SOUTH Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson has claimed rugby league doesn’t care enough about crowds and should follow the AFL’s lead by making attendance figures top priority.
Speaking as his side prepares to take on the Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium tonight, Richardson told The Age his club had received little help from the National Rugby League in promoting the showdown between the competition’s two unbeaten teams.
“The number one KPI for AFL employees is crowds – we have to start worrying about getting bums on seats too,” Richardson said.
“We are going to get twice the crowd we budgeted for this weekend – around 25,000 – but we’ve done it all ourselves. We could easily say ‘Melbourne don’t bring many fans’ but how many do Brisbane Roar take to the sellout crowd at Parramatta.
“We got more than 50,000 at Easter because we worked together with the Bulldogs. The League should be far more involved in this.
“This week there was all this stuff about the Sonny Bill Williams game (Sydney Roosters v Canterbury) on Friday night and yet Sonny Bill Williams hardly spoke to the media all week!
“We’ve got to do better. Taking out ads is one thing but access to players gives you publicity for free – and far greater exposure.”
Tonight’s clash has, at least, not been robbed of its major drawcards with Storm fullback Billy Slater (foot) and halfback Cooper Cronk (niggling injuries) cleared to play.
Speaking to journalists at AAMI Park yesterday morning, prop Jesse Bromwich said of Slater: “He trained this morning and he looked sharp as usual.
“It will be a very exciting match-up (with Souths fullback Greg Inglis). They are two of the best players I’ve played with or alongside.”
Australia coach Tim Sheens, who tomorrow names his side to play New Zealand at Canberra Stadium on Friday, has revealed he would be willing to nurse Slater through next week’s training schedule if necessary.
The selection of an 18th man could also be influenced by the fullback’s problem.
“A player of his experienced, you could having him just train the day before the game if need be,” Sheens told Fairfax Media.
“But I’m on the front foot over this injury – no pun intended.
“Alex Corvo is the staff of both Melbourne and the Test side. It will be assessed after the game but the moon boot he was wearing, I’ve been told, was mainly a precaution – to keep him immobilised.
“The 18th man could be influenced by the situation and I’ll carry two extra men if I have to.”
A number of Storm players – including several in line for Tonga and Samoan selection for their international next Saturday – will stay on in Sydney after tonight’s clash.
Australia, New Zealand, NSW City, NSW Country, NSW under 20s, Queensland Under 20s, Tonga and Samoa will all be named tomorrow night or Monday morning.
Slade Griffin has already been omitted from the Storm bench while Brett Finch and Kenny Bromwich are the others favoured to drop off. The Rabbitohs have won just one of their last 13 against the Storm.
Teams for the match, which kicks off at AAMI Park at 7.35pm Saturday, are:
SOUTHS: Greg Inglis; Nathan Merrit, Dylan Farrell, Bryson Goodwin, Andrew Everingham; John Sutton, Adam Reynolds; Sam Burgess, Ben Teo, Chris McQueen, Roy Asotasi, Issac Luke, David Tyrell. Res: Nathan Peats, Jeff Lima, Ben Lowe, George Burgess, Michael Crocker, Justin Hunt, Jason Clark (three to be omitted).
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Junior Sau, Mahe Fonua; Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Tohu Harris, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jason Ryles, Lagi Setu, Siosaia vave, Kevin Proctor, Kenny Bromwich, Brett Finch (two to be omitted).
Referees: Shayne Hayne/Alan Shortall.
Filed for: THE AGE