limited impact.

"You can't do that week in, week out, because it just rubs off," he said.

"There's no doubt it was a disadvantage, but I think full credit to everyone we never complained about it.

"We did what we could afford at the time and we managed to perform, so we've never used it as an excuse.

"But obviously today it's a real boost to everyone at the club."

He said Wednesday's launch was an occasion everyone who had contributed to the club could take pride in.

"It's just so important for everyone that's followed the Bulldogs, because it's a dream come true," he said.

"We've labelled it the miracle of the west and we say that very deliberately, because until it started going up there were the sceptics and the Doubting Thomases that never believed this was possible out at the Whitten Oval."

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