Sport NRL NRL’s difficult season to end with 40,000 at grand final
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NRL’s difficult season to end with 40,000 at grand final

Melbourne Storm veteran Cameron Smith is one of the big attractions of the NRL grand final. Photo: AAP
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The NRL says it is on track for Australia’s biggest sporting crowd in seven months with the last tickets to Sunday’s grand final to be released.

Tickets went back on sale to Penrith and Melbourne members on Monday, before the few thousand remaining go on sale to the general public on Tuesday morning.

There had been fears this weekend’s event could struggle to sell all 40,000 tickets at ANZ Stadium given a number of factors.

Melbourne fans from interstate will effectively be locked out, given the border closure to Victoria and any Queenslanders needing to quarantine on return.

The crowd of 40,000 will also mark the biggest public gathering in Australia since the COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in mid-March.

Since then, Australian sports have routinely had crowds well below COVID-safe capacities, with fans often opting to stay at home as recently as this year’s finals series.

But head of football Graham Annesley said the grand final was tracking in the right direction.

“I think a grand final is very different to any kind of lead-up final,” Annesley said.

“You do tend to find that rugby league fans love going to major events. Not everyone who attends a grand final is a fan of the two teams playing.

“There are fans of individual players. Who knows what will happen with Cameron Smith.

It would be something you could tell your grandkids that you saw Cameron Smith’s last game.”

Penrith players have called on Sydney to support them this week, while Melbourne on Monday pointed out they are used to playing without their fans in 2020,

The event will be one of the few big-crowd events globally since March, with rugby crowds in New Zealand one of the major exceptions.

With ANZ Stadium at 50 per cent capacity, seats are being sold in a chequerboard set up to ensure social distancing while masks are also encouraged.

Meanwhile Annesley lauded the finals series, which has had the more points and tries than any this century as well as the second most linebreaks.

Average margins are also down on last year’s finals to 11.6, while the six-again rule has also made it the least penalised since 2000.

It comes as the NRL prepares for an independent review on the one-referee policy at the end of the year, with Annesley backing the status quo to remain.

“Personally, I think it’s been successful and the figures speak for themselves,” he said. “We’ve had a lot less refereeing controversy this year.

“The objective is to ensure we provide the maximum amount of entertainment.

“As well as the maximum amount of opportunities for players to determine the outcome of games based on their skills.”

-AAP