A PREDICTED crowd of 25,000 for tonight’s Bulldogs-Wests Tigers match at ANZ Stadium would see the NRL smash the record for the highest attendance for a round of matches.
Already, 174,475 fans have watched the seven weekend matches - just 10,576 short of the record set in 2007 when 185,051 people attended games in the opening round.
With Canterbury officials expecting 25,000 for tonight’s clash with Wests Tigers, the league could break the 200,000 spectator barrier for the first time.
Advertisement: Story continues below The overall crowd figure is up on last year’s, when 165,554 people attended first-round matches.
If the predictions are correct, the Bulldogs-Tigers clash will be the fourth match of the round to attract more than 25,000 fans through the gates, with the biggest turnout being the 45,119 crowd at Suncorp Stadium for Friday night’s Broncos-Cowboys game.
The Warriors recorded their biggest home attendance in the club’s 17-year history when 38,412 supporters saw them go down 24-18 to Parramatta, coached by New Zealand mentor Stephen Kearney, at Eden Park on Saturday night.
A further 28,703 supporters attended Friday night’s Roosters-Rabbitohs thriller at the SFS, while 21,709 fans packed Skilled Park for Gold Coast’s home clash with premiers St George Illawarra, which was won 25-12 by the Dragons.
The lowest attendance was at Penrith, with 12,431 fans yesterday watching the Panthers succumb 42-8 to Newcastle, while the crowd in Canberra for the Raiders’ 40-12 thrashing of Cronulla was 13,450.
Storm officials were pleased with the 14,651-strong turn-out for the club’s match against Manly at AAMI Stadium on Saturday night.
Television ratings figures for the opening round were also strong, with Channel Nine’s live coverage being the most watched show in Sydney and Brisbane on Friday night.
In Sydney, the Roosters-Souths match attracted 416,000 viewers, while 331,000 people in Brisbane tuned in to watch the Broncos-Cowboys clash.
Delayed coverage of North Queensland’s 16-14 defeat of the Broncos was seen by 241,000 people in Sydney, while 141,000 Brisbane viewers stayed on to watch the Roosters-Souths clash.
The attendance figures and television ratings should be further ammunition for officials involved in negotiations for new deals with broadcasters and sponsors.
All three free-to-air television networks are expected to bid for matches from 2013, with Ten flagging its interest in Monday night football by scheduling a new weekly program debuting tonight on OneHD with NSW coach Ricky Stuart.
Meanwhile, the man who helped turn Greg Inglis into the best centre in the world believes South Sydney would benefit from handing him the red-and-green No.1 jumper.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy, who introduced Inglis to the NRL as a fullback/winger before shifting him to the centres to accommodate Billy Slater at the back, claimed the Test and Queensland State of Origin star’s best position was fullback.
Inglis had a quiet debut for the Rabbitohs in Friday night’s loss, with his only meaningful contribution a second-half try after reeling in a Chris Sandow bomb.
‘‘I think Greg’s best position is fullback … the only reason he didn’t play a whole heap of fullback here was because of Billy [Slater],’’ Bellamy told ABC Radio.