In a move which shouldn’t shock too many, the NRL have again chosen the bottom line over loyal fans with their decision to deny the Sharks an SCG Stadium hosted semi-final.
The Sharks, who lead the competition and are at short odds to host a semi-final in the first round of the NRL finals, had asked the NRL to allow them to host their first round final in front of their genuine home fans.
Given the Sharks lead the competition on the back of a thus-far undefeated season in front of their own fans, there’s a genuine argument that the club should be afforded genuine home advantage instead of being forced to travel into the city.
The fact that the Cowboys and Raiders would be allowed to host home finals in similar capacity stadiums will further infuriate fans in the shire, who saw their appeal fall flat by an NRL head office drifting further and further away from the fans.
The NRL’s argument is that fans of both sides would be denied a chance to attend the game should it be hosted at SCG Stadium, which has a capacity of just over 20,000.
The Sharks, who saw just 27,000 turn up to their semi-final last season, where they hosted the Sydney-based Rabbitohs, showed that their loyalty lies with their fans rather than the commercial aspects of a shifted semi-final.
Given the run the team is on and the increased crowds, it’s likely the Sharks could attract 30+ thousand to a game against the likes of the Bulldogs, but that did not stop the Lyall Gorman-led Sharks attempting to choose their fans over cash.
It’s a shame that the NRL cannot take the same view.
The NRL would lose out financially if they allowed the Sharks to host their final away from the larger venues, although loyal and long suffering Sharks fans would argue that they should be allowed a similar advantage afforded to the likes of the Cowboys.
Make no mistake, there was very little chance of the game ever being shifted away from Allianz Stadium, and to their credit the NRL never indicated otherwise, but surely there has to be some level of common sense applied here.
Yes, some fans would miss out, especially away fans, but the Cowboys-hosted semi-finals are hardly swamped with away fans either.
Sharks members who turn up every week should be guaranteed tickets. Other than that, I’m all for allowing fans to support their team, but the fair weather fans who haven’t attended a home game all season but want to jump on come finals times can wait til round two or three of the finals.
I applaud Sharks management for at least showing their willingness to take a proposal to the NRL to allow the former Shark Park to be filled to capacity with black, white and blue, to see their team play finals, but the NRL, once again, can’t see past the almighty dollar sign.
It’s a Nu Day in the shire
For those who missed the incredible news yesterday, Sharks number nine Michael Ennis has announced he will retire at the end of the season.
The decision will end one of the most debated careers in recent NRL history, as until recently Ennis was known as the game’s most hated player.
His increasingly funny antics along with his brilliant media personality have slowly seen his transform into a much-liked player, off field at least, and the decision shocked plenty.
The Sharks now have a huge hole in their side going forward, as Ennis was expected to sign a contract extension.
Step forward youngster Nu Brown who has been brilliant in his three games thus far this season for the Sharks.
Originally seen as a long-term option in the halves, the signings of Maloney and Townsend have seen Nu’s future shift into the dummy half position.
With Ennis stepping down sooner than most expected, Brown suddenly becomes a huge player in the future of the Shire-based club.
The Sharks are set to announce the signing of Tigers younger Manaia Cherrington, which may see the hooking role shared from 2017 onwards, but Brown is still seen by many Sharks fans as the heir apparent for the number nine jersey.
Given his performances in 2016, especially in defence, Brown may join the likes of Bird, Holmes and Feki as the future of the Shire club.