Off the Wall

The NRL is entitled to crow about the success of the finals series so far - and especially the television ratings.

It is also pointing to increased attendances, but that is where the numbers are misleading, and ought not give cause for complacency.

There have been six games played so far. Three have attracted excellent attendances - three have not done so.

The disparity could hardly be greater. The Broncos two home finals drew an average crowd of 50,000. That is just about a full house for both games.

There is no doubt the pending retirement of Darren Lockyer - and the prospect that the first game could be, and the second game was, his final home match - added around 10,000 to the numbers, perhaps even more.

The Dragons v Tigers game on the first weekend drew in the mid-40,000's. A good turnout.

But that is where it ends. The attendance at the Storm's qualifying semi final in Melbourne (a Sunday afternoon) was terrible. The Sea Eagles match against the Cowboys drew an "official" 13,000 attendance. Des Hasler said it was more like 10,000.

Last Friday night's match between the Tigers (who usually draw a good crowd) and the Warriors (who usually don't) drew another disappointing crowd.

The Sea Eagles are so concerned about attendances that Des Hasler has sent a text to his club's 10,000 members urging them to turn up to the match against the Broncos this Friday night at the SFS.

A crowd of anything less than 40,000 will be a disappointment.

But the real test ought to be the Storm v Warriors match on Saturday night. There can be no excuse that the AFL finals are competition. Collingwood meet the West Coast Eagles at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.

Anything less than a 25,000-30,000 crowd will be disappointing. And the number of Kiwis in Melbourne should help guarantee that.

The game will be shown live on Nine in Melbourne. The problem with that is that Nine largely ignored the Storm, and the NRL premiership, throughout the season.

Getting viewers to tune in to what will be a cracker of a game won't be easy.

In summary, there is good news for the game out of the finals so far. Good news - and some not so good news.

Addressing the latter ought to be the NRL's focus.

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