‘Backwards thinking’: Commentator calls out NRL over stadium farce

‘Backwards thinking’: Commentator calls out NRL over stadium farce

Fox Sports rugby league commentator Dan Ginnane has taken aim at the NRL after the decision to allow Cronulla to play their elimination final at PointsBet Stadium.

The annual debate about the use of suburban grounds in the first week of the playoffs has reignited after the NRL confirmed that in the first week of finals, teams would be able to play at their home grounds.

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While Brisbane will host Melbourne at the 52,500 seat Suncorp Stadium and Newcastle will plays Canberra at its 33,000 McDonald Jones Stadium, questions have been asked about Penrith and particularly the Sharks being allowed to play at their suburban grounds.

Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium is a 21,500-seat ground ahead of the development of its proposed 30,000-seat stadium while the Sharks’ PointsBet Stadium holds just 13,000.

Sharks captain Wade Graham defended the club but has argued the NSW government should look at funding the stadium.

“I understand the argument, and it’s unfortunate (that people miss out), but we’re in a position where everyone has earned a home semi so we deserve it as well,” Graham said.

“I think the government should throw some funding at the Sharks to update that facility because the infrastructure there now with the new development needs a new stadium to sit side-by-side with it.

“That’s a government issue, not ours.

“They’ve looked after everyone else so I think they need to throw a little down the Sharks’ way.”

He added on Tuesday night’s NRL360 that the Sharks were working with government to work on a live site for fans who miss out on tickets.

But while the debate has continued to rage, speaking in The Back Page, Ginnane defended the Sharks’ right to host the game, but also called out the NRL for the situation.

“I defend Cronulla on this score — you can’t take this off Cronulla as the only Sydney club and say ‘your ground’s not fit enough but we’ll let a final be played at Penrith’,” Ginnane began.

“They’ve earned a home final but we’ve got three great stadiums (CommBank Stadium — 30,000, Allianz Stadium — 45,500 and Accor Stadium — 83,500) and we’re not using any of them.

“It’s backwards thinking from the NRL that we’ve got a ground the size of a thimble to host a final, we’re treating it like a glorified club game.

“This is the NRL. This organisation has an elephant-sized sense of smell for money. We’re going to Vegas in a few months because we’re trying to squeeze a little bit of gambling money.

“We’re going to Eden Park in a week or two, you wait and hear the Warriors, they’re going to blow up because we’re not going to play at their home ground, holds 30,000, it’s going to be probably moved to Eden Park which holds 50,000 because the NRL wants to maximise revenue.”

As an aside, the NRL are reportedly still tossing up where the Warriors can play their home semi-final.

The New Zealand Herald’s Michael Burgess posted a story earlier on Tuesday and said: “Mt Smart seems favoured for week 2 scenario, Eden Park for week 3 though nothing concrete.”

Ginnane continued: “But they somehow hold week one to a different standard and home games for everybody. So we’re going to let 25-30,000 people miss out on this game.

“And I get the Sharks’ argument, and there’s ways to give them an advantage at a neutral venue.”

Tony Squires interjected and played devil’s advocate, saying: “But fans, if they had the choice between watching the game and winning the game, they’re going to take the result, aren’t they?”

Ginnane: “But this is an NRL event, it’s not a Cronulla event or a Penrith event — this is an NRL event.

“Sharks fans for instance, take the game to Allianz, and let Cronulla fans, members, let them have first crack at tickets. Give them a day, and if they can sell out Allianz Stadium, god bless them, it’ll be all Cronulla fans. But then very few people miss out.”

It comes after The Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio, speaking on SEN 1170 Breakfast on Monday, argued the same point.

“If the Sharks were to move it (and) the only thing you could deliver to Sharks fans and still call it a home final is to lock out tickets for Sydney Roosters fans for 24 hours,” he said.

“You give Sharks fans 24 hours to fill the stadium blue, black and white.”

Candice Warner argued that if the Sharks did that and sold out the stadium, it’s still the place the Roosters play.

“It’s their home ground where they feel comfortable, they train, they know it better than everyone — there is no way they would move their home game from Shark Park to Allianz,” she said.

But Ginnane said there was a simple reason the NRL had backed itself into a corner.

“You know why we have this stupid scenario? It’s because the NRL fears Cronulla hosting Gold Coast, or Manly hosting North Queensland if we take it to a big stadium and it’s going to be two-thirds empty,” Ginnane said.

“They’re willing to forgo let’s say $1m here, that’s before they sell a corporate box, they’re willing to forgo that money because they don’t want the visual of a two-thirds empty stadium. That’s why we have this absurd scenario.

“I’m on Cronulla’s side, you can’t change the rules because of them.”

The Herald Sun’s Lauren Wood it was similar to Geelong being forced out of its home ground of Gardinia Park for the MCG.

Or for the first final of the AFL season on Thursday night between Collingwood and Melbourne, both who call the MCG home which negates the home ground advantage for the minor premier Magpies.

“I think the ticket element is the way to go,” Wood said. “Collingwood for example this Thursday, it sold out in a matter of hours but realistically, is there any home ground advantage for them in terms of crowd? No there’s not because there’s been an even split.”

Originally published as ‘Backwards thinking’: Commentator calls out NRL over stadium farce