I touched on it last week, but how good is Sunday afternoon footy at a suburban ground? I spent last Sunday down at Brookvale and after miserable weather all morning the sun came out just as the game kicked off. Unfortunately for the club the persistent rain scared people away and the crowd was a pretty low 9,065.
I hate when I hear people calling for Sydney games to be played at ANZ or Allianz. Brookvale, Leichhardt, Kogarah, Parramatta, Penrith and Cronulla are some of my favourite places to go and watch the footy and it all has to do with atmosphere. I would chuck Campbelltown in there as well but I can't recall ever going to a game there before. Yeah the bigger stadiums are more comfortable, less crowded and provide you with a seat (or a whole row of seats mot of the time) but that can't compete with the intensity of one eyed parochial fans baying for the blood of their opposition that you get at the smaller venues where you are closer to the action.
Lets not forget the advantage the home team receives by playing at these suburban grounds. Manly's home record over the last decade would surely not have been so dominant if games weren't played at fortress Brookie. And I'm sure if you ask players they would tell you that it is easier to come away with the two points against the Tigers when games are at ANZ instead of Leichhardt. For this reason clubs that play at the big stadiums like the Bulldogs, Roosters and Rabbitohs probably find themselves at a disadvantage.
Despite the big wrap I'm giving suburban footy the crowds aren't always so great. Tigers especially have been a bit of a rocks or diamonds case when it comes to Campbelltown and Leichhardt. I know the weather has been pretty crappy lately but fans need to start voting with their feet if they want their team's matches to remain at these historic grounds. Grant Mayer has even given fans out Campbelltown way the courtesy of warning them that matches will be moved if the crowd figures don't rise. Tickets for their game against the Broncos have also been slashed to just $10 so high cost can't be used as an excuse either.
Certain clubs and the NRL should also look at their scheduling if they want crowd numbers to rise. The Wests Tigers is one team in particular that I am making reference too. A quick look at their draw for the season left me scratching my head with some of the scheduling choices. While Leichhardt gets Sunday afternoon games against Manly and the Gold Coast, Campbelltown seems to get stuck with Saturday nights all against out of Sydney teams (Cowboys, Broncos and Raiders). I know Channel 9 and Fox have pretty much the final say on when games are played but surely the club or the NRL could speak to them to try and get the fans out west a Sunday game? What surprises me even more is that the Tigers home game against the Bulldogs in round fourteen is being played at ANZ. On a Sunday afternoon mind you. Wouldn't you think the battle of two teams from out west would be a great opportunity to fill Campbelltown stadium? It would give the Tigers a true home ground advantage as well in a game that could prove pivotal for the finals race. I obviously don't know all the ins and outs of NRL scheduling but I do believe the Tigers have some explaining to do with that one.
Despite all this the patience of those in charge is running out when it comes to small crowds at suburban grounds. It is up to us as fans to get down there no matter the conditions if we want to keep these iconic venues in operation. If you aren't attending games then you will have no right to complain if they are relocated in the future. So get down to a game this weekend!