Back on July 7 1989, I went along to Belmore Sports Ground in Sydney to watch my local team, Canterbury-Bankstown defeat Western Suburbs 26-6. Little did I know on that frosty winters evening, it would be my last visit to watch a game there for almost 30 years!
A good deal of water has passed under the bridge since 1989. That’s why it was kind of special and nostalgic to head back today and watch a trial match against Penrith. An under strength Bulldogs outfit still managed to overpower a full throttle Panthers outfit 24-10 (not far off that 1989 score) but for me, I spent most over the afternoon and evening remembering good times and family memories that still burn brightly within today.
My grandfather passed away in 1992 yet he still had a profound impact on my life, installing key discipline techniques from his days in the army during World War 2 along with his guile from over 40 years as a qualified builder. He was a stern man but deep down, he cared deeply about all of us. He just didn’t show it too well. Regardless, every other Saturday or Sunday, he would pick me up in his yellow ute from our house on Reese Avenue and we’d be in the ground by around 12 pm to watch under 23’s, reserve grade and first grade. That’s four and a half hours or so in all sorts of weather watching the likes of Steve Mortimer, Terry Lamb and Peter Tunks ply their trades.
Mum would always scratch up enough money for my ticket in along with a drink and a pie. Sometimes even a packet of crisps! If Canterbury won, grandfather was quite talkative. However, following a loss, the walk back to the car and drive home was often fraught with danger if I attempted to dissect a conversation with him. He hated losing. Took it to heart and spent the remainder of the weekend speaking very little. I can get a bit like that myself I guess.
The ground hasn’t changed much over the past 29 years. It’s almost as it was in many respects which gives the venue that special charm and charisma many modern stadiums fall well below on. Suburban footy grounds are what drove rugby league in Sydney. It still does when occasional matches are taken back to various grounds. Sadly, in 2018, money talks the loudest so many clubs play out of hollow, soulless and heartless super stadiums (2 in Sydney’s case in point) which much make more money for the governing body but it destroys the heritage, heart and soul of the game by reefing clubs out of their roots. Modern sport and then some!
I hope this isn’t my last visit back to Belmore. The ground holds many cherished memories that seem like a lifetime away yet almost yesterday. Even today, I see lots of my late grandfather in me and I’m glad he installed his beliefs and values upon me as a young child.