Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has questioned whether the NRL should allow Sydney teams hosting week one semi-finals against out of state teams the chance to host finals matches at their home ground, rather than taking them to larger venues at Moore Park or Sydney Olympic Park.
Flanagan’s reigning premiers Cronulla host 2015 champions North Queensland at Allianz Stadium on Sunday in an elimination final. While it appears a strong first week match up between the previous two premiers, officials on Friday were expecting a crowd of less than 20,000.
The clash between the two sides in last season’s preliminary final attracted more than 36,000 fans to the same venue. But Flanagan said Sydney clubs could be given the option to host games against out of state teams whose fans face more difficulties travelling long distances, therefore creating smaller attendances.
“I think you need to have flexibility in those decisions. I know it’s a tough one. We want to fill Allianz on one hand and then if we’re not going to fill it we want to play here [at Shark Park]. It’s a catch-22, when do you make that decision? You can’t make it later in the week… it just doesn’t work,” he said.
“So I understand the NRL’s position and we’ve got to drive our supporters right across the game. As a game we should be able to fill Allianz for [Friday’s] game, the Saturday night game and Sunday’s game. We’re on the east coast, it’s semi-final series, we should be able to fill it.
“If there is 16,000 [for Sharks vs Cowboys] we could have it [at Shark Park]. But I want more than 16,000, I want to have 26,000. If we get [36,000] like we did the last semi-final they can’t fit here so I understand why it goes there. We want to play in big stadiums but also if we’re not going to fill them we need to have the opportunity to probably play them here at Southern Cross Group Stadium. But it is what it is and we’re looking forward to playing at Allianz.”
A sea of black, white and blue helped carry Cronulla to their historic maiden premiership last season and Flanagan wants more of the same over the next month.