The ongoing battle between the Cronulla Sharks, the NRL and the NSW State Government looks to be one step closer to settling after the NRL advised that the Sharks would be able to host a final on one condition.
PointsBet Stadium is currently undergoing significant renovations that have restricted capacity to under 12,000 – but after a back-and-forth with the club, the NRL have declared the Sharks can launch their finals campaign from their home base on the condition they finish second on the NRL ladder.
The NRL also used the opportunity to take another shot at the state government over the suburban stadiums issue that has dominated recent weeks.
“They deserve to play at home,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said of the Sharks, claiming the decision would help protect the integrity of the finals series.
“The policy is that you get to play at home in Week 1 – and this is why we need the NSW Government to invest in suburban stadiums.”
The decision comes after weeks of campaigning by Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta, regularly repeating the refrain that if the Penrith Panthers didn’t have to play in a 50,000-seat stadium, the Sharks shouldn’t have to either.
“Penrith aren’t being asked to go and play out of Homebush,” Mezzatesta said, seemingly unaware of the fact that – other than Homebush – none of the venues that could host a Week 1 final have a capacity of 50,00.
Townsville’s new stadium holds 25,000, Penrith can host 22,500, while Commbank Stadium and AAMI Park both hold 30,000.
Though the new Allianz Stadium – where the Sharks would likely play – has a capacity of approximately 45,000, it’s worth noting that under the current arrangement Cronulla can’t even host half the crowd of the next-smallest venue.
The Sharks have lost just one home game all year, further intensifying their desire to play at home as they try to secure a preliminary final berth, but Mezzatesta also wants to capitalise on the opportunity by inviting new NSW Sports Minister Alister Henskens to the ground to make the case for further funding.
“I’d like to get the new Sports Minister out to the ground to experience what it means (to the area) and what it could be in the future," Mezzatesta told the Daily Telegraph.
“We have demonstrated what we do for the community, we’re a multi-sport venue and we’ve been overlooked. It’s very disappointing, but as I understand, it’s not over yet.”