THE Easter resurrection of NRL crowds in Sydney is set to continue with today’s blockbuster between the Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium on track to post 40,000-plus fans.
Following a slow start to the season, in which crowd numbers have dropped by a worrying 15 per cent, the NRL has hit back this Easter long weekend through some exciting fixtures to have fans reeling.
The Bulldogs’ thrilling one-point win over the Rabbitohs on Good Friday attracted the biggest Sydney crowd of the season with 43,255 turning up to ANZ Stadium.
With both the Eels and Tigers in red hot form having won their past three games Parramatta CEO Scott Seward is hoping the Easter Monday crowd can surpass Friday’s bumper attendance.
“It’s great to see the Parramatta Eels members and fans getting behind the team and turning out in huge numbers,’’ Seward said.
“It’s been a lean few years for both the Eels and Wests Tigers on the field but both clubs have such a strong and loyal supporter base and through our pre-sold tickets for today’s match, we know we’ll see that support with a great crowd.”
“Great tickets are still available and transport to and from ANZ Stadium is included in the price. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with the family.’’
NRL head of football Todd Greenberg believes the big Easter crowds are a big step in the right direction for NRL chief Dave Smith’s big stadium policy which is aimed at playing more games at ANZ and Allianz stadiums instead of the more popular but less comfortable suburban grounds.
“It takes several years to make these big marquee events a part of the calendar,” Greenberg told AAP.
“The clubs have been working together regardless of whose home game it is.
“Ultimately, you want to grow crowds and improve the fans’ experience and that comes by giving people quality access to transport and good facilities.
“We have worked on pricing and there are a lot of affordable prices for families.
“Ultimately, we want to make rugby league a fun and affordable day out.”
Ticket holders and all Eels and Tigers members receive free public transport travelling to and from the game. This transport includes Sydney trains and buses, an Eels shuttle from Parramatta and Easter Show special event buses.
The Eels have dedicated their home game to a Ben Smith initiative to help raise awareness and support for the farmers across NSW and Queensland who are doing it tough both financially and mentally.
The ‘#forthefarmers’ campaign, is a cause that is close to Smith’s heart after the Parramatta stalwart grew up on 5,000 acres.
“At the moment they say 79 per cent of Queensland is in drought and 62 per cent of NSW are lots of stories about families having to go down into their paddocks and shoot their stock because they can’t afford to keep feeding them there’s no feed out there for them to be fed,’’ Smith said.
“People can’t sell them because it’s the same case for the bloke down the road.”
The struggle hits home for Smith, who wants to raise awareness for the issue not just for monetary gain, but to offer Farmers support.
“You hear a lot of stories about farmer’s taking their lives because of it. That’s a main concern if we cans top that and show we care about what’s been happening, that could make a major difference,” he added.
Fans can donate on game day or online through The NSW Farmers’ Association Natural Disaster Relief Fund.