Bulldogs Consider North Harbour Stadium For Home Game

Bulldogs are looking at Auckland as an option for their National Rugby League home matches against the New Zealand Warriors after next year.

A group from the Sydney based club was at North Harbour Stadium yesterday inspecting the venue that will host the one-off test between the Kiwis and the Kangaroos today.

The Bulldogs have staged the fixture against the Warriors in Wellington for the past three seasons.

The Canberra Raiders did the same thing this year, also playing at Westpac Stadium.

Last month, Jade Stadium in Christchurch said the Wests Tigers had transferred their next three home games against the Warriors to that ground.

The Bulldogs' deal with Westpac Stadium has one more year to run and operations manager Grant Mayer said the club were looking at their options for 2005 and beyond.

At present, the main choices were to stick with the "Caketin", move to Auckland or take the match back to the Sydney Showground.

Mayer said the Bulldogs had been happy with the experiment of playing in Wellington.

"We just want to make sure that commercially we make the right decision for the club."

He said Westpac Stadium was "without doubt one of the most expensive venues that I've seen".

"Having said that, our bigger concern is that there have been four games of rugby league there and the crowd trends are going the wrong way."

In 2001, the Bulldogs pulled in a bumper gate of 27,000, but subsequent figures have been 24,252 and 21,989.

The Raiders attracted 13,310.

Mayer said North Harbour Stadium was in the position of having to compete commercially with Ericsson Stadium and Eden Park across town.

With a 26,000 capacity, it was also "perfect" for rugby league.

"There's no venue like this in Sydney," he said.

"At the moment, we play at the Showground, which has an 18,000 capacity, and Telstra Stadium with 80,000."

Mayer didn't believe the fact that Auckland was the Warriors' base was an issue.

"When you look at Brisbane, not everyone there loves the Broncos and I'm sure that not everyone in New Zealand loves the Warriors.

"It's an hour from here to Ericsson, it's on the north side of town, it's a different market."

He said the Bulldogs are expected to make a decision early next year.

"We'll get the commercial terms from North Harbour and we'll talk to Westpac again ? they've given us the first cut of a new contract, which needs to be sharpened a little bit.

"Then we'll sit down and make a decision, hopefully before the start of the next season."