The National Rugby League (NRL) and the Sharks have engaged in preliminary talks with the goal to create two Matildas-style live sites for the upcoming all-Sydney finals fixture against the Roosters. This solution is formulated for fans who may miss out on witnessing this highly-anticipated clash live at the Pointsbet Stadium due to its limited seating capacity.
Brisbane, Penrith, and Newcastle are set to host games during the first week of the finals’ series. However, the situation is somewhat unique at Cronulla’s home ground, Pointsbet Stadium. As one of the league’s smallest venues, it will be potentially unable to cater to the huge turnout of fans expected this Saturday night. Despite this, the Sharks have received unexpected support from James Tedesco, the skipper of their rival team.
Pointsbet Stadium’s seating capacity has currently been reduced as a result of ongoing restructuring efforts. Amid this redevelopment process, the NRL decided against depriving Craig Fitzgibbon’s team, the Sharks, of their home ground advantage — a courtesy that was also afforded to them during their high-octane clash against the Cowboys during last year’s finals series.
Following this pattern, NRL, Sharks officials, and Sutherland Shire Council have been considering the establishment of two live sites. One at the seaside Don Lucas Reserve, which is 3km away from the Sharks’ home ground, and a second at Dunningham Park, located down the road.
The concept of live sites garnered significant traction when hordes of football enthusiasts flocked to similar settings across the country to enjoy the Matildas’ mesmerising World Cup performance. The NRL proposed a similar but downsized version to address the current limitations at Pointsbet Stadium.
“We’ve had discussions with the NRL and Sutherland Shire Council about having fans at the two sites,” commented Shark’s CEO Dino Mezzatesta. “It’s a great alternative for those who can’t get a ticket to the match.”
In last year’s match against North Queensland, the NRL dismissed appeals to switch venues, choosing instead to reward the better-placed team with a home game. This remains the standing policy.
The NRL also mandates that Sydney teams that usually use suburban grounds must transition to larger stadiums beginning from the second week of the finals series. Allianz Stadium would naturally be the preferred alternative for the Sharks, but this facility is also the home ground of their arch-rivals, the Roosters.
Tedesco defended the decision to keep the game at the Pointsbet Stadium, stating that the Sharks have earned their home ground advantage. “It’s going to feel like 50,000 anyway and I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference. They deserve it,” he said.
The NRL is optimistic about every game of this week’s finals series selling out — a rarity in modern times. This includes games featuring Brisbane’s face-off with Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium, minor premiers Penrith’s tussle with the Warriors, and Newcastle’s game against Canberra.
As for the Sharks, they are waiting until Tuesday’s session to decide whether to include Will Kennedy — who has been out due to a hamstring injury — in their 22-man squad for the qualifying final. His return hinges on the results of scans on Connor Tracey’s injured knee. The latter, who stood in for Kennedy at fullback, himself required a scan following issues that arose during the Sharks’ victory over the Raiders. Dan Atkinson, who has played only two NRL games, and Matt Moylan are potential replacements if Kennedy and Tracey are unfit for selection.