Off the Wall

This weekend will decide which teams play in the 2010 grand final - and the makeup of this weekend's finals is a victory for the much maligned McIntyre system.

The week three finals - which in the old days was named the "preliminary final" - will be contested by four teams which finished 1st, 3rd, 4th and 6th at the end of the premiership rounds.

That is a reasonable outcome - a dominance by the "top four" with one team that finished in the second half of the top eight also in the mix.

And when you look at how predictable, and dreary, the AFL finals series was, you have to wonder whether the McIntyre System might actually be the right one for an eight team final series in a sixteen team competition?

We have had two rounds of outstanding football in the finals already.

And this weekend's matches look to be just as enticing.

The real measure of the success of a finals series is whether or not every team competing has a realistic prospect of winning. With the exception of the injury-ridden Sea Eagles when they had to face the Minor Premiers, each game in the finals has been a genuine contest.

The fact that we have had a close finals series so far would surely mean that attendances have been even better than in the last?

The sell out match in Canberra on Friday night was a massive boost for the game in the ACT and regional Australia.

But Saturday night's appalling attendance at the Roosters v Panthers match at the SFS raises serious concerns. The published figure of 23,000 was bad enough - but even that number was questioned by radio and television commentators alike!

The big test will come this weekend when the Dragons and the Tigers meet at the Olympic Stadium.

Two Sydney teams with strong supporter bases, and in good form, should draw 50,000-60,000 in a city of 4.5 million on Saturday night.

On Friday night two out of town teams will meet at Lang Park in Brisbane - the Gold Coast Titans and the Sydney Roosters. I would be very surprised if the game does not draw 40,000 - in a city (add the Gold Coast) of 1.5 million.

Over the weekend callers to 2GB/4BC raised the cost of taking a family to the finals.  And the cost of transport, food and drink has to be included.

At the Olympic Stadium, the areas behind the goal posts are just about vacant except on grand final day and origin nights.

The NRL should evaluate the position late tomorrow after season ticket holders and the public have had a day or two to purchase tickets.

The cheapest individual ticket is $30, and the cheapest family ticket is $65. That does include some public transport.

If there are still 40,000 or so tickets available by tomorrow night, why not enlarge the family concession availability, and cut the total price to $50? With seating behind the goal posts...

The AFL series might have been boring...but the crowds were, as ever, outstanding.

A finals match between the Dragons and the Tigers deserves a full house - anything less than 40,000-50,000 would be an injustice.

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