THE NRL insists they aren’t concerned that Parramatta’s finals elimination could hurt crowd figures in next weekend’s preliminary finals.
The league scored a rare win over the AFL on Saturday night, after NRL crowds outdid their AFL counterparts by more than 9000 people across the codes’ semi-finals weekend.
It was in stark contrast to last week’s finals where the AFL’s figure was three- times that of the NRL’s.
This NRL’s rise was headlined by the 42,187 fans who attended Parramatta’s loss to North Queensland on Saturday night at ANZ Stadium, the highest Sydney crowd for an interstate team — outside of grand finals — in more than a decade.
That figure dwarfed the paltry turn out just down the road at Spotless Stadium as just 14,865 fans came to watch Greater Western Sydney flog the West Coast Eagles for the AFL’s lowest finals crowd since World War I.
However Parramatta’s loss to the Cowboys could potentially have cost the league a shot at two sellouts next weekend.
The last time the Eels made a preliminary final, more than 74,000 attended and Allianz Stadium’s 45,000 seats would likely have been full if they qualified to play the Sydney Roosters next week.
Melbourne’s home final against Brisbane is also likely to sell out, after the Storm were successful in packing the house for preliminary finals for the past two years.
But the NRL’s head of football, Brian Canavan, said the league was not concerned by a potential drop following the Eels’ elimination.
“You look at the Cowboys, they mightn’t bring physical people (from Townsville) but they certainly play attractive footy and they’re a damn good football team as we all witnessed tonight,” Canavan told AAP.
“I think our public — who are very educated in rugby league — will want to watch them play against the Roosters. And the Roosters are on the way up.” Canavan said he was unsure what was behind the 1.9 per cent drop in crowds this regular season.
Even with a number of ticket offers, just 75,361 people attended the four qualifying and elimination finals last weekend — a figure that was bettered by this weekend’s 79,910 attendees across two games.
“The perplexing thing is that everybody within our sport and beyond is saying that footy is fantastic.
“Last weekend 17 points separated the eight teams that played and we saw good footy again tonight. So the product is great. It’s just a bit perplexing. “We’re stoked with the Parramatta fans tonight ... This weekend is a pleasing weekend for us, there is nothing wrong with the footy.”