- Lloyd Rothwell
ANZ Stadium – Canterbury Bulldogs
Photos by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Edwin Flack Ave
Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127 Australia
Year Opened: 1999
Who Let the Dogs Out?
ANZ Stadium is the centrepiece of Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush in the inner-west of the harbour city. The venue was previously known as Stadium Australia with a capacity of 110,000. However, after the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games, renovations saw seating reduced to 83,500. The majority of big football events in NSW are held at ANZ Stadium, particularly rugby league and rugby union including Grand Finals, State of Origin, and rugby test matches (the epic final of Rugby World Cup 2003 took place here).
Somewhat uniquely, the venue can operate in either rectangular or oval configuration depending on the sport. That being the case, AFL and cricket have utilized the stadium in the past. Several NRL clubs currently use ANZ Stadium for the regular season, either in full or in part; Canterbury, Wests Tigers, St George Illawarra Dragons, and South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs were admitted to the competition in 1935 and have consistently been one of the strongest and most successful clubs over the past 30 years, despite a few hiccoughs in the early 2000s due to salary caps and off-field dramas.
Having previously been based at the suburban Belmore Sports Ground, the Doggies were one of the first Sydney-based teams to move to one of the larger, more modern, and better-equipped central stadiums. After first moving to Spotless Stadium, the club has consistently been based at ANZ Stadium since 2006. The club is well known for having one of the more passionate fan bases in the NRL.
Food & Beverage 3
This category can be easily summed up as follows; respectable quality and variety, but very expensive. The most basic combo of a hot dog (or pie or sausage roll), hot chips, and a drink will set you back over $16, a hefty price tag by any measure. Individual hot items include the aforementioned hot dogs, sausage rolls ($5, meat pies, hot chips, as well as burritos, and chicken burgers ($9.20). Also available are sushi, sandwiches, baguettes, and salads. Beers aren’t cheap either, at $7.90 for a Hahn Super Dry, with wine at a similar price. Pre-mixed spirits are priced at $10.50.
ANZ Stadium is a good venue for sport but probably suffers from being designed as a multi-purpose. The gradient of ground-level seating and the stands is quite gentle leading to the common complaint from fans that they are a long way from the playing field. It is also quite difficult to personalise the stadium for each team, however, the Bulldogs have placed banners at the northern end which is a nice touch.
It is also pretty cool to watch sports in a stadium that has hosted so many memorable moments in a relatively short history. Of course, another drawback is that in a stadium built for large crowds, there will likely be only 20,000 people at best which dampens the atmosphere.
ANZ Stadium is the key focus of Sydney Olympic Park. Many of the venues used during the Sydney 2000 Olympics are on site including Qudos Bank Arena and the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre – both legitimate venues and attractions in their own right. Over 5,000 events are held within the precinct each year. There are also numerous hotels, bars, and restaurants within the Park.
My recommendation is certainly to take advantage of this before the game, particularly about food. As well as fast food there are options covering Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Italian, and modern Australian. I like to enjoy a great steak at Ribs and Rumps (8 Dawn Fraser Ave). It is worth mentioning that Sydney Olympic Park is big and you need to be prepared to walk a bit to find your preferred restaurant as well as from the parking station if you choose to drive. You should also check the schedule for the Greater Western Sydney Giants (AFL) for the possibility of a doubleheader.
The Dogs have a large and passionate supporter base. Club members congregate in the seating area known as “The Kennel.” The club represents the southwest of the city, traditionally a very multicultural area, which is reflected in the fan base. Unfortunately, Canterbury has had problems with supporters in recent times, particularly with occasional isolated incidents of violence, unruly behaviour, abuse of rival fans and match officials, and setting off flares. Be aware that this is a minority of people, and for the most part fans of the Dogs are respectful and well-behaved. Expect to see plenty of blue and white in the crowd.
Sydney Olympic Park is located close to the geographic centre of Sydney, with good transport options. There is normally plenty of parking (P1 is probably the closest), although it is expensive. Also be mindful that if there is a large event(s), traffic into the precinct will be an issue. Best to check beforehand, otherwise strongly consider public transport. The train station is a short walk from the stadium. As a large stadium, the venue handles crowds well and access inside is fairly smooth. Ushers are polite and helpful, and also realistic in not being too forceful in enforcing seating allocations.
Return on Investment 4
The ticket prices themselves offer good value and include free public transport, but don’t leave the credit card at home if you plan on eating at the stadium. General admission is $25 for an adult while the most expensive “Category 1” seats are just over $50 for an adult. Usual discounts apply for pre-purchasing online, children, and families. This compares favourably with other venues for NRL and also within the highly competitive Sydney market in general.
There was little happening outside the stadium when we attended which was a bit disappointing, but once inside the club used several smart initiatives to highlight the home team. Free Wi-Fi is always a bonus, plus the ushers are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.
In the coming years, ANZ Stadium is likely to be significantly updated, probably to become permanently rectangular which will improve the experience – especially for club-level football. In the meantime, a Doggies game at ANZ Stadium still offers a fun day out.