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Volume 10 No. 22
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NRL Being Eclipsed By AFL For Sydney Crowds During Finals

National Rugby League officials will be "desperate to draw a big crowd" to Parramatta's home semifinal at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday after the code's finals attendances were "dwarfed" by the Australian Football League last weekend, according to Scott Bailey of the AAP. NRL and AFL finals "will be played side by side for a second weekend in a row." Last Saturday, the AFL's Sydney Swans sold out the Sydney Cricket Ground, with 46,323 fans turning out for the team's elimination final against Essendon. In contrast, on the same night, "just 15,408 attended the all-Sydney Manly-Penrith clash next door at Allianz Stadium" -- with the Moore Park venue attracting just 52,735 fans in the three matches it hosted over the weekend. NRL execs "tried all they could" to draw fans to matches in the opening week of the finals. Club buses, free public transport, all-you-can-eat ticket offers and cheap entry "were among the fan-based initiatives being used to try and get Australian rugby league fans to Moore Park games." Yet the crowds for the Saturday night match and Cronulla's loss to North Queensland on Sunday "were the two lowest in finals football" since '11. The NRL's aggregate figure of 75,361 across all four games was "also the lowest week-one figure" since '08, when three of the four matches were held at suburban grounds (AAP, 9/11).