Scheduling clash looming for Storm - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Scheduling clash looming for Storm

By Melissa Woods and Steve Jancetic 29/08/2008 06:50:33 PM Comments (0)

The penultimate game of the NRL season is set to be swamped by the AFL grand final due to an embarrassing scheduling bungle in the Victorian capital.

Defending NRL champions Melbourne are on a collision course with one of Australia's biggest sporting events with a possible preliminary final to be staged at Telstra Dome just a matter of hours after the AFL grand final.

The AFL decider will attract almost 100,000 fans to the MCG, which would likely quadruple any figure the Storm could attract across town.

The Storm are locked into playing on the Saturday evening with the Telstra Dome - the only viable venue for the fixture, booked out for the state VFL grand final on the preceding Friday night.

As per the NRL's new broadcasting agreement with host broadcaster the Nine Network, Friday and Saturday night are the only timeslots available for the preliminary final.

"We're aware of all the constraints around that week but we haven't got a preferred outcome because we don't know what the results of the games beforehand are going to be," NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley said.

"With all the finals venues and the potential clashes, we tend not to worry too much about them because you finish up worrying about things that don't happen."

While the Storm still need to win their opening finals match to secure a home preliminary final, the likelihood of that occurring is better than average given Melbourne have lost just one of their last 26 games south of the border.

Last year Melbourne hosted the corresponding game on the Sunday afternoon, but even that option is a no-go with the ground booked by the Melbourne Victory A-League side.

Melbourne's qualifying final will be played at Olympic Park, but with a capacity of 17,500, their regular home ground is not big enough according to NRL standards to host a preliminary final.

"Potentially, for a grand final qualifier, clearly Telstra Dome would be our preference," Annesley said.

"If we want to play it at Telstra Dome, it's only available Saturday - that's a pretty clear choice if we want to play it at Telstra Dome."

The Storm attracted a club record 33,427 to Telstra Dome against Parramatta last year, which outdid the other preliminary final match played the previous night in Sydney.

But that figure now looks hopelessly out of reach and compounding the affect, the profile of the Storm's marquee game of the year will be dramatically downgraded with the city in a frenzy over the AFL.

Melbourne chief executive Brian Waldron tried to remain upbeat about the prospect of luring fans to the Telstra Dome following the grand final, which stops the AFL-mad state.

"I think there will be a lot of people interested to come straight from an AFL grand final straight to a major rugby league final," Waldron said.

"That's up to us, to increase our awareness and do all we can to make people aware of the importance of the game.

"I don't have an issue with it.

"That's the way Channel Nine and the NRL hold the games and we think it will be an interesting exercise."

Waldron said the important thing was that the game was played in Melbourne.

"We'll play any time anywhere provided it's played here in Melbourne.

"We're confident that it will sell well and we can get as much of Melbourne as we can behind us."

Annesley said the NRL had not given any thought to taking the game out of Victoria.

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