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3 days ago
Kangaroos forward Willie Mason has launched an impassioned plea with fans to support Friday night's Centenary Test before admonishing Sydneysiders as embarrassing should the game not sell out.
Despite less than 10,000 tickets being pre-sold, organisers remain hopeful of attracting a crowd of 25,000 to the SCG for the historic game, but Mason said he'd be gutted by anything less than a full house.
"I think it would be an embarrassment to Sydney if they didn't fill the stadium up," Mason said.
"Even in Melbourne I think they would get 40,000 to something like this. If it was in Brisbane they'd pack Suncorp out - I just think they need to get out and support rugby league."
Having appealed to their pride, Mason then turned to their hearts.
"I don't think they can really give up an opportunity like this not to come to a game," said Mason, as he put on his well-worn marketing hat.
"I can understand through the years, maybe they don't want to come to a Test match, they always think that we're going to win.
"But regardless of who's favourite and who's not it's just a game that everybody should go out and watch and be part of.
"It's going to be one of those games that you're going to look back on in 20-30 years and say `yeah, I was at that game'."
Sydneysiders have shown a growing indifference to international rugby league in recent years.
Of the three Tests played in Sydney since 2003, none have attracted a crowd of 30,000.
Of the four Tests played in Brisbane over the corresponding period, 35,241 (in 2007) was the worst crowd with the other three all in excess of 40,000.
Much of the apathy from the Sydney public seems to stem from a fear of watching a one-sided mauling similar to the 58-0 whooping the Kangaroos dished out to the Kiwis in Wellington last year.
But Mason said the Aussies were expecting a far more potent Kiwi side this time around.
"They've got Sonny Bill and Roy Asotasi and Nathan Cayless, Simon Mannering, David Fa'alogo - they're players that can match it with anyone," Mason said.
"Forwards win games, backs are just there to put the sprinkling on top if you've got the backs that we have got.
"We've got a massive job with the forwards to try and contain them because they're going to come at us with everything they've got in the first 20 minutes, everything."
Friday night's result could also have a massive bearing on the success of the World Cup to be held in Australia in October and November.
A third of the 18 matches will be held in Sydney - and while the final was handed to Brisbane as a result of their continued support of the national side - World Cup organisers know they need decent crowds in Sydney to give the tournament some impetus.
Australia play New Zealand at the Sydney Football Stadium in the official tournament opener, a wide margin on Friday night sure to turn people off the thought of watching an end of season repeat.
It's left the Kangaroos in a no-win situation.
"New Zealand have a responsibility and so do we - what if we lose?" Mason said.
"It's embarrassing for Australia but it's good for the World Cup - we're in a bit of a pickle there."
Both camps will hold their final training sessions on Thursday.