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Ballarat: Bulldogs Country

December 22, 2017 6:00 AM

AFL 2017 Round 22 - Western Bulldogs v Port Adelaide

BALLARAT, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 19: Bulldogs fans wave their flags during the 2017 AFL round 22 match between the Western Bulldogs and the Port Adelaide Power at Mars Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Ballarat, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)

Once you’d taken the Midland Highway exit off the Western Freeway toward Ballarat and the newly christened Mars Stadium on that crisp Saturday morning last August, one thing was immediately clear: you were now in Bulldogs country.

A game for premiership points in the heart of the Victoria goldfields had been years in the making and while the on field result was not the one the club wanted, the way Ballarat embraced its Bulldogs would leave a last impression on everybody involved.   

The old Eureka Stadium was almost unrecognisable draped as it was in red, white and blue splendour, the smell of food trucks and the murmur of anticipation in the air created an unmistakable carnival-like atmosphere.

Rumours of snow would prove unfounded; instead the ground was bathed in beautiful sunshine as 10,087 people poured into the Bulldogs’ country home for the historic clash and social media was flooded with picturesque snaps of the Eureka Stand packed with the flag waiving faithful.

President Peter Gordon could barely contain his delight when standing beside Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews days before the game, as much for the game itself as the very real connection the Club had built with the Ballarat community through a shop front, community programs and school visits.

“[It is] a moment of great pride for our club,” he said.

“We’re thrilled to be here and we are thrilled to becoming, more and more every day, the team of the Ballarat community and its people.

“We’ve had an office here for some time, we’ve got our community programs working here and have had for some time.”

“We’re grateful to the government, grateful to the premier, grateful to the City of Ballarat and we’re grateful to the people of Ballarat for the way in which we’ve been accepted.”

And as the sun set, the cars drove off into the night with scarves still waving, and as the familiar Ballarat evening chill set in, you couldn’t help but think that this was the start of something big.

The Dogs will return to Ballarat twice in 2018 for home games against Gold Coast (Round 7) and Port Adelaide (Round 19).   

This article original appeared in Bulldog: 2017 Yearbook.  Click here to become a member and receive your exclusive copy in 2018.

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