Sydney clubs fume at NRL finals switch - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sydney clubs fume at NRL finals switch

By Steve Jancetic and Joe Barton 05/09/2011 07:10:50 PM Comments (0)

Already facing their lowest finals representation, Sydney clubs have turned on the NRL over the decision to rob them of home-ground advantage in the opening week of the finals.

While Manly skipper Jamie Lyon claimed the decision to play Saturday's game against North Queensland at the Sydney Football Stadium would be futile if the game attracted less than 20,000 fans, Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens proved far less diplomatic.

The Tigers will play premiers St George Illawarra at the larger ANZ Stadium, despite the SFS being one of their three home grounds.

"For the goodness of the game, we moved from Leichhardt to the Sydney Football Stadium last year to a Roosters home game basically and I wasn't happy about that and we lost the game," Sheens told Triple M's The Rush Hour.

"I thought we got shafted a bit last year and I still feel we're a bit shafted this year.

"We better draw 50,000 (on Friday night) because, if it's less than that, I'll have something to say."

Lyon said the Sea Eagles deserved more reward for finishing second, with their only saving grace being that they won't be playing another Sydney-based outfit.

"Probably just luck it's the Cowboys really. If it was another Sydney team, I'm sure we'd probably get overpowered with fans with the likes of Tigers and Dragons, it's more their home ground.

"(Brookvale Oval is) our home ground and you finish second, you deserve to play on your home ground to get a slight advantage so I think we should be there."

Asked what it would be like to play at a half empty SFS, Lyon said: "I think it probably defeats the purpose a little bit. I'm pretty sure if it was at Brookvale, it would be a full house and be a great atmosphere so we'll just have to wait and see how many we get here."

Saturday night's opponents certainly aren't complaining about the fixturing, with former Sea Eagle Glenn Hall all too aware of the 'Brookvale Factor'.

"I only got told today that we're actually playing here (at the SFS) - that might bring it back to level terms. It doesn't give them as big an advantage," Hall said.

"I know how good it is running out onto Brookie, when that hill is covered in maroon and white ... I think a semi-final against them there would've been a bit tougher.

"It makes it a bit easier and brings the playing field down a little bit."

NRL chief executive David Gallop said clubs had no grounds for complaint, having signed off on the decision to play Sydney finals at the two larger venues.

"It's recognition that the game has grown to a point where we can't afford to be turning people away," Gallop said.

"Although there'll be some swings and roundabouts in relation to that, the more fair system is that we move the Sydney games into the two big stadiums."

Asked if he thought the Sea Eagles-Cowboys match would draw more than 23,000 - the capacity of Brookvale Oval - Gallop said: "I think a lot of people will turn up, I'm not predicting a particular number.

"Finals series are pretty exciting if you're a fan of one of the clubs but they're also pretty exciting if you just love rugby league because this is traditionally where people love to come in September."

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