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Warned Of Bulldogs Army
The New Zealand Warriors have been warned to expect a barrage of abuse when they end a three-year exile and return to the Bulldogs' headquarters for Saturday's National Rugby League (NRL) qualifying final.
A notorious faction of the premiership favourite's supporters dubbed The Bulldog Army are destined to give the Warriors players and supporters an unpleasant evening at the Sydney Showground.
Canberra captain Simon Woolford, who had beer thrown over him at the venue as he walked off two weeks ago, briefed Warriors' counterpart Monty Betham when skippers from the eight play-offs teams had a photo call with the premiership trophy yesterday.
"We had a chat and he told me what to expect. I'd say we'll have to be nimble on and off the field just to combat some of these things," Betham said.
"It's not really a concern (for the team), the main concern is how we play but off the field it is a worry if that sort carry-on does take place. It's uncalled for."
The Warriors have not incurred the wrath of the Bulldogs' supporters here since 2000 because the Australians have opted to play their "home" games at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.
While the Bulldogs' capital-based fans have been well-behaved, the hard-core Army has been linked to a catalogue of ugly scenes over the last three seasons.
In 2001 the NRL threatened to close the hill area at the Showground if crowd trouble continued, saying the club risked a $A50,000 ($NZ56,941) fine for bringing the game into disrepute.
An angry Woolford claimed club officials were also abused and forced to leave their seats during Canberra's 21-16 victory at the Showground on August 29.
A husband and wife wearing Raiders gear were also allegedly surrounded and threatened as they left the ground which neighbours the Telstra Stadium at Homebush.
The Army, which has a strong Middle Eastern component, has also been criticised this season for chanting pro-Osama Bin Laden slogans during a match against the Roosters at Aussie Stadium.
Woolford labelled the unruly supporters a "disgrace".
"I had grog thrown all over me by some bloke who was trying to big note to his mates. Then I was asked to go over and applaud our fans so they wouldn't leave at the same time as Dogs' supporters.
"That club just seems to have all these yobbos in the crowd who get a thrill out of being wankers.
"Personally I'd love to jump the fence, get hold of one of them and really see how tough they are."
Cronulla skipper David Peachey added that he was pelted with bottles at the Sharks' Toyota Park last Saturday night, prompting Bulldogs' chief executive officer Steve Mortimer to investigate.
"If we can find out who is accountable, we will do the same thing we do at home games. We have zero tolerance for this sort of thing," Mortimer said
The incident prompted Peachey to ask Bulldogs' players to calm their fans, while referee Steve Clark halted the game and asked the ground manager to deploy more police and security.
Peachey tipped the Bulldogs to win the premiership but feared a title could be marred by a minority of troublemakers.
"They've got the whole finals to look forward to but one blemish can tarnish the whole club."
The Bulldog Army is officially the most hated supporter group in the NRL, with almost a third of the 100 players surveyed in a Rugby League Week magazine poll in July listing them as the supporters they liked the least.