AFL NZ match attracts small crowd

St Kilda boss Matt Finnis has lamented the AFL team’s inability to win as the missing piece of their New Zealand puzzle.

The Saints lost to Carlton by 40 points in Saturday’s Anzac Day match in front of only 12,125 fans.

It is the third time St Kilda have hosted an Anzac Day game in Wellington, following losses to Sydney and Brisbane.

This was also the lowest crowd of the three games, the teams on Saturday having only won one game between them in the opening three rounds of the season.

Then Saints captain Nick Riewoldt and Carlton’s Chris Judd, easily the two biggest drawcards for the game, pulled out because of injury.

But the St Kilda chief executive could have coped with all that had his team won.

“We are bitterly disappointed we haven’t been able to sing the (club) song after the game,” Finnis said.

“We just think that’s been the missing piece to really solidify the Wellingtonians behind our club.”

Despite all the pre-game problems, the Saints were confident of a solid attendance.

The weather had been good, ticket sales were encouraging and the game was moved from a night time slot to early afternoon.

But the expected number of walk-up fans failed to happen.

“There’s no doubt we would have liked to have exceeded last year’s crowd (13,409),” Finnis said.

The Saints, the AFL and the Wellington city council will meet over the next few weeks to review the Anzac Day fixture, which will run until 2018.

It is part of a broader St Kilda campaign to build a solid fan base in the country.

Finnis also admitted pre-game factors such as the form of the two teams did not help Saturday’s crowd figure.

“There’s no doubt when we advocated to play Carlton here we were keen to bring a big Melbourne club across,” he said.

“Carlton like us haven’t had things going all their way on the field in recent times and that’s probably been a bit less than we would have liked in terms of the amount of Carlton supporters who came across the ditch.”

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