– The AFL gets a dream free run in Sydney on Saturday in the midst of the NRL finals, but the Swans and Kangaroos will struggle to fill half the capacity of the vast Olympic Stadium for their semi-final clash.
The one NRL finals match in Sydney this weekend was scheduled for Friday, leaving the way clear for the AFL to dominate the live sporting landscape in the Harbour City on Saturday.
However, it seems the fans simply don’t care for north or the Homebush venue.
The attendance in the 80,000 plus capacity stadium is expected to land somewhere between the marks for the two previous finals games there between the two clubs,
It should comfortably exceed the paltry tally of 19,127 who attended the 2008 elimination final but will likely fall well short of the 48,029 drawn to last year’s preliminary final.
It’s unlikely the AFL would admit it, but there would surely have been a bigger crowd on Saturday if Richmond had beaten North last weekend.
Although it averages over 40,000 across all the AFL games it has hosted, the ground has never been embraced by Australian rules lovers to the same extent as fans of other football codes.
Rugby league, rugby union and football have all drawn multiple attendances of over 80,000 since the ground was opened before the 2000 Olympics.
The largest Australian rules crowd at the venue was 72,393 who watched the Swans play Collingwoood in round 21 of 2003.
The crowd in this instance isn’t expected to get near that figure and the AFL have taken the step of giving away tickets to the game.
A half full ANZ Stadium crowd would almost fill the SCG, but the Swans haven’t played a finals match at their spiritual home since the epic 2005 semi-final against Geelong, which drew 39,079 spectators.
The Swans contract to play games at the western Sydney venue ends next year, with all their home matches from 2017 being staged at the SCG.
There have been several complaints about the state of the ANZ Stadium surface for AFL games, invariably when they have occurred a day or two after league games at the venue.
At the most recent game there two months ago, Hawthorn’s Jarryd Roughead cut his back on exposed bolts on the ground, which had hosted an NRL match the night before.