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'Out of towners' to wake up NSW: Raper

By Philip Henderson 25/09/2006 07:31:56 PM Comments (0)

Rugby league immortal John Raper says Sunday's NRL grand final between "out of towners" Brisbane and Melbourne should be a wake up call for NSW clubs.

After accounting for Sydney powerhouses St George Illawarra and the Bulldogs in the preliminary finals, the Storm and Broncos will play the first title decider between non-NSW clubs in 99 years of premiership rugby league this weekend.

Internet auction site ebay was on Monday flooded with Sydney fans looking to offload their tickets for the match at Telstra Stadium, although the NRL remains confident its annual showpiece will be a sellout.

Raper, along with former Canterbury legend Steve Mortimer and Balmain great Wayne Pearce all believed the crowd and atmosphere at Telstra Stadium would reach the same heights as previous NRL grand finals on Sunday.

But Raper, who played in eight consecutive premierships with St George during the Dragons' 11-year golden reign in the 1950s and 60s, said the Brisbane-Melbourne match-up showed NSW clubs needed to pick up their act.

"I think that it's more than a wake up call," Raper said.

"There is a lot of hard work that is being neglected. It just needs a bit of a kick in the backside.

"It just goes to show we've been lacking appreciation about the strength of the clubs up on top of us and below us.

"I just think there will be a lot of officials running around and a lot of questions asked at general meetings, why they couldn't make the grand final.

"But it is all due credit to (Melbourne and Brisbane)... it's been a great effort."

Mortimer, however, believed the grand final simply underlined the strength of the NRL as a national competition.

"Rugby league has to go the same way as the AFL and have a national presence," Mortimer said.

"I was sad that the Bulldogs were beaten but I just think it's a sign that there is definitely opportunities in the expansion of the game nationally.

"I think it's absolutely great. Our game deserves to have a national presence like AFL and I think it's good for the game."

Pearce said the grand final atmosphere would not suffer because two clubs from outside of NSW were competing.

"I think the game is an event nowadays, it's a game people want to go along and be part of regardless of the teams they support," said Pearce.

"It shows that the game is very healthy. It's great."

Mortimer said: "Grand finals are an event, like the AFL, they've got West Coast and Sydney, it's the two best teams, it's like two boxers going toe to toe, and there's going to be one winner and one loser.

"It's the same thing here, they'll see some great football."

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