By HARRY CLARKE
IT’S been hard for organisers to quantify exactly how many spectators came through the gates of Bulldog Park, when it hosted two of Queensland’s iconic rugby league teams for the Intrust Super Cup’s annual ‘Country Round’.
But all agree it was the biggest sporting crowd to congregate in the region for decades.
More than 1,200 adults purchased tickets at the gate on Saturday, but there’s no tally on the hundreds more youngsters aged under 18 who came through free of charge.
Spectators in the famous ‘Dog House’ tin can bar spilled across the southern hill of the local footy ground. The grandstand was packed to the rafters and it was ‘standing room only’ along the whole western sideline.
It was a classic afternoon at Bulldog Park, with the highest standard of rugby league out west in living memory on display as the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls clashed with the Burleigh Bears.
Anyone who’s played at the ground before would have enjoyed watching professional kickers from the two coastal clubs trying to contend with the notorious winds that can blow a gale overhead at Bulldog Park.
Homegrown heroes Sam Scarlett and Luke Bateman were on the field for Wynnum and had family in the crowd, but it seemed any supposed home-ground advantage wasn’t enough to win.
The renowned footy club from Brisbane’s Bayside was overcome by Burleigh, who headed back to the Gold Coast having secured a nail-biting 26-20 victory.
“It was unreal to be back at Bulldog Park, aside from the loss” said Sam Scarlett, former Wandoan boy and now Seagulls captain and halfback.
“I hadn’t actually lost a game here. We were undefeated when I was playing for the Bulldogs in under-16s, so it’s a shame we got the loss.
“But I think we started too slow today, and with a side like Burleigh you can’t give them a lead. They’re too clinical. The ref really let the game flow. It was very quick and I think we ended up tiring in the end.
“But either way it’s really good to get back to play here and seeing friends and family. I love playing in the country, so credit to the Bulldogs for putting on a good show.”
The day began with an on-field upset when Chinchilla toppled ladder heavyweights, the Wallumbilla Red Bulls, in Reserve Grade.
In a novel scheduling idea by the Bulldogs committee, the Intrust Super Cup game was played before the local A-grade derby, meaning the bush footy players could enjoy the experience of running out and playing in front of the huge crowd.
“It was good to see a lot of people here watching,” Bulldogs veteran Anthony Horswood said.
“The town obviously really got behind the day and I think all the boys enjoyed being a part of it.”
The Bulldog were close to securing an upset in A-grade as well. The Red Bulls are premiership contenders and currently sit at second on the ladder behind the undefeated Roma Cities.
Red Bulls coach-captain Ricky Wright said getting “the simple things” right paved the way for the win. He acknowledged the efforts 17-year-old Matt Yorke, who was playing his first A-grade game.
“It was a big game. We had seven players away for rep football, so we had a lot of reserve graders and debutants step up and it was a really good effort.” Wright said.
“One game you always dread is coming to Chinchilla and playing in front of their home crowd. They really get behind them, especially in the Dog House.
“The crowd here today was unbelievable.”