On Wednesday night of grand final week, I received numerous messages from quite sensible and reliable people, claiming to have been offered tickets to Sunday’s match just moments earlier.
Apparently the offers came via email and headed the recipient’s way thanks to their volunteer work with junior rugby league clubs.
A juicy pair of rare tickets to the climax of a gripping NRL season would normally demand a princely sum. However, it appears the NRL had a problem on its hands, as they sought to ensure ANZ Stadium didn’t present an embarrassing vision of unoccupied blue plastic seats on Sunday night.
Part of me naively wondered why the masses hadn’t snapped up all the available tickets by 10.05am Monday morning; desperate to witness their colours compete in the big dance.
Then my evil twin, responsible for so many poor life decisions over the years, reminded me of the two combatants. He presented a rather primal and vindictive theory, as he whispered in my ear, ‘everybody hates the Roosters and the Storm’.
Despite being well versed in this line of thinking and attuned to some of the dislike and tension that comes to the surface when traditional foes do battle, it appears even a grand final doesn’t supersede those feelings.
With emails being sent to attract last minute sales, it appeared that media reports of something less than a sellout was highly likely. Television and radio climbed aboard with numerous discussions around other entertainment options available to people on Sunday night, with many expressing little or no desire to watch the game at all.
I tested the reality quite easily on Thursday morning and was able to purchase seats, across an array of categories, from the official ticket sellers. $90 Bronze tickets were still readily available and only three out of the 12 seating categories were tagged; allocation exhausted.
My goodness, it was real. Everybody does hate the Storm and the Roosters.
It was hard to imagine the same scenario playing out had South Sydney managed to topple the Roosters and book a place in the big dance. Moreover, surely a grand final involving the Warriors, Panthers or Sharks would have placed premium demand on tickets?
Perhaps the cynical attitudes often expressed around both teams had indeed turned this years’ decider into a snore fest for most outside the small supporter bases of the two clubs involved?
The Melbourne Storm appear to be well and truly disliked for a number of reasons. Systematic salary cap cheating and the mastery of wrestling techniques in the ruck area are often raised.
Apparently a perception also exists that Cameron Smith’s evasion of on-field sanctions for ‘professional’ play is somehow organized and corrupt and Billy Slater’s miraculous escape from the charge he faced earlier in the week added to many people’s impression that he is something of a protected species.
Throw in the fact that they are the most consistent and successful team over the last decade, with a grumpy coach who shows little of his human side and it is potentially understandable as to why people might be able to roll up on the day and still purchase a ticket.
With the Roosters as their opponent, the problem becomes two-fold.
With fans of rival clubs constantly referring to the ‘salary sombrero’ under which the chooks work, as opposed to the cap that everyone else obviously follows so diligently, the mistrust and dislike is clear.
A perception also exists that the Roosters are cashed up and financially powerful yet constantly inflating crowd figures to present the façade of actually having anything near a substantial fan base. As of Thursday morning, there were still seats available in the Roosters’ supporters section for Sunday’s game which perhaps adds weight to that claim.
I’m not too sure what to make of it all. Will a late flurry save the day or is grand final 2018 set to be the dud of all duds, with empty seats and a poor ratings result indicative of a lack of genuine interest?
I will be at ANZ Stadium for the game, that is, after blogging the NRLW climax between the Broncos and the Roosters earlier in the day. Being an ANZ member, my tickets were booked months back.
It will be interesting to see how many stay away in the members’ section. If it is a little sparse in the far reaches, could that be solely put down to the teams involved on the day?